Okay, so we are now using the BCS calculations to build our playoff slate for 16 teams that we have decided that we cannot be entirely sure aren't the best team in the nation. All the conference champions, and the highest-ranked teams that aren't conference champions are in there and former bowl officials are now building the bracket for our 16-team field. Great! Now where do we play?
The problem with figuring out where to play is a very serious one, because to play the playoff games in any particular area would require a great many idiots in one or another area of the country. This is because any particular choice of venue leaves somebody getting screwed by the system.
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The first option is, of course, to use the current bowl venues as the locations for the playoff games. Unfortunately, this is a problem because they are all in warm-weather locales. And this is a problem because the warm-weather locales are all in the South or way out West. This forces teams from cold-weather locations -- such as the Big Ten, some of the Big East, much of the Big XII, and even some of the PAC-10 -- to travel a heck of a lot every week for their playoff games. Instead of traveling to California, Florida or some such place a full week before the game (like they do for bowl games), the players and coaches will have to travel on a Thursday or Friday before the game and play a game on travel-weary legs. No, travelling is not as difficult as it used to be back in 1930, but travelling is still tiring. Even people who travel regularly for business get worn down by the grind. Thus, the Northern teams are at an immediate disadvantage even before the game starts. Add in the fact that they need offenses that are designed for cold weather just to get to the playoffs, and you have to wonder what idiot from a Northern school would sign off on this plan.
Another plan, of course, is to allow teams the opportunity to play their playoff games in their home stadium. This will cause fewer travel problems, only one team will have to go out to these sites, and everybody wins. Well, not everybody. After all, teams from Southern schools are not used to cold weather at all and they are, every so often, going to have to play in places such as Happy Valley, Lincoln, and Pullman, Washington. It gets cold up in those climes come November and December, the snow starts falling, and the wind starts howling and Florida State, Alabama and USC aren't going to like it very much. As a matter of fact, when the Notre Dame-USC game comes to South Bend, the game is always played in October. This is because USC's team was whining about how cold it got out in the Midwest come late November and they made Notre Dame switch the date of their home games against the Trojans to a warmer month. Do you really think teams from the rest of the South aren't going to complain about the very same thing? Which bring up the question: What idiot from a Southern school would sign off on this plan?
The only other option is, of course, to play the games in NFL cities. However, the question is "Which NFL cities?" Any team that plays on natural grass isn't going to want a bunch of college kids tearing up their field on Saturday, causing their professional teams to fall all over the place on Sunday. Not to mention the fact that college teams are often located in smaller cities that don't have professional teams, forcing two teams to wear themselves out with travel just so they can play in small stadium that is only about 2/3rds full. Let's face it, it's expensive to make travel plans every week and a lot of people are going to skip out on the Tennessee-Texas game when it's being played in Cleveland. Or even Houston because, let's face it, Texas is a big freakin' state.
Yes, there is the counter-example of the NCAA basketball tournament, but that tourney involves four schools combining to fill 20,000-seat arenas every week. It is something else entirely for only two schools to fill 60,000-75,000 seat stadiums. Besides which, the teams in question are still playing someplace other than their home stadium and somebody is going to be stung by the weather. That is, unless you keep it entirely regional and allow the PAC-10 an easy route to the championship game every year; much like the UCLA basketball team when they won 10 titles. Which, of course, was the reason that basketball teams have to travel all over creation for the NCAA tournament today. And what idiot who doesn't root for USC, UCLA or Washington would sign off on that plan?
This, in case you had not realized, is actually a big problem. After all, this is not basketball. You cannot play games two days apart. Football teams generally have a week off between games, so you have to get travel expenses for at least one team and, possibly, two for every game.
With the bowl system, teams only have to travel once. With a playoff system, teams have to make new travel plans every week. And they have to do it on short notice every week. Which means that teams are going to get slammed with costs whenever they play a game. The other option is to have the NCAA arrange travel plans, but that means more money going to the NCAA itself and less money going to the schools that are playing in the playoffs. Which means that they get less of a payday for their efforts. Which means that, even if the money from a 16-team playoff system equalled the amount made from the 56 teams that go to bowls currently, the money would not help cash-strapped athletic departments as much as the current bowl system.
Of course, the other problem with a playoff system is figuring out exactly where all this money is going to come from. Currently, a couple dozen cities host bowl games, providing money out of their own pockets to cover expenses. And with 28 different companies also offering their names and their cash to various bowls around the country, they are adding money to the process. However, an NCAA tournament would have to generate money from television and advertising revenue only, while bowls generate money from direct sponsorship, as well as television and advertising revenue. This is a heck of a lot of money that is going toward keeping teams on the field.
The money is a serious concern because Division I-A football teams are the engines that drive their athletic departments. Cash from bowls, television and, in the case of mid-majors, away games at bigger schools are a way to keep themselves in business. The basketball tournament brings in some money, but big-time college football is still the biggest money-maker. And that money is vital for keeping non-revenue sports ticking. The fencing team, the track team and the swimming team are not making enough to even feed themselves, much less other sports, and it takes money to pay for their transportation, meals, uniforms, etc. And many of the schools currently don't make enough to break even as it is. That means that an even more expensive playoff system that pulls in less money is not going to help the crew team get a new boat.
Even taking these ideas into account, there are a few other considerations that should be... um... considered.