College Playoff Plan: Good Idea, Badly Proposed

You can't blame the Mountain West Conference for wanting a college football playoff. In two of the last five seasons, Mountain West champion Utah went undefeated but wasn't allowed to compete for the national championship. That's just not the way sports should work.

But the Mountain West's idea for an eight-team playoff is a badly written, badly conceived proposal that will be dead on arrival in the college football world.

For starters, the four-page proposal (PDF here) is so full of notes and footnotes and jargon like "non-AQ conferences" that it's practically unreadable. Any English professor at the University of Utah would flunk it.

More importantly, it contains absolutely nothing that would convince any of the power brokers in college football to give up what they currently have with the Bowl Championship Series. The purpose of the Mountain West's proposal is ostensibly to persuade the BCS conferences and Notre Dame that they should let the smaller conferences play with the big boys, but nothing in this proposal will even come close to convincing the haves in college football that they'd get more money out of an eight-team playoff than they get out of the status quo of five BCS bowls.

The closest the Mountain West comes to talking turkey with the BCS schools is a sentence in the proposal that says, "An equitable revenue calculation will be determined once all revenue, including from television and the bowls, is known." That, of course, is utterly ridiculous. There's no way to know what "all revenue" will be until after you've gone to the TV networks and the bowls with a proposal that the six BCS conferences and Notre Dame have signed off on. And the six BCS conferences and Notre Dame aren't going to sign off until they're sure their slice of the pie isn't getting smaller. That's just the way the college football world works.

And that's why there's no chance that the BCS will accept this proposal. Here's what the head of the BCS had to say about it:

"We have received the Mountain West proposal," BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "Some of these ideas or similar ones have been addressed before in BCS meetings. We will make sure that the proposal has a full airing by the commissioners and presidents, and we will respond to the Mountain West at the conclusion of those discussions."

That sounds like a polite way of saying, "We're putting the Mountain West proposal into our circular file." Which is a shame, because buried in all the bad writing is a pretty good idea about how to reform the postseason in college football.

It does make sense to transform the four marquee bowl games into the first round of an eight-team playoff, and it does make sense to re-think which eight teams make the college football postseason. The Mountain West is right on the merits. It's just wrong about the way to make its case. And that's why this proposal is going nowhere.

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