To understand the idea of a college football playoff, you must first understand the nature of exactly what we are dealing with when a playoff is put onto the table for discussion. One of the most riveting scenes in the history of American cinema is no doubt from Oliver Stone’s movie Nixon (in an adaptation of a true event) when President Nixon decides in the middle of the night to make the short trip from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial with only his personal valet/cook in tow. At the Lincoln Memorial on the night of May 9, 1970, young students were gathered in opposition to the Vietnam War and they confronted Nixon over the war. As the students surround Nixon and begin asking him about the war, the Secret Service and H.R. Haldeman (Nixon’s Chief of Staff) come running up the front steps of the Memorial, surround the President, and tell Nixon that he must go. Before Nixon could be hustled away by his handlers, a conversation takes place between one of the protesters and the President, and crux of the conversation went something like this, Female student, “You say you want to end the war, then why don’t you?” Nixon, “Change always comes slowly. I’ve pulled out over half the troops. I’ve cut the military budget for the first time in over 30 years. I want a voluntary army. It’s also a question of American credibility, our position in the world.” Male student, “Come on Mr. Nixon, its a civil war between Vietnamese.” Female student looking right at Nixon, “You don’t want the war, we don’t want the war, the Vietnamese don’t want the war, so why does it go on?” Everyone is quiet as Nixon is shown looking up at the statue of one of his heroes, Abraham Lincoln. Then H.R. Haldeman says, “We should be going Mr. President. Please.” Nixon continues to look at the female student, and then she says some of the most powerful lines in American movie history, “You can’t stop it (the war), can you? Even if you wanted to? Cause its not you, its the system. The system won’t let you stop it.” Nixon shuffles his feet for a moment and then he says, “There’s more at stake here, than what you want, or what I want.” Female student, “What’s the point, what’s the point of being President, you’re powerless!” Nixon, “No. No, I am not powerless….cause I understand the system, I believe I can control it….maybe not control it totally…..but tame it enough to do some good.” Female student, “Sounds like you are talking about a wild animal.” Nixon, “Maybe I am.” As Nixon and Haldeman head back to his limo, Nixon tells his chief of staff, “She got it Bob, 19 year old college kid. She understands something that it has taken me 25 years in politics to understand. The CIA, the mafia, those Wall Street bastards. The Beast. A 19 year old kid. She called it a wild animal.” Watch the scene here: You Tube Video of Nixon at the Lincoln Memorial. (A side note: A few of us here at Coaches Hot Seathave been on the tip point of the spear that The Beast throws from time to time, and no one would want to be on the receiving end of that spear. America is a mighty country, and certainly is at this moment in time the most powerful country in the history of human civilization, but with that power comes great responsibility. A country cannot become great if it is not a Beast, but it cannot remain great if it does not have control of the Beast. From our point of view the very fine line that we walk between our mighty power and our magnificent Constitution, laws, and rights is the difference between greatness and failure. To remain great we must continue to walk that very fine line.)
When you talk about college football you are talking about a Beast, and to people, especially college presidents a college football playoff would be a massive Beast. We here at Coaches Hot Seat have talked with a number of college presidents in the past year, not as someone representing this website, but as alumni and known supporters of our schools. One overarching theme from these conversations is a feeling that the football programs at these president’s schools are not totally in their control, that there are things going on within their athletic departments that they don’t understand or know about, and all of that uncertainty and the unknown factors scare them very much. The presidents for the most part enjoy watching their football teams play on Saturdays and they are very proud when their team represents their school well both on and off the field, but underneath it all there is a fear. It is a fear of the unknown, and very often the unknowable. The presidents at the major institutions look out at our grand football arenas and they see football fans, but they also see a mob that is often barely under control, much like the crowds that gathered at the Roman Colosseum to watch gladiators kill wild beasts and each other. When a president’s head football coach is struggling they see e-mails from these fans (the mob), and faxes pour into them over the transom, listing all the reasons a change must be made. These things scare the college presidents, because to them (most college presidents have been academics and adept politicians and have worked their way up through educational institutions, but have never played an organized sport or ever stepped onto an athletic field) the football program, and college football in America is indeed a Beast.
Imagine yourself as a college president who is in so many ways scared of the power of their school’s football program, and the power it wields over their institution, and then people step forward proposing that a playoff be instituted in major college football. This sounds ludicrous to college presidents that someone would want to make college football even bigger and more out of control. The wild animal, the Beast that is college football in the early part of the 21st century, is barely under the control of the college presidents in their eyes (Of course the real power lies elsewhere as we will see), and as they look around at the landscape of the game they see a very large box that has an even larger Beast inside. Even college presidents know the hypocrisy of determining a National Champion in college football with the current BCS system, but they look over at that large box and see the even larger Beast and they push back. Of course, inside that box is the Beast that is a college football playoff for Division I-A. The presidents are rightfully concerned that unleashing a college football playoff would send the game of college football into orbit, and make the excitement surrounding the NCAA basketball tournament look like a game of Pick-up-Sticks. They are right about that, a 16-team college football playoff would be the biggest sports event in the United States, even eclipsing the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl. The presidents understand that, and it scares them to death.
Why the college presidents should not be afraid of a college football playoff and why they should embrace this Beast for the good of the game, and for the good of their institutions:
1. The Basic Integrity of the game: Right now the current BCS system is eating the insides out of the game of college football and is compromising the basic integrity of the game. A very small group of men, mainly bowl executives and conference commissioners (The Buffoon Squad) are desperate to hold onto their death grip on the game of college football. They rather enjoy that they get to tell other people what to do, what to think, and how college football will determine it’s National Champion. They could care less what the coaches, players, and fans think, and they laugh mightily when fans send them ideas on a playoff system or an alternative to the BCS. They could care less about the fans, and as for the integrity of the game, it never crosses their minds. Until college football decides who it’s champion will be on the field of play, instead of through a series of exhibition games, the integrity of the game will continue to be challenged, and it’s supposed champions tainted. Yes, all of that is known to anyone that has played a competitive sort in their life, which most college presidents have not, but the current BCS system remains in place precisely because the Buffoon Squad running the BCS has some very good attorneys working for them, and they tailor a very specific message at the college presidents to keep them in-line and against a playoff. The BCS Boys know that if they can continue to mouth the words “student-athlete, one-term sport, more kids playing for championships” then they can utilize the college presidents as a firewall against the onslaught of a college football playoff that would send several hundred very highly-paid people to the unemployment in search of new work. The integrity of the game is little matter to these people and that is why the message they deliver, whose audience is the college presidents, and only the college presidents is tailored so specifically at people that have never played competitive sports. We will get much more into the specific language that the BCS employs in the coming days, but needless to say the current BCS system compromises the basic integrity of the game of college football. That point is unarguable.
2. The Money: Coaches Hot Seat had one of it’s members take a look at what the difference would be in revenue generated if the current BCS system was kept in place, or if a 16-team college football playoff was instituted. After talking to Fortune 500 companies, network executives, media buying companies, and some large advertising agencies, it was determined that a playoff in college football would generate $4.5 billion dollars more revenue over the next 8 years than the BCS. That is over $550 million dollars a year more than the current BCS system, and much of that money would flow directly to the schools that are now more than ever pinched for the resources to do all the things that school presidents want to do on their campuses. To understand how much money that is, if you used a system similar to what the NCAA basketball tournament uses, the 16 teams making the playoff would divide up around $500 million dollars each year between themselves and their conferences, or over $30 million dollars per team. In addition to that $500 million, there would be an additional $200 to $300 million each year that would filter down to the other 100 or so I-A football programs/schools. Also, we are assuming that I-A post-season would have both a 16-team playoff and approximately 16 other bowls for teams that did not make it into the playoff, and that would generate an additional $50 million or so in revenues. Kind of like a NIT basketball tournament for football. The current BCS will pay around $17 million per team, but only to teams/conferences playing in BCS bowl games, but much like the NCAA basketball tournament, a college playoff would distribute the money much wider with all teams playing football receiving some dollars through their conferences. Right now the current BCS structure is leaving over $500 million dollars on the table every year, and that is money that would flow to help fund important programs at colleges across the country.
3. Getting control of the game of college football: Right now, college presidents look at college football and often see a game out of control. They have little say in how their conferences act, because the athletic conferences have become powerful players in determining the rules of the game, and the conferences often use their power to quash new ideas that are flowing up from their institutions. The conferences and bowl committees are intent on one thing, keeping control of the game of college football, and anything that would threaten their hegemony is something that must not be allowed to get out into the public arena. On the other hand, college presidents look at college basketball and they see a game that is huge, something that often creates large crowds on their campuses, and something that generates and spends gobs of money, but the game is not out of control. Why is that, a college president might ask? The answer is very simple. College basketball, and the way it determines it’s post-season champion is under the control of the NCAA. College football is run by a cabal of interests, each with their own view of how things should be done, and that cabal has created one of the worst frauds in the history of sport, the BCS. College presidents, who do indeed have the final say on how their school’s football team and athletic programs should be run, should see the BCS and the cabal that now has an iron grip over the game of college football for what it is, which is an unwieldy organization of diverse interests that seeks and holds power, and something that must be ended. Just imagine, that instead of deals being cut in smoke filled back rooms (the recent Orange Bowl debacle), that if college football was placed under the auspices of the NCAA and the way it’s champion was determined was the same as ever other sport in collegiate athletics. If that was the case, college presidents would immediately see that an institution, the NCAA (which is a very familiar idea and comfortable thing to presidents that have worked their way up through similar institutions) would have control of the game, not a group of power hungry individuals that pull and push at the game from every corner of the country.
Conclusion: College football today is a Beast. College presidents look at their college football teams and often are scared of what might be going on within and around them (i.e., FSU cheating incident). Right now college presidents do not have control of one sport on their campus, football, because that sport is by all intent purposes being run by a small cabal of power hungry and power seeking individuals that often do not have the best interests of the schools uppermost in their minds. If college presidents want to get control of college football, the Beast per se, they must take the power away from the small cabal of men that lord over the game like high priests, and turn the game over to an institution that they know they can trust. The NCAA. The NCAA will not only bring some sanity to college football TV contracts and access to networks/cable channels in the regular season, they would also be able to set up a post-season tournament that would for the first time in the history of the sport produce a legitimate national champion. Right now the cabal that runs college football is counting on being able to scare the presidents about what might happen if a college football playoff was instituted, and deep down that cabal is scared to death that the presidents might look around at all of the other sports on their campus and see who administers those sports, the NCAA, and then ask the most obvious question: Why does the NCAA not oversee and run college football? That question would send tremors through the offices of the cabal, and is indeed the reason they trot out so many clearly illogical arguments for the BCS, and those arguments are most often targeted at college presidents. The cabal knows that if they can keep the college presidents in the dark, they can hold onto power, which is their ultimate and only goal.
The college presidents choice is clear. They can either allow the power and domain of their college football teams to remain in the hands of a cabal, that never has nor never will have the best interests of the schools in mind, or they can take back control of the game of college football from this cabal, and allow the NCAA to institute a legitimate way to determine a National Champion in football. The cabal is counting on the college presidents to not understand this argument nor the real nature of the power they hold, and up to this point they have succeeded in that goal. We here at Coaches Hot Seat are confident if the presidents really understand what is going on here, the cabal will be brought to and end. For the good of the game, the cabal must end.
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
It is time for the bamboozle that is the BCS to end.