All I want for Christmas is college football playoffs

The sport is in desperate need of fixing

December 24, 2010|Peter Schmuck

Dear Santa,

I realize I'm a little old to be writing to you this Christmas, but I just don't have anywhere else to turn.

I'm grateful for the 17 Norelco razors you've left me over the past couple of decades and really couldn't do without that thing on TV that chops up tomatoes so quickly and efficiently, but — even in this recession — I've got enough stuff.

That's why I'm writing you to ask for something that will make millions of Americans happy for many holiday seasons to come. I'm asking you to step in and fix college football.

Somebody has to do it, and the defenders of truth and justice at the NCAA obviously aren't equal to the task. Not a day goes by this time of year when there isn't some new headline to illustrate what a mess they've made of things.

If you get ESPN at the North Pole, you've probably heard that a bunch of Ohio State players were disciplined for accepting improper benefits when everybody knows the only people in college sports who are allowed to accept money and free stuff from boosters and corporations are the coaches and administrators. These rules are necessary to maintain the purity of amateur sports, and I'm not here to argue against them, but the NCAA seems to have a problem with consistent application.

The Ohio State players — including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor — have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, which is a fairly stiff punishment for selling some of their own memorabilia and accepting free tattoos. The thing that has a lot of people scratching their heads is how the NCAA could still allow those players to take part in the coming Sugar Bowl, though you don't have to be a TV executive to figure out the motivation.

That's just the latest example of the NCAA's strange and confusing enforcement policies. I'm still trying to figure out how the governing body of college sports could penalize all the current players at Southern California for the past sins of Reggie Bush, then basically blow kisses at new Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton after his father allegedly tried to sell him to Mississippi State for a six-figure cash payment.

NCAA officials would argue that I'm comparing apples and oranges — that Newton should not be penalized for the actions of a family member and that the penalties levied on USC were for a lack of institutional control — but it was just more proof that the institution that is out of control is the NCAA.

I could go on and on, of course. The NCAA has allowed coaches to make millions hopping from school to school while leaving innocent student-athletes behind to pay the penalties for their illegal actions or lack of oversight, but that isn't even my biggest gripe.

This bowl season has again exposed the glaring inequities of the Bowl Championship Series system and the bowl selection process, starting with the way the terrific Boise State program was angled out of a top-tier game with the tacit approval of the NCAA. The Broncos spent most of the season within sniffing distance of the BCS title game, then lost one close game to a top-20 team and fell out of consideration for a BCS bowl.

But, my paunchy old pal, you don't have to go all the way to Idaho to find an example of the unfairness that pervades college football's postseason selection process. While you're trying to find Maryland a new football coach (see Kevin Anderson's letter), you might want to take a look at the way the Terrapins were pushed to the bottom of the bowl pecking order in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Terps beat North Carolina State in their final game of the season to finish second in the Atlantic Division and should have been ranked third overall in the conference, but the Wolfpack ended up with a far more prestigious bowl bid and the Terps had to settle for an unattractive Military Bowl matchup against East Carolina, a 6-6 also-ran from Conference USA.

That's just not right, but nothing is going to change until the whole system is reconstructed and a more objective postseason selection process is put into place.

It's a little late to do anything about that this year, my jolly old sleigh jockey, but if you could whip the NCAA into shape and bring us a college football playoff system by next year (or whenever the BCS contract runs out), you can keep the ugly sweater.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays with Brett Hollander. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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