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NCAA Football: The Most Uncompetitve Posteason in Sports

March 8, 2010

The structure, status and quality of the college football postseason is one of the biggest and most controversial debates in the world of sports; a world that is sustained by controversy in all of its many forms.

The general debate rages over whether the current bowl system is best for the sport, or if a playoff should be instituted. The vast majority of fans that voice their opinions are in favor of a playoff system that they feel will provide a more worthy champion.

I too have joined the debate and expressed my own ideas for what type of playoff I would like to see. However, it dawned on me today that most people usually focus on what they want, instead of what we have.

With College football season still about five months away we have nothing else to do but analyze every little nook and cranny of the sport, so let’s take a look at the current college football postseason system as it compares to other major sports.

There are currently 34 bowl games that are played during a period covering approximately a month, from the middle of December to the middle of January.

The games are played at various locations across the country, but generally in locations that are considered tourist cities, though not many people pick Boise, ID for their dream place to spend a winter vacation.

In order to be bowl eligible you must have a record at or above .500 in the regular season. With the current 12 game schedule that means you need to win only six games to have a shot at a bowl.

In order to play in one of the five elite BCS Bowls you have a couple avenues of entry. Be in one of the six BCS conferences and win your conference title or be selected by the BCS committee as an at large bid.

Only two teams have a shot at the National Championship, and these teams are selected based upon the final BCS rankings that are released after all games have been played. The number one and two teams play for the title.

Now anyone that follows college football, even casually, is not surprised by any of this information, but how many of us really consider what all of this means.

With 34 bowl games you have 68 teams that get to play in a bowl game. There are 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which means that 57 percent of the teams get to play in a postseason game.

Not bad compared to other leagues.

In the NFL only 38 percent play in the postseason, Major League Baseball 26 percent, and in college basketball only 19 percent make the tournament. The only league that even comes close to college football is the NBA at 53 percent.

How generous of them to let so many teams into the postseason. They should truly be applauded for their methods of inclusion.

However, there is one thing we are overlooking, and we will get to that later.

I can’t complain too much about the entrance requirements as there are regularly teams in every league that make the playoffs with a record hovering around .500, and even occasionally one below .500.

I do feel there are too many bowls though and it has diluted their value. I remember the days of eagerly waiting to find out if your team’s 9-10 wins would be enough to get them to a bowl game. However, that area of discussion is for another day.

Entrance into the BCS bowl games has been beat to death on every forum that there is for sports discussion, and I have no interest in doing so again here. I will give them some credit for lowering the standard necessary for non-BCS teams to be included, though the bar is still quite high, and uneven.

The one major flaw with their system is that it can allow for a subpar team to play in a BCS bowl by way of winning a conference championship. It hasn’t happened yet, but just last season Nebraska, who had no business in a BCS bowl, almost made it. I’m just saying.

Now where the real inequity comes into the situation is with the following numbers.

Every single team that plays a postseason game in every other league has a chance, however remote, of winning the championship. In college football only two have a chance which means that the percentage of college football teams that have a chance at the title is a whopping (drum roll please)

1.7 percent

But wait, you said 68 teams play a postseason game, not 120. Okay, that is a lot better. Of the teams that play a postseason game 2.9 percent have a chance at the title, as opposed to every other league in the world, where 100 percent of the teams have a chance to win it all.

Sure seems fair to me.

I am no mathematician, and I don’t claim to understand the intricate workings of any sports league, but I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to notice the slight disparity between college football, and every other league in the world.

So for now all we can do is enjoy the games that bring us so much joy, and sadness, and hope that someday a change will take place and the field will be a little more level.

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