As usually happens twice a year, the howling about the participants in a college postseason is loud and long. Cries of rigged systems and nefarious plots to reward favored teams abound. There is not a lot of difference between what is heard in basketball than the clamor following each and every football season. In basketball, mind you, this is with a playoff.
The main difference is that in basketball, the hew and cry comes from those teams who finished over 65th in the NCAA pecking order. In football, the aroma of grapes gone bad is initiated by team #3. The argument can be made that #3 in football would have a much better shot at the MNC than Virginia Tech or Mississippi State would have at the Final Four, but the overall nature of the griping is the same. Those who shine out complain.
The answer, according to those who profess to have them all, is 1] the institution of a playoff in football and 2] an expansion of the existing one in basketball. That would merely slide the scale of complaining downward. Were the much-discussed 96-team field in place for this year’s NCAA Tournament, DickieV, Jay and the rest of the ESPN throng would simply have replaced Virginia Tech with claims that Miami or NC State belonged. Nothing else would have changed.
Perhaps the final solution is to simply eliminate hurt exclusionary feelings by inviting everybody. That way, nobody would feel the painful sting and bear the lifelong scars of not participating in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas opening with Alcorn State rather than Lehigh would certainly make for compelling television, about as much as Alabama pummeling the RUTS Belt champion in the first round of a football playoff.
Griping over hurt feelings would then shift from those unfortunates not making the field to those who happened to lose and were forced to spend the ever-lasting round after round after round knowing that the later games were played between teams composed of better players. That agony of defeat is simply unacceptable in a brave new egalitarian tournament. Expect cries for the elimination of the keeping of scores. Everybody would participate and everybody would be a winner.
The 64-team NCAA Basketball Tournament is as near-perfect a postseason as has yet been devised. The main gripe is that Virginia Tech can’t seem to figure out how to get in. There is the option of winning more games against a better caliber of opposition, but that seems to get lost in the whole ‘They don’t like us’ thing.
As for football, well, Teddy Roosevelt considered the game so violent that it should have been banned. While that might have seemed an odd stance for a guy who couldn’t come down from San Juan Hill without tripping over a dead Spaniard and filled the White House with the stuffed remains of animals he had slaughtered, perhaps he had a point. It is a violent game and people do get hurt, so perhaps in today’s ‘government knows best’ environment it is best simply to eliminate it.
Barring that solution, a playoff is coming. It will arrive just as soon as there is the formation of the much-discussed [mostly very privately] super-division comprised of the schools and conferences that generate the money, AKA the BCS. Eliminated would be all of those schools who clutter up the first couple of days in the basketball tournament.
The first [real] shot was fired when Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick happened to notice the difference of roughly $10 extra-large between what his school is currently knocking down in television revenues from NBC and the Biggie E and what could be raked in from Big 11 membership. That would pay for a lot of libraries, classrooms and the ever-lengthening list of fired Irish football coaches. The screws are turning. Shutting up Orrin Hatch with a Pac 10 expansion of Utah and BYU would pretty much complete the field. Presto, a super division and football playoff.
Then we could begin the discussions among a different set of ESPN blathering heads about the merits of the 5th or 9th team, rather than today’s 3rd. Like it is and always will be in basketball, that much will never change.