A recent poll by the Denver Post showed that about half the big-time college coaches would rather have some kind of playoff for the national championship after the traditional bowls.
All 15 coaches questioned wanted to keep the bowls, but many wanted to add a game or two afterward to resolve the usual counter-claims for No. 1.
But why? Really, what's to be gained?
There is no more money to be made, that's for sure. It's the same TV pile, it would just be distributed over more games.
Is there justice to be had? Some schools--Penn State comes to mind--have been jobbed over the years. And it's true the Nittany Lions wouldn't have won last year's title unless the Fiesta Bowl had set up its own mini-playoff between two teams that happened to be independents. But that situation is pretty rare. The bowls, as antiquated as they are, usually produce a winner.
On the other hand, think of the drawbacks. Dick MacPherson, the Syracuse coach, can think of one. He told the Post this:
"I have been in a position, on many levels, such as Division II, with a playoff where you advance from week to week. The pressure at Division I for this kind of thing would be unbelievable. At the other levels, there is obscurity and it isn't covered by the national media. On the Division I level, it would be mass hysteria."
The media could not resist applying Super Bowl standards to such a game. As it is, with attention divided by four to five major bowls the same day, the pressure is pretty intense. These games are big enough. Who needs one bigger?
Another objection, offered by USC's Larry Smith in the same story: "I don't think there's a fair way to select the 16 or so teams."
Largely unnoticed Sunday was the fair amount of crabbing that went on when Division II came up with its eight teams for playoff play. Imagine what happens when some high-profile Division I coaches get slighted. Out here it would be days of whine and roses.
Smith, again: "I like the current bowl situation because it offers everyone a freedom of choice, and it upholds one of the great mystiques of college football. And this is the national rankings."
Right in the kisser: Ohio State's Edward Jennings, apparently unpopular with all but influential alumni after his ridiculously timed firing of Earle Bruce, spotted Buckeye kicker Matt Frantz on campus last week. He told Frantz that if the defense wanted to get pumped for its game with Michigan, they could imagine his face on the ball.
We don't know what effect it had on the defense, but Frantz did kick the winning field goal.
Department of Memory Loss: Some Notre Dame fans are strutting across campus with a button reading: "The Irish never forget. 58-7."
It refers to a 1985 game with Miami when the Hurricanes, independent and as wholly reliant on poll rankings as the Irish, sent Gerry Faust packing, piling it on right to the final play. Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson got more than 400 letters of criticism after that. And the controversy has lingered.
In fact, Saturday's game in Miami is regarded as an opportunity for pay-back.
This leads us to wonder what Navy has in mind for the Irish next year, or in years to come. The poor Midshipmen were atomized by Notre Dame earlier this year, 56-13. Another game, another button, we guess.
All too often football programs seem to exist apart from the universities they represent. They have their own budgets, agendas and rewards. That the players also attend school is sometimes a flimsy, and often hypocritical relationship. Yet it may be that the universities "use" the football programs as well.
At Florida State, where the Seminoles are having an exciting and wonderful season--9-1, headed for the Fiesta Bowl--Coach Bobby Bowden is bragging that the team is fattening up the university, and not just its coffers.
"The last time we were this successful, we closed out enrollment in May," he said. "That's what a successful year can mean to your university because of the public exposure. We'll get more applicants from Chicago and Cleveland and spots like that if we're successful."
Earlier in this space it was reported that Georgia Southern attributes its sharp rise in enrollment to its two Division II championships alone.
Meanwhile, who are the bucket-heads still applying at winless--for four years!--Columbia?
Look for Nebraska to go from Cornhuskers to Cornhushers.
Those poor players, unleashed by Tom Osborne, were not so much embarrassed by the whipping Oklahoma put on them as the boasting they had done before the game. Osborne said he allowed that only because: "I felt in the past the players lacked confidence. Since now, they had confidence. I didn't want to pour cold water on it."
Next year, Dr. Tom will be patrolling the sidelines with an industrial-sized dipper.
Playoffs, second thought: Do you realize that Syracuse, if it beats the Southeastern Conference representative in the Sugar Bowl, can claim the national title?