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Original Issue

Easy as 1-2-3-4

Here, in a nutshell, is a surefire plan for a college football national championship playoff

Everybody, shut up and sit down.

Now, as you all know, the NCAA finally removed its head from a large vat of lime Jell-O last week and agreed to consider a playoff to determine the national champion in major college football. I'm running this meeting, and we're going to settle this quicker than instant oatmeal.

First of all, we are going to have a playoff. We'll use the top four teams in the Associated Press poll, and we'll save the Rose, Fiesta and Orange bowls for the playoffs. The rest of you bowls can carry on just the way you've been carrying on. Oh, and we're not waiting two years like the NCAA is talking about. We're starting now. We'll use the Rose and the Fiesta for the semifinals on New Year's Day. Then the Orange Bowl will be moved back a week, to the second Monday in January, for the title game. The first game....

Chair recognizes the guy wearing the ugly shorts and the whistle.

Well, Coach, we aren't using the USA Today/CNN coaches' poll because it's about as phonied up as a Tammy Faye Bakker centerfold. No wonder you coaches don't reveal your votes. You cither vote to make yourselves look good or to make the teams that whipped you look good. Look at the most recent coaches' poll. West Virginia has seven first-place votes and Florida State 13. Yet West Virginia is ranked second and Florida State third. That means a lot of coaches voted FSU fourth or fifth or sixth. Florida State's scout team isn't sixth.

Anyway, the first game will pit No. 1 Florida State against No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. And then....

Chair recognizes the guy in the red blazer.

Yessir, you can keep your Rose Parade and your Rose Brunch and Willard Scott and everything else. Nothing changes, except you finally get a game somebody outside Gardena actually cares about. We figured this would be a nice change of pace for you guys. It has been 20 years since the Pac-10 or the Big Ten had an undisputed national champion.

Anyway, that's the first game. The second game has No. 2 Nebraska against No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, two undefeateds who....

Chair recognizes the yo-yo in the Tennessee face paint.

Why not eight teams in the playoffs? Because four is enough. In the last 15 years, only one team has come from outside the AP top four to win the national championship—Miami in 1983. Of course, that year Miami had to win the title so the Hurricanes' many bonus incentives would kick in.

Chair recognizes the fat slob on the couch with the remote.

Yessir. The schedule of bowl games stays just the way it is, except for the one bowl that will host the championship game, and that game will rotate among the Fiesta, Orange and Rose bowls every year. We'll have to tinker with the bowl coalition a little, but you, sir, can still approximate life as a throw rug for 17 hours on New Year's Day.

Chair recognizes the man in the Stetson.

Sorry, Hoss. The Cotton Bowl isn't part of the Big Three, and neither is the Sugar. The Sugar is out because we're tired of seeing careers ruined on painted cement. As for the Cotton Bowl, the stadium is unraveling, and the teams usually have to play with icicles hanging off their face masks. Oh, yeah? Well, same to your horse.

O.K., so anyway, the two winners will play in the championship game at the Orange Bowl on Monday night, Jan. 10, so as not to mess up the NFL wild-card games. Will that be a bodacious weekend of pigskin or what?

Chair recognizes the geeky guy with the plastic pocket protector.

Yessir. Nobody will miss more than two days of school. Under this plan, only two teams play an extra game, and the football season will still be two weeks shorter than basketball's.

Chair recognizes the man in the Armani suit with the NBC patch.

Well, the ratings should quadruple. As Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker told us, "Instead of sixes and sevens and eights, we'd get a 15 or 20 rating." And that's just for the semifinal. The final ought to give A.C. Nielsen himself spasms.

Chair recognizes the fancy woman in the specs.

I know. I know. As a university president, you've been trying to cut back on this "pressure to win" thing, but ma'am, look at the zeroes! Everybody figures the final game alone is going to bank $50 million, easy. We give each of the two schools' conferences $20 million. That buys a whole lot of women's softball uniforms, doesn't it?

Chair recognizes No Neck over there with the busted shoulder pads.

Yep, we've got you in here, too. We take the final $10 million and divide it among the 5,000 or so Division I football lettermen across the country. That's about $2,000 a man, or about 95 cents an hour. You go out there every week and break your bones and spill your type O and risk your hinges in a big business like this, you deserve something.

Chair recognizes the chubby guy in the buffet line.

Oh, yeah. Sportswriters still get in absolutely free.

Whoomp, there it is! Simple, satisfying and, best of all, done without ever having to say those three hideous words....

Car. Quest. Bowl.

All those in favor? Opposed?

Just do it.