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Pirate Notebook No. 456
Monday, December 13, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Playoff doesn't solve primary problem

Harris BCS Poll

For the fifth year in a row, Denny O'Brien was a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. As a service to readers of this site, O'Brien's ballot was published in this space each Monday throughout the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. O'Brien was nominated to the Harris Poll panel by Conference USA.

View the panel of 114 voters in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll.

Final 2010 BCS Standings

Harris, AP, Coaches Polls



Playoff doesn't solve primary problem
Conference USA Bowl Matchups and Payouts
The bottom line is the bottom line
Late Monarch surge sinks Pirates
Ruff relishes Christmas with the Pirates
ECU can't pursue 'Little East'
Final 2010 BCS Rankings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Conference USA Bowl Schedule & TV Listings
Pirates streak away from Broncos
Audio: Military Bowl President Steve Beck
Audio: Coach Ruff Military Bowl Press Conference
Pirates show progress in topping 49ers
Military Bowl a convenient hop for fans

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Opposition to a college football playoff is the equivalent to an endorsement of the Bowl Championship Series.

At least that's the message this week from my inbox.

My steadfast refusal to support a postseason tournament for the Football Bowl Subdivision has evidently lumped me into an alliance with Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, who recently referred to BCS non-AQ schools as the “Little Sisters of the Poor.” Those and other comments painted him as an uninformed elitist with an agenda to keep schools outside of the BCS power structure at a complete disadvantage.

Apparently some both inside and outside of East Carolina circles consider me a champion of that message. Perhaps that is due to the assumption that a college football playoff would close the gap between the financially privileged and those schools struggling to stay in the black.

But that isn't necessarily the case. Given the likely configuration of any such playoff, the point can be made that the gap would actually widen more.

I believe it would.

ESPN and the six BCS AQ conferences – not the NCAA – have complete control over how the college football postseason is run. Neither has taken an overly benevolent approach to the non-AQ leagues, and there is no reason to believe they would suddenly do so in a playoff scenario.

Any future shift towards a playoff model would occur only if it proved even more advantageous to those conferences and the television partner that owns the broadcast rights. In neither case would you find that duo seeking to protect the interests of Conference USA or the Mountain West Conference.

Gee's rhetoric is evidence of that.

Truthfully, you have to wonder why Gee and his colleagues haven't pursued a playoff yet. It would generate a bidding war among the major networks and potentially establish a monopoly on the deep-pocketed sponsors.

The result would be an even bigger stage for college football's elite and would potentially dissolve many of the struggling middle and lower tier bowls. With so much interest in a playoff, it would be difficult to attract casual fans to even more meaningless games and make them more of a television afterthought.

While some might contend that a world with fewer bowls would be a better one, think about this: if several bowls were to sunset, it would decrease the opportunities for a 6-6 East Carolina team to take 10,000 fans to the nation's capital to play an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.

That would be one less opportunity for the Pirates to knock off an attractive opponent. And it would be one less month for Ruffin McNeill and his staff to build the depth of the program for the future.

Now, in a perfect world, the NCAA would somehow wrestle control of the postseason away from the AQ conferences and establish a playoff that is equitable for everyone. At a minimum, that would involve a 16-team tournament with all conferences receiving an automatic bid.

Just don't hold your breath on that one.

The NCAA is too frightful of the potential backlash from the BCS AQ leagues should it try to intervene in the college football postseason. Tulane president Scott Cowen once told me that, while he believed the threat was remote, the BCS AQ conferences might attempt to branch off should the NCAA meddle in its affairs.

I happen to believe it is realistic possibility. Because the BCS has already demonstrated enough greed that you can't help but conclude that it would stop at nothing to protect its financial status in college football.

There is no doubt that forming a college football playoff would gratify the craving that many have for crowning a national champion on the field. But that would hardly solve the primary problem in college football, which is the exclusivity that has been deliberately manufactured into the sport.

As long as the BCS AQ conferences are running the show, a postseason tournament would hardly address that issue. That's why you won't find me picketing for a playoff.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

01/20/2011 01:56 AM

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