The most exciting day of the Christmas break for me – other than being with family, and even then it’s a tight race for first place – was New Year’s Day. That’s because, finally, playoffs were played in college football and, in the process, the insanity of the previous system was unveiled for everyone to see.
And it seems I was not alone in that thinking.
Oregon’s win over Florida State and Ohio State’s upset of Alabama became the most watched events in cable TV history. Yes, more people watched those games than have ever watched The Walking Dead or an NFL game.
It got me thinking: Has college football entered into a new era of positive branding?
Maybe, but there are other issues surrounding how we think of the sport. Our image of college football today is also wrapped up into what we think of the NCAA as whole as well as other adjacent issues, such as how FSU handled the Jameis Winston situation.
But the previous systems, such as the BCS, always had the faint stink of corruption and hypocrisy to them. The anti-playoff activists said a playoff would hurt the bowls. (Meaning: It would mean fewer dollars in the organizers’ pockets.) That it would mean players would miss more school (like the NCAA is really strict about that). That it would make the regular season less important.
As it turned out, none of those things were true. The bowls were already becoming increasingly irrelevant as they are all sponsored by Toilet-By-Flush or such some thing, and became only important to the fans of the teams involved, the host city and the sponsors. They also became diluted with more bowl games spread out over a larger timeframe. Even the Cotton Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl lost a bit of their lusters.
But they still exist. And the playoff games were the de-facto Rose and Sugar bowls.
The added playoffs were played on New Year’s Day, which brought back some tradition to the mix and the championship game will be played on Jan. 12, not really any later than the BCS title tilt would have been played.
And the regular season was even more important because of the playoff systems. It was Ohio State’s trashing of Wisconsin in the final week of the season that got the Buckeyes into the playoff bracket.
Then there’s this. The playoff system is simply fairer. Under the old system, the championship game would have been played between Alabama and Florida State. But, this year, the participants were decided on the field. Not in the minds of voters, computer rankings and NCAA officials.
Most of all, the brand of college football is better for it.