It's mid-October, time for the start of college football's what-if season. As in, what if they had a playoff to determine the true national champion?
Several teams are stepping forward as genuine contenders, yet only two will meet in Miami's Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 in what the Bowl Championship Series insists on calling its national championship game. It's interesting to start thinking about who will make it, and just as interesting to guess who won't.
As we all know, NCAA Division I football is the only major team sport that does not decide its champion with a playoff. But those holding their breath waiting for such a thing had better grab some air. It might be fun to debate the pros and cons of a playoff, but don't expect it to lead anywhere in the near and perhaps distant future.
The reasons are twofold. For one thing, the BCS format and its contract with the ABC television network is in place for another five seasons, expiring in January 2006. And for another, there seems to be no strong, organized movement in favor of a playoff. NCAA spokesman Wally Renfroe, voicing the sentiments of executive director Ced Dempsey, said, "The move for a national championship has never gained much momentum because we've never had a group of people champion the cause." The key word here is "group." Many favor a playoff, but the fingers of the glove have yet to close into a fist.
Citing the increased academic burden a playoff would create, most of the presidents of the 114 institutions that play Division I-A football - the real source of power and influence within the NCAA - oppose the idea. Nothing surprising there, although the claim smacks of a certain hypocrisy, given the extent to which college football has become a billion-dollar business.
Then there are the bowl representatives, who for a long time have had enormous clout. Although the system has changed from when back-room deals were the norm, the …