There’s another nice summary piece by Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution) and Kevin Grier at Grantland this week (thanks to my PhD buddy Felipe for passing it along). Their topic: the college football bowl system. Their conclusion:
In sum, we have a system where the games are not designed to produce the best on-field matchups, the competitors often lose money [since no one watches most bowl games] but fight fiercely to participate, outsiders and observers complain vehemently, and the organizers amass and waste a great deal of money with little oversight.
They also note that things are unlikely to change because the system benefits big football conferences with big fan bases, and those schools control the rule making. Pretty depressing — have they forgotten that it’s Christmas on Sunday?
A couple weeks ago, I outlined my solution: the College Football Premier League. The CFPL would separate the top 30 or 40 college football teams in a pro-style league (PLAYOFFS!!), with relegation/promotion available as in European soccer. This system is not a far cry from the current system in that the top teams would accrue huge profits while the weak teams would suffer. I think this makes it feasible. Football is a financial drain at many weak schools, anyway. That’s a separate problem that calls for general downsizing.
The biggest hiccup to implementing the CFPL or another playoff system is the inertia of the bowl sites themselves. Somehow, traveling south for a bowl has become a college rite of passage. Cowen and Grier note that bowls reward fans and players with a warm weather vacation, but schools spend a lot of money to make it happen. The biggest beneficiaries are the hosting towns; schools would improve their return if they hosted the games themselves (with one neutral site “Super Bowl” at the end of the playoffs).
I can maybe understand why mid-level teams would prefer a bowl to self-hosted playoff games, since they wouldn’t make the playoffs. But what’s in the bowls for the big teams that playoffs wouldn’t offer? Making the playoffs would still increase their general prestige and create lots of revenue. I guess the top teams get their BCS revenue check in the mail every year and think, “Why tinker?” Meanwhile, fans, coaches, and players tune out for dozens of meaningless bowl games each year.