In addition to the spurious claims that college football has the most compelling regular season and that the bowl games still have tradition, Bowl Championship Series defenders also claim that a playoff system would "interfere" with the academic calendars of the schools.
Except that it wouldn't have to. Oh, and except that the BCS system already interferes with the academic calendars of some schools.
Let's look at the present system.
The college football postseason starts on December 18 with the much anticipated (ha) 5th annual New Mexico Bowl. The postseason starts on that date because by then all schools are finished with fall/winter finals exams. The postseason runs through January 10, when the BCS National Championship Game will be played in Arizona. That means there are four weekends of postseason football that apparently don't interfere with the academic calendars, at least that's what the defenders claim.
Except that the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls take place during the first week of classes for many schools.
And the January 10 national championship game takes place during the second week of classes for several schools.
So by the BCS defenders' logic, Ohio State shouldn't be playing in the title game or two of the other BCS bowl games. After all, classes for the Buckeyes start on January 3, 2011.
Same goes for four of the other seven schools who played in BCS bowl games last year. The Oregon Ducks (January 3), Cincinnati Bearcats (January 4), and Florida Gators (January 5) all start classes in the week before the BCS title game. And unless the TCU Horned Frogs plan on attending classes the day of the title game, the national championship game would interfere with their schedule.
It is true that the January 10 BCS title game might interfere with the academic calendars of two schools -- a sacrifice the NCAA and the BCS seem willing to make in order to have a national championship game. But is interfering with the academic schedules of (possibly) four teams instead of two really threatening the academic missions of all 120 FBS schools? Of course not.
Moreover, consider that the college basketball season not only spans two semesters, its postseason takes place over three weeks during the semester. And college basketball teams also typically play games during the winter break.
Truth is, even a 16-team playoff could work in the current time allotted for postseason bowl games with a title game on January 10. An eight-team playoff could culminate with a title game on January 3, causing student-athletes to miss virtually no class time. Or if the 16-team playoffs started on December 11, when there are no games scheduled, except for Army-Navy, the title game could still be January 3.
(For those wondering, in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), 16 teams play on December 4, 8 on December 11, 4 on December 17-18 and two meet in the championship game on January 7.)
Clearly, there is plenty of time set aside for bowl games so as not to interfere with academic calendars during which an 8- or 16-team playoff could be completed. A 4-team playoff would be a piece of cake with the current schedule.
Just as the BCS title game itself kills the heart of the argument about the "great traditions" of bowl games, the date of the title game also proves that the BCS and the NCAA are willing to interfere with the academic calendars of some schools. They're just not willing to do so for the sake of an equitable and far more compelling postseason.
Unless sports fans stand up once and for all.
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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