The oh so (or not so) important college championship

The first weekend of college football is in the books. This article from Gene Wojciechowski on is a great review of the first week.

In summary – not much happened. We saw that Oklahoma State has a stronger team than thought, that Jameis Winston will again be the savior of Florida State if they pull of another championship season, that Todd Gurley has some serious speed (much to my dismay), and that Louisville may just shake up the ACC. Oh, and to those worried about Ohio State losing starting QB Braxton Miller, you never know. Peyton Manning filled in when Todd Helton got hurt at Tennessee. I think that worked out OK.

used with permission from iStock

So where’s this all headed? The new College Football Playoff. If you haven’t been keeping up with college football, the championship system in Division I-A has changed AGAIN. For as long as I’ve been watching college football (multiple decades), leaders have had an oddly difficult time agreeing to a national championship process. In every other college sport, including the “lower” levels of football, there is a championship process that has includes some sort of playoff. But not in the “highest” level of football – once and still commonly called Division I-A. There we have had numerous methods of crowing a champion and this season they are introducing yet another.

This isn’t as simple as the top 4 teams playing each other. There is a 13 person committee to select who those top 4 teams are…because data isn’t trustworthy, right? Alas, there is a wide variety of individuals who will analyze the data and use their insight to unbiasedly select the top 4 teams. These individuals include the well-respected Archie Manning (former college & NFL QB, father of Peyton & Eli), an athletic director from a school from each of the “Big 5” conferences and a bunch of other old white men (sorry, but look at the picture). I suppose that means they will be bringing wisdom and experience. Lol. There are 2 African-Americans and 1 woman – the controversial selection of Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State and college professor) covers two of those. I remember on the radio people kept asking if she could do this well. Seriously? She may be the only one who can make a purely logical decision with limited bias. (Edit: I forgot about the recent Air Force Academy Superintendent, who also brings deep decision making experience.) Oh, do I sound skeptical about this committee concept? Yeah, I give this one about 5 years before it starts falling apart.

The irony is that for the last 3 or 4 years chatter among college football experts was that there soon would be only 4 conferences in college football with 16 teams each, and that those 4 conferences would hold a conference championship and those 4 champions would play for a national title. There was some serious conference scrambling with schools trying to end up in what they believed to be the 4 surviving conferences. Wrong. There are still 5, and not all 5 have the NCAA required minimum 12 schools to hold a conference championship. In fact, the Big 12 Conference has 10 teams and the Big 10 Conference has 14. Not confusing at all. Most of the Big 12’s teams are in the Midwest & Texas…plus West Virginia. The ACC is no longer made up of schools whose states are on the Atlantic Coast, and includes Notre Dame…sort of (they have agreed to 5 games per year but will remain independent, but only in football). The PAC 10 became the PAC 12, and now includes Utah and Colorado. And the “mighty” SEC? They opened their door to Texas A&M and Missouri who ran from what was supposed to be the broken, Texas dominated, Big 12.

When I think of my youth flag-football team, I am reminded that those in charge can care more about the game than the players, and we can infect them with this need to be the best. How much of this is true in college football, too? I’m not saying that these students don’t care, but do they care to the same level as their leaders? Are these leaders and we fans making more out of this whole need for a perfect system to declare a champion than the athletes would like? I believe so. A national championship means nothing to students long term, other than a few bragging rights. I say this as an alumna of a national championship team. Winning a national championship doesn’t get a student athlete a better job, even in the NFL. It really only benefits the leaders.

Oh, but where will I be this Saturday? It’s game day baby! I will still watch these “student-athletes”, cheer on my Tigers, and soak up the joy of college football, despite the mess that adults and fans have made of the system. After all, you don’t give up on your team. Ever.


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