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Martin Fennelly Columns

College playoff system had to be done

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:07 PM
TAMPA -

At last, a football bracket.

It was always possible.

It was just a matter of going there.

So, we have a real college football playoff system. It isn't perfect and it isn't enough (eight teams would have been better) but it beats the BCS.

Remember when playoffs could never happen?

Charlie Sheen would get another TV show first.

Well …

The college presidents wouldn't have a playoff. The college coaches were against it. Bowl honchos would stop it because a real playoff would spell their doom.

Now we know that was baloney. All it took was the big football schools and big bowl people realizing they could make more money. And they'll push for more playoffs when more schools want more money. There's no altruism here, just an ATM machine.

I don't care if it took moving plates deep inside the earth. It had to be done, and now it is done.

In typical glacial college fashion, it took way too long and the new setup will be in place way too long, but it is done.

Now you'll have a college football weekend to remember, every season, and it won't take away from Florida-Georgia, Ohio State-Michigan, conference title games.

The bowls live on. They shouldn't be part of the title deciding. But the bowls were slipping. This is what comes of an infinite number of bowl chiefs hosting an infinite number of conference commissioners and athletic directors on an infinite number of golf junkets.

There will be problems. We turn toward exactly who will be on the all-important playoff selection committee — and how the SEC and Big Ten will beat the system. And wait until they start slicing up the money. Those will be better semifinals than the semifinals.

Back to the football.

The SEC has won the past six national championships and, using the BCS top four as a measure, would have had nine of the 24 playoff teams since 2006. But I think the new system will make it harder, with an extra playoff game, and all that goes with that, including breaks, for the SEC or any other conference to ever have a title run like that again.

All of this progress is infuriating on a certain level. Going by the BCS, think of the great national semifinals we've missed: FSU vs. Alabama in 1999; FSU-Miami in 2000; Florida-Michigan in 2006; Oklahoma-Alabama and Florida-Texas in 2008.

There will be problems. It used to be that the third team, the one left out of the BCS title game, would cry foul. Now it will be the fifth team — 5 is the new 3. Maybe 9 would be the new 3 if it was an eight-team playoff, but not as much.

There's squawking by the 69th team every time the NCAA basketball bracket comes out, but that dies off with the first tournament tip-off. With fewer football teams, a lot fewer, the firestorm will last slightly longer, but it will die, too.

It isn't perfect. How can it be when it's all about the money? And everybody's money is going up – except for athletes. Oh, there's that college education, which costs upwards of $140,000 at a public university. That's about a week's salary for Alabama's Nick Saban. That chasm will only grow with playoffs. It should be addressed, but won't be.

But the BCS will soon be gone. That's enough for today. Not for tomorrow, but for today.

It was just a matter of deciding to go there.


mfennelly@tampatrib.com

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