After the Big 12 Conference was officially informed last week that it was persona non grata in the inaugural College Football Playoff, league commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he’d “go back to the drawing board,” do some reviewing, on how his 10-school fraternity should move forward.
He better hurry.
While Bowlsby ponders why Baylor and TCU were left out of the big dance — two teams that didn’t get thumped by Virginia Tech at home on Sept. 6 — he may now have a thornier problem to deal with.
First, the Big Ten is a greedy conference. Does anyone think the Big Ten invited Rutgers and Maryland into their house to enhance competition? The only enhancement was cash. The Big Ten, strictly a Midwest league for almost 90 years, now has three East Coast teams, so it’s casting a wider net, enlarging its audience. A larger audience equates to larger bags of cash.
Second, the SEC is on par with the Big Ten when it comes to greed. Does anyone think the SEC invited Missouri into their house for any reason other than to grab some Midwest viewers, more subscribers to its own television network? As Bowlsby twiddles his thumbs in frustration, ponder this: The Big Ten and the SEC almost certainly have eyes on the traditional football plums in the Big 12: Texas, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma.
“I’ll bet the Big Ten and SEC are already talking to those schools,” said Copperas Cove’s legendary head coach, Jack Welch. “Money is where it’s at, and the Big Ten and SEC are thinking about making more money.
“And it’s a shame.”
Coach Welch, of course, is correct. It is a shame.
“I think it was bad when Texas A&M and Arkansas each left for the SEC,” Welch said. “Those two schools belong here, playing the schools that are left in the Big 12.”
So how do you solve this mess?
Were the first four to receive College Football Playoff invitations the most deserving schools? If not, how do you have a true national football champion?
Who better to ask than Welch? He’s a former successful head coach in the collegiate ranks. He has guided Cove into the playoffs 17 of the past 18 years, has sent many high school kids into the collegiate football world and, of course, has sent quite a few into the professional ranks.
“First of all, TCU and Baylor were both more deserving than Ohio State,” Welch said. “Ohio State was still deserving. But that’s my basic point: You must have more than four teams in the playoffs to have what everyone can agree is a legitimate champion.
“If you look at the rankings this season, the eighth-ranked team could still beat the No. 1 team. So why wouldn’t you have eight teams in the playoffs? Eight is much better than four. But 16 would be even better.
“When you look at how Division III handles its playoff system — with 32 teams invited — there is no dispute when it’s all over as to who the legitimate champion is. They’ve decided things on the football field — where this all ought to be decided.”
Which brings up another solid point from Welch. Each year, there are over 30 bowl games. If more of those bowls were actually win-or-go-home playoff contests, wouldn’t those games draw more fans? Wouldn’t there be a wider television audience? Wouldn’t the players on such teams get to enjoy more exposure?
The answers are yes, yes and yes.
“In my opinion,” says Welch, “what the NCAA needs to do is ask itself, ‘Who is all this for? Isn’t it for the athletes? What’s best for them?’ The NCAA should expand these playoffs to eight or 16 or, perhaps, to 32 teams. You’re giving more kids a chance to play for a true championship. For sure, the top 30 teams in the country right now are pretty doggone good. Let them play this out.
“Still, if you just had 16, that would work. But, without a doubt, more than four schools in this playoff will solve a lot of problems.”
And maybe one of those problems solved would be keeping Texas, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma where they’re at.
In the Big 12, where they belong.
And if this is done sooner than later — a playoff of eight, 16 or 32 teams — the Big 12 won’t find itself persona non grata anymore.