CSN Classic: Why The Playoffs Work
College Sporting News kicks off a new feature called CSN Classic. Our first offering, in the light of Auburn's recent BCS "championship," is a look at how the Tigers weren't so happy with the BCS system a few years earlier and how the Football Championship Subdivision system was and is better than the one offered by the big boys
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of historical articles that appeared on the website during its first decade of life. This piece also was a part of regular columns that appeared on the CSTV website.
In the opening column, we see how a few years can make a big difference in perceptions.
It's rather interesting that then-Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was complaining about a system that left his undefeated Tigers out of the BCS "championship" game in 2004.
Moving ahead to 2011, we all know that Auburn benefitted from the corrupt BCS system that left an undefeated Texas Christian squad on the sideline for a shot at a title and kept TCS and Boise State from battling for the crown the previous season.
There is also a look at the resignation, under pressure, of Tommy Tate as the coach at McNeese State and a middle-of-the-season preview of some key games around FCS in 2006.
Among them was the first trip back to Cedar Falls, Ia. for former UNI coach Terry Allen, who had become the coach at Missouri State after his firing from Kansas.
Frustrated Auburn coach wants I-A to make the switch
Oct. 6, 2006
By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
I-AA football fans don't know how good they have it. When you're I-AA, you never have to listen to anyone squawk about how such foolishness as the Bowl Championship Series.
There may be debate every November about a team getting left out of the 16-team playoff field, but at least I-AA has a workable playoff system.
With the eminent change of names for I-A and I-AA football subdivisions to the Bowl Series and Championship Series subdivisions, a popular slogan that has been making the rounds is: "There is no BS in the CS."
Perhaps Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville might like to buy a t-shirt.
When Tuberville called for I-A to institute a playoff system, this week, to decide a national champion, it made headline news.
Frustrated by the fact that his Tiger team went 12-0 in 2004 and didn't receive the chance to play for a I-A championship and with the possibility of that scenario repeating itself in 2006, Tuberville went on the offensive.
"I've about had it with this playoff deal," Tuberville said. "We all understand in our conference how tough it is. In our conference, that's about the only chance we'd have to (win a national championship)."
Playing in the Southeastern Conference — generally considered the best league in college football — Tuberville realizes that his school is at a disadvantage, because of the toughness of the competition.
Last winter, Tuberville spent a week in Hawaii with Jerry Moore, the coach of the 2005 I-AA national champion, Appalachian State.
Moore, fresh off taking his team through a month-long championship tournament, served as one of Tuberville's assistants for the Hula Bowl all-star game and was a sounding board for Tuberville about how the playoff system works.
Moore's team could work its way through the toughest schedule in I-AA last fall, complete with trips to I-A Kansas and LSU, knowing that by winning the Southern Conference, his team could still compete for a national championship.
Like Appalachian State, University of Northern Iowa lost three regular-season games, but survived to win the automatic bid from the Gateway Conference and then won three heart-stopping games by a total of nine points to reach the championship game.
Neither Appalachian State nor UNI would have been around for a BCS-styled championship.
Such a format would have given I-AA a matchup between New Hampshire and Hampton, two teams who lost once between them in the regular season, but were both gone in the second round of the playoffs.
Teams such as Auburn, in I-A, are not afforded the luxury of losing in the regular season. And the best team at the end of the season may not even be included in the BCS championship contest.
In I-A, a complicated computer program and poll mixture determines who the top two teams are after the regular season and then matches them in a season-ending bowl game to determine the Bowl Championship Series winner.
If you stumble once somewhere during the year, schedule the wrong teams on your non-conference schedule, or happen to find yourself in one of those non-BCS leagues, you can find yourself watching the national championship game on television, instead of playing in it.
And in the case of the 2004 Auburn Tigers, you can play in the best conference, go undefeated and still find Southern Cal and Oklahoma competing for the crown.
Since 1978, I-AA has used and refined its playoff system. And it is a system that works.
An NCAA committee, comprised of knowledgeable administrators from various institutions around the country, holds teleconferences during the season to assemble regional rankings.
They meet in Indianapolis on the final weekend of the regular season in November to select 16 teams for the I-AA playoffs.
Eight teams receive automatic bids as champions of the strongest I-AA leagues and eight other teams are selected as at-large entrants.
Four teams are seeded and four of the other teams in the field are selected to host first-round games.
The 16 teams are bracketed and the month-long tournament begins.
It ends in Chattanooga, Tenn. the weekend before Christmas with a national champion that is decided on the field.
And there is little doubt, after winning four playoff games, that the team crowned as champion is a deserving one.
Critics claim that the season is too long and it causes students to miss too many classes.
But with playoff games on Saturdays — just like they are in the regular season — football players miss less classes than any other college athletes.
And when I-A bowl teams are already playing 13 games, are two or three more really that much of a concern for a handful of squads, if the reward is a true national champion?
Tuberville likes a modified I-A playoff system that would add one more bowl game and decide the participants from two of the major bowl winners.
"There is no reason on this earth why we can't have the best four and then play one more," Tuberville said. "That's the legitimate thing to do."
But why stop there?
The current antiquated bowl system took shape in a bygone era and survives more because of tradition than effectiveness.
The NCAA learned a long time ago how exciting playoff formats work in deciding championship.
Its flagship property is the "March Madness" of the men's basketball tournament.
Imagine "December Derangement", or some other concoction for I-A football?
Another argument for the status quo is that there is too much money in the bowl format.
But, using the NCAA basketball tournament as a guide, imagine how much more cash might eventually flow into those football coffers, should I-A go to a playoff format. The sky is the limit.
But the biggest argument for a playoff system is this — deciding a true national championship on the field.
They manage to do it in Division III, Division II and I-AA.
There is no reason it can't be done at I-A, too.
Until the folks running I-A figure this out, coaches like Tuberville, players and fans will be left to their frustrations, while those of us around I-AA will just snicker.
We already know how well the playoffs work.
Can the Southland Rise Again?
Those of us with graying temples can remember an old television game show called "To Tell the Truth."
Three guests would be quizzed by a panel of celebrities, who tried to determine which of the trio was the legitimate person being represented. The other two would lie about their identities to try and fool the panel. At the end of the show, the host would utter the words: "Will the real (insert the guest's name here) please stand up."
The question for us this week and for the rest of the regular season is: "Will the team that wants to win the Southland Football Conference, please stand up."
Whoever that team is will get the chance to do just that beginning Saturday when the Southland opens conference play. Nicholls State hosts Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin entertains Texas State and, in the marquee game of the week, Sam Houston State travels to Northwestern State.
Fortunately for preseason favorite McNeese State, the Cowboys have a week to wait before their Southland schedule begins against Texas State.
After last week's upset loss to South Dakota State and several days of turmoil, 1-3 McNeese State has some extra time to worry about Texas State.
The Cowboys' Tommy Tate, its longtime head coach and former assistant and star player, resigned in a decision that was announced on Wednesday.
Tate had been the head coach since 2000, compiling a 46-27 record, and a member of the Cowboy staff since 1979.
While Tate — the 2002 Eddie Robinson Award winner, after taking McNeese State to the national championship game — was undone by disappointing results on the field in the past two and a half years, his removal had as much to do with off-the-field personal problems and team discipline as did with his record.
There had been rumors that Tate was in trouble for over a year and the disruptions of Hurricane Rita last season likely saved his job temporarily.
Offensive coordinator Matt Viator has taken over Tate's responsibilities on an interim basis and the Cowboys will search for a new leader after the season.
It had already been a tumultuous season in the Southland. Northwestern State dismissed its defensive coordinator, Mike Collins, after an internal investigation reveal NCAA violations.
With McNeese State in an uproar, the conference race should be even more of a dogfight than normal. Northwestern State and Sam Houston State are the only teams that even have two wins this season and the league has fared poorly against other I-AA conferences.
Central Arkansas State, in the first year of its move to I-AA, is probably kicking itself about timing. The Bears, who will be joining the Southland next season, are off to a 4-1 start this season.
The Rest of the Best
There will be some interesting matchups on tap when I-AA teams take the field on Saturday.
Top-ranked New Hampshire, in the midst of the toughest part of its schedule, survived a trip to Delaware last week, winning 52-49.
But the Wildcats have another challenge at home this Saturday when No. 7 Richmond comes to town.
It will be a classic offense (quarterback Ricky Santos and receiver David Ball leading UNH) versus defense (linebacker Adam Goloboski and defensive end Sherman Logan guiding the Spiders) showdown, with the winner taking the inside route towards an Atlantic 10 auto bid.
No. 2 Appalachian State should get its biggest test in nearly a month when it travels to the scene of its 2005 national championship to face host Tennessee-Chattanooga in a key Southern Conference game.
The biggest question will be how ASU freshman quarterback Armanti Edwards handles an improved UTC defense.
There will be a Great West Conference clash of the Titans when UC Davis travels to Cal Poly.
The Aggies are 2-2, but their losses were to Texas Christian and Youngstown State.
Cal Poly has shown it again has one of I-AA best defenses, but the offense hasn't been very effective, even with the presence of tailback James Noble and receiver Ramses Barden.
One of the better non-conference games of the weekend is Colgate's journey to Princeton.
Colgate, last year's Patriot League auto bid winner, will try to uphold the PL's honor in a year when the league has been thrashed by the Ivy League.
Princeton is knocking on the door to the top 25 with a 3-0 start that includes wins over two other PL powers, Lehigh and Lafayette.
Another intriguing non-conference battle will see North Dakota State venturing to Georgia Southern.
The Bison have been trying to crack the top-10 with I-AA's best rushing defense and the offensive force of emerging quarterback Steve Walker and running back Kyle Steffes.
Georgia Southern has shown a good running game with Chris Covington and Lamar Lewis sharing the load, but little else in a 2-2 start.
In Cedar Falls, Iowa, there will be an interesting homecoming as former UNI coach Terry Allen brings his new team, Missouri State, to town to face the Panthers.
UNI appears back on track after a heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Iowa State last Saturday. Missouri State is making strides under Allen, but it hasn't shown record-wise in a 1-4 start thus far this season.