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The BCS: A Friend to the SEC (and the Rest of the Footprint)

We at Tribal Fever find it odd that it would be the SEC who would call for a playoff system.  We wonder how the SEC can be so blind to the fact that the BCS has been great for that conference.

For those that love the idea of a playoff, we will list the reasons why most every proposal for a college playoff is a horrible idea for college football at large and especially devastating for the SEC.

1.  The BCS has helped the SEC, not hurt it - First, let's examine the history of the BCS, its purpose, and its results. 

It was started so that there would no longer be split national titles.  In the past, these splits often hurt the SEC teams who didn't have the national following of Notre Dame, the Big Ten (dominated by Ohio State and Michigan), and the Pac 10 (dominated by USC).  The BCS awards automatic bids to SEC and the other major conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10, ACC, and Big East) making an even playing field.

There have been 10 BCS games so far.  SEC teams have played in 4 and have won all of them.  The one black mark to the BCS from an SEC standpoint was Auburn's undefeated 2004-2005 team being passed over in favor of the other two undefeated teams, USC and Oklahoma.  However, Auburn's loss quickly became the SEC's gain.

The SEC has since received an overwhelming benefit of the doubt.  Florida ascended to the  BCS Championship last year over Michigan, and then proved everyone right by winning the game.  This year LSU became the first 2 loss team to go to the BCS Championship, and they won as well.  In both of those cases, Ohio State was the losing team, and they lost in such a fashion that it brought into question the strength of the entire Big 10 Conference.

Besides, the AJC's Tony Barnhart has shown what the past results would have been with a 4 team playoff.  The SEC would have been minimally helped by a 4 team playoff system.  Again, only the Auburn year would have applied.

So, how has the BCS hurt the SEC?  Right now, no one even argues that the SEC is the best football conference in college football.  This is in large part due to the BCS.

2. A playoff system would imperil the life blood ($$) of SEC Football - It sounds to us like advocates of a playoff prefer a system that is closer to NCAA Basketball, a system that rewards teams that are "hottest" by year's end.  There is little doubt that this system sounds great to some like Georgia because it would have benefited a team like your Bulldogs after the 2007 season.

So, let's look at Georgia for a minute.

Forbes is the master of valuing sports.  After covering all of the professional sports leagues, Forbes has turned to the college game.

Here's the Forbes list of Most Valuable College Teams:

1. Notre Dame
2. Texas (Big 12)
3. Georgia (SEC)

4. Michigan (Big Ten)
5. Florida (SEC)
6. LSU (SEC)
7. Tennessee (SEC)
8. Auburn (SEC)
9. Alabama (SEC)

10. Ohio State (Big Ten)
11. Oklahoma (Big 12)
12. South Carolina (SEC)

13. Penn State (Big Ten)
14. USC (Pac 10)
15. Arkansas (SEC)
16. Texas A&M (Big 12)

17. Washington (Pac 10)
18. Nebraska (Big 12)
19. Michigan State (Big Ten)
20. Wisconsin (Big Ten)

Final tally:

SEC 8
Big Ten 5
Big 12 4
Pac 10 2
Independent 1

It should be no surprise that teams in the Tribal Fever Footprint rule Forbes' Top 20 list.

In summary, 9 of the top 12 are Footprint teams.  7 of those are SEC teams with the other two being Texas and Oklahoma - the Big 12's traditional powers.  The only other teams in the top 12 are Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State - three of the biggest traditional powers and owners of their own (ND) or a shared (the BigTen Network) television network.

Georgia is #3.  That revenue comes from, in large part, home game revenue. 

College football's value comes from having each game count.  One stumble and a team cannot guarantee anything.  If the "hottest" team would get the nod over a team with the best body of work over a season, then the value of each individual game would be significantly diminished.  This could mean millions of dollars to your school and other SEC schools.

If you don't believe this, ask yourself when you last watched a meaningful regular season college basketball game.  Except for a few diehard rivalries like Duke-UNC, there aren't any.  That comes thanks to the NCAA tournament.

If you don't believe us, how about Tony Barnhart?  Barnhart writes today about how the regular season would get diminshed by a playoff which is the main reason behind the lack of support for change.

SEC football has long embraced conference play and showing it on the field.  Georgia lost to Tennessee.  That big loss prevented them from playing for a championship. 

Whether Georgia this year or Auburn a few years back, It would be self-serving at best  and stupid at worst for these schools to advocate a position that would undermine the tradition of SEC Football, and potentially take revenues out of your school's coffers.

3. Having the NCAA run college football would hurt the SEC - This is possibly the worst part of playoff proposals that we have seen.  Right now, the BCS is run by the major conferences.  A playoff system would ultimately be run by the NCAA.

If you allow the NCAA to run college football, it will be the same as allowing the United Nations to run the USA.  The United Nations gives equal voice to every country.  That's nice in theory, but do you want WAC, Mountain West, and other smaller conferences sitting at the same table with you and your SEC brethren?

In an 8 team format, the SEC would get, at most, 2 teams in.  That's pretty much what the level of BCS participation now.  What would the SEC gain by this? 

Ok, theorectically, the SEC could end up with two of its teams playing in the championship, but that would still depend on seeding.  Expecting more than one SEC team to annually compete for a national championship after the season is done is ridiculous.  The best two SEC teams already meet at year's end in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. 

Besides, the SEC would never send a conference non-champion over a conference champion regardless of how hot they are at the end of the season.  (An SEC team that cannot win its conference should not play for any national title.  Period!)

4. Don't EVER listen to the national (ie Northeast and West Coast) sports media - Remember the Trojan horse?  It was a giant wooden representation of a horse, on wheels, presented by the Greeks to the Trojans during the Trojan War. The Trojans believed it was a gift and took it inside their city, but it actually contained Greek soldiers who spilled out of the horse and attacked Troy.

Using this as an analogy, the national sports media are the Greeks, the SEC and college football tradition are the Trojans, and a college football playoff is the Trojan horse.  If you don't believe it, read this article from Fast Company.

The national sports media looks at sports only as a form of entertainment like a movie or a TV show.  They want ratings for sweeps week, etc.  They don't care about the tradition and the connection of college football to the SEC faithful who live and breathe football all year long.  These people want college football simplified so that it can be presented over a two to three weeks in a standard playoff format so that it can be sold to the larger media markets.

The universities of the SEC don't represent those people.  They represent the fans and supporters of the SEC.  There are those that call the system broken by parroting "big media", but in reality this article shows that football is already king in your state and your region.  Your constituents get it and like the system.  Appeasing a few Georgia fans who want to speculate about which team would win between LSU and Georgia today is not a reason to destroy a system that in large part is working.

 5.  The bowl system has been a recipe for SEC dominance (and a blueprint for other conferences in the Footprint) - The SEC loves football.  It recognizes and accepts that college football is on of their best marketing tools.  Who is your most important market?  University donors.

How did these donors make their money?  By creating and building businesses in cities around the Footprint.  What are bowl games designed to do?  Create revenue through tourism for these cities.  Except for a small handful of game, almost every bowl game is in the Swampland Footprint.

Additionally, these Footprint bowl games are almost always well-attended. This past year's Liberty Bowl had its highest TV ratings and attendace ever with Mississippi State playing UCF.  The Memphis-based game could pick MSU knowing that they would bring their bowl-hungry fan base up from Starkville and other parts of the Magnolia State.

The SEC has 8 bowl ties ins - 2/3rds of the entire conference.  The Big 12 has 8 and is looking for a 9th.  The ACC has 7.  These schools are well-represented.

At any point, these other conferences can follow the SEC's lead by getting better from top to bottom.  They aren't there yet, but the Big 12 is getting closer.  The ACC is as well.

The bowl system gives teams something to play for if they are good, but can't compete for a conference title.  This becomes a critical rung in the ladder toward respectability as Miss St proved this past year.

6.  Changes may come, but not now - Barnhart writes about when the real changes will come.  The SEC, ACC, Big 12, and other want the fans to be happy, but now isn't the time.  In a few years, new stadiums will be up and running in Dallas and Orlando.  Both of these cities want their bowl games to move back to elite status.

All of these machinations will create more options.  Be patient in the mean time.

The SEC needs to be happy being #1 as the best college football conference, and listen to our brethren in the midwest.  They understand long term value. 

The BCS finally evened the playing field for the SEC, and the conference showed its might.  Don't get greedy when you already have everything you truly want.

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