Biddle’s Beat: Wed. June 27, 2012

JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: July 7, 2013 (Image 1)

The first time I heard a common sense question about college football's system to determine its national championship came from the often-controversial lips of then-Florida football coach Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier addressed it at a Media Days event in Birmingham. He pointed it at former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer, widely recognized as the Father of the BCS.

Kramer was sitting in the back of the room filled with print media representing national and regional outlets.

“Why is it,'' Spurrier wondered aloud, “that college football is the only college sport that doesn't decide its champion with a playoff?''

Spurrier had earlier listened to Kramer extoll the virtues of the BCS formula, one which was most protective of the bowl system and its future. Kramer didn't think the college presidents would endorse a playoff system where a champion would be determined on the football field.

Spurrier pointed to Kramer, adding that perhaps it was a question that should be aimed at Kramer, who that day smiled and shrugged it off as yet another of Spurrier's outside the box topic cleverly designed to make the next day's headlines.

But while Kramer fought for what he thought was the only formula that would pass mustard with the college pointy-heads, it was destined to undergo a change.

The growing hue and cry from college football fans, media, TV networks was steadfast in its desire to have a football version of college basketball's widely popular and profitable NCAA basketball tournament, which culminated with a Final Four.

The bowl system was the presidents' last hold on college athletics and they were not about to let go.

To their credit, the presidents came on board and Tuesday it was announced we will have a seeded, four-team playoff system that will give football a national champion.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger called it a “best of both worlds'' result.

A 12-year formula will go into effect for the 2014-15 football season.

Does it still have hurdles to overcome? Yes. Rome wasn't built in a day.

How will the final four teams be selected? It will likely consist of a panel of conference commissioners, athletics directors, perhaps selected media, ex-coaches and hopefully a 100-percent transparent computer formula that includes strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and other factors that could limit human bias and political leanings.

College football polls have always been fun to discuss and debate. I have always questioned their legitimacy, and for years I was a voter on the Associated Press writers' poll and from its inception, the Harris Poll, which served as one-third of the current BCS formula.

Take the media and active coaches out of it. They don't have the time it takes to follow the game from coast to coast every week. Coaches only see the teams they play and the occasional games where they find the time to watch a game on TV or see weekend highlights.

Writers and broadcasters are often covering games. If it requires travel, they travel on Friday or Saturday and return Saturday night or Sunday. They know the teams and conference they cover, but it requires more time than they have in this era of newspaper layoffs and cuts that demands the survivors do additional work involving internet chats, videos, blogs and social media requirements.

As far as I can determine, there is no system that totally eliminates bias. The best a selection committee to limit bias is to follow the basketball committee policy that requires a member whose team or conference is being discussed leave the room while that process is worked on.

Rest assured the people involved desperately want this to work. They have enough time to put the pieces into place.

It will be exciting for those who follow college football, even those who have a passing interest. The NFL's Super Bowl captures a worldwide audience. I envision the college football playoff will be a Super Bowl lite.

The formula will likely be tweaked along the way. Some will clamor for eight or 16 teams to be involved in the playoffs. Football is different than basketball or baseball, sports you can play three or more times a week.

Football takes more wear and tear on college athletes. You don't want to play so many games you dilute the product.

Nothing is perfect. But a four-team playoff will be as good as it gets right now. And long overdue.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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