INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA tournament was so compact when John Wooden coached his last game that all the madness was handled by March. However, this event was not capitalized. It was more of a curiosity than the national sports spectacle we know today.
And basically it always ended the same way: with UCLA as champion, 10 times in 12 tournaments that took place between 1964 and 1975.
Last year, only 32 teams qualified for it: the champions of the conference got into it automatically, several different independents were brought in, and for the first time, some successful league candidates were invited to the competition. When UCLA won its first nine titles, the field had 25 teams or less. Imagine that the responsible people would leave it at that, provided that the Bruins win every year, no matter what changes have been made to make the tournament fairer and more impressive.
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That’s what we hear now from the many people who watched the first eight years of the College Football Playoff. They saw the dominance of Alabama and, to a lesser extent, Clemson and Ohio State, and assume that a real playoff extended to eight or 12 teams would produce the same result.
What a failure of the imagination it is. What is disappointing to see that so many smart people cannot understand how the current “play-off” structure has helped to create this circumstance.
It was not intentional that those who invented the SRP spawned a university football world in which three or four schools separated from the rest of the sport. They wanted to get a little closer to what resembled a real championship, without causing too much damage to the bowl system to which they were mysteriously attached.
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However, elite players quickly realized that if they wanted to be part of the most important games, they had to join the Tide or Tigers or Buckeyes or perhaps the Oklahoma Sooners. It became self-fulfilling and self-sufficient. Only one other program has scored one of the seven previous championships. Only three others played the finals.
College football has not always been a sport where success has been so regional and exclusive. In 2000, some of the largest powers were Miami, Texas and Southern California. In the 1990s, it was Nebraska and Florida State. Between 1976 and 1986, Pitt and Penn State joined forces to claim this distinction through the then method, wire voting, three times in total. From 1975 to 2014, 23 different programs claimed at least a share of the national title, including Georgia Tech, Colorado, Washington and Tennessee.
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The expansion of the CFP can help college football to enjoy the traditional diversity that has made the sport a national obsession, as well as the modernity of a championship in which success is based almost exclusively on success – and only in the slightest on one’s opinion.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff has only been in office for six months and already knew the basic truth about college football and its post-season when he called the CFP an “invitation,” which I first remarked publicly more than two years ago.
“We have to expand,” Kliavkoff told Mike Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM radio program, “Basketball and Beyond.”
Whether it’s an expansion to 12 or eight teams, it must include an automatic qualification for at least six conference champions to make the whole event legitimate, and it makes sense for these positions to be awarded to Power 5 champions and the top five leagues. It is useless to argue about the semantics there.
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If the debate comes from within Power 5, it’s clearly a negotiating trick, because why would anyone argue that something so valuable is being presented? Whether it’s from the American or mountain west or anywhere, it’s a greedy gambit that could let these Group 5 programs desperately include another coincidence so soon after the happy confluence of the great Cincinnati season and rebuilding in Ohio, Clemson and Oklahoma. .
With automatic qualifications, each program can promise its recruits: If we win our conference, we’ll be there. This does not guarantee an even distribution of five-star recruits. They will still be among the many desires to be coached by Nick Saban or Dabo Swinney, but they will no longer be able to claim that this is the only way to the playoffs.
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As the NCAA began to make its men’s basketball tournament more inclusive, it launched a phenomenon that became one of the country’s most popular and most attended events, not only in sports but in all popular culture. With 68 teams in the field, this means that 19 percent of Division I teams participate. In FBS football, Kliavkoff said, a small CFP field means that this number is 3 percent.
In just 10 years since Wooden coached his last game, the tournament field doubled and the list of champions crowned during that period included not only the longtime powers of Kentucky, Indiana and North Carolina, but also the growing forces of Georgetown, Michigan State and Louisville. .
Since 1975, 22 different colleges have won NCAA tournaments. Only one of them was UCLA and only once.