Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lloyd Carr wants a 16-team College Football playoff

In a remarkable turn of events, Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr has done a 180 on his anti-playoff stance. He now favors a 16 team playoff! I am at a loss for words right now so please give me a few sentences to gather my thoughts. Carr’s previous stance was no playoff whatsoever. He not only changed his mind on the idea of a playoff but he also went to what most people consider the limit of potential teams that a playoff might include. There is no question that a 16-team college football playoff would be the equivalent of the 64-team basketball tournament. With Lloyd Carr on board the playoff-wagon, anything seems possible.

I am curious, though, with Carr’s rationale. He says in the Detroit News article, “When you look at the (non-BCS) bowls, you have the commissioners, the bowl people, the TV people doing the scheduling, And I think it's only fair to the players that what happens on the field should dictate where you play.” He emphasizes (or possibly the Detroit News writer emphasizes) that his displeasure is with the “non-BCS bowls”. That leads me to believe that he doesn’t have a problem with the BCS games. As everyone knows, the BCS games are the games used to decide the National Champion. As everyone also knows, a playoff would determine the National Champion. So, according to the article, Carr is happy with the way the National Champion is currently decided, but because he is not happy with the way non-BCS bowl match-ups are decided (which has nothing to do with the National Championship game) he wants to completely change the way we determine a National Champion by instituting a 16-team playoff. Does that make sense?

Wouldn’t it just be easier to change the way the non-BCS bowl games are paired? If Carr is really only concerned with the non-BCS bowl games, it just seems like a total overreaction on his part unless, of course, he really doesn’t care for the current BCS system as a whole. Although he says that he’s only displeased with the non-BCS games, that argument doesn’t really make sense. That leads me to believe that he favors a playoff over the BCS and not just as a way to make fairer pairings in non-BCS bowl games. It would’ve been helpful if the Detroit News writer would’ve clarified Carr’s playoff stance. In reading the article, it clearly portrays Carr as being OK with the current BCS system but wanting a playoff because of the non-BCS bowl games. Either the News writer dropped the ball and missed the fact that Carr really does have a problem the BCS and non-BCS bowls alike, or Carr’s rationale for wanting a playoff is a total overreaction to a problem that could probably be fixed rather easily without resorting to nihilism.

The reason why I’ve spent so much time discussing Carr’s real stance on the issue is because if he only has a problem with the non-BCS games, that could be a problem. The NCAA could easily change the way non-BCS games are paired without coming close to implementing a playoff. Judging from the article, that would appease Carr and he would no longer be on the playoff bandwagon. If Carr does favor a playoff over the BCS and non-BCS games a like, then it looks like he would be in it for the long haul and really could be a much needed advocate for a playoff.

I want to emphasize how shocked I am by Carr’s reversal. Carr has been a thorn in my side for the last ten years (sans 1997 and 1999) in terms of getting enjoyment from Michigan football. While I respect his character immensely, Michigan has clearly underachieved more times than not over the last ten years. A National Championship is a big deal but it certainly doesn’t alleviate the program from ever having to be good again. However, now that Carr and I are on the same page in what I consider one of the biggest faux pas in the sports world, I can’t help but to feel some affinity towards him. On one side, we are in total disagreement in terms of how the Michigan football has been run and how it has performed, and on the other side, he has lent his support to such an important argument even after being a staunch opponent. It feels like we just got cover from enemy B-52’s. Carr is as conservative as it comes in terms of coaching and in life (at least as far as I know). Carr supporting a playoff is akin to President Bush calling a press conference tomorrow to announce his unbridled support of abortion.

I do have to say that one of my pet peeves (not that this is important) is when people change their viewpoint only after they are wronged. Carr’s changed stance comes after Michigan was passed over in the Outback Bowl for Iowa. He says that it isn’t fair that teams are placed in bowl games based on how well the fans travel and other factors outside of actual football performance. Of course, Carr is right. It isn’t fair. But, the commissioners and bowl executives have been pairing bowl teams using this method ever since the BCS came into existence. Where was Carr when Nebraska snuck into the Championship game in 2001/2 after getting blasted by Colorado in the Big XII Championship game? Was it not important because the team that was being wronged wasn’t Michigan? Unfortunately, there are many coaches in college football that think the same way that Carr used to. As long as it doesn’t happen to their team, they couldn’t care less. The only way things get changed in this world is if people put themselves in other people’s shoes. If everyone waited until something bad happened to them, nobody would ever donate anything to anyone. Only cancer survivors would help cancer victims. Only people that have actually experienced a hurricane would donate to hurricane victims. Anyhow, I guess what I’m saying is that I’m elated that Carr seems to have “seen the light” in terms of a playoff but if every coach takes as long as Carr to come around, we might not see a playoff until 2150.

Carr can make this a moot point by making a legitimate push for a playoff. If the story ends with Carr simply stating his support for a playoff, Carr will probably have as much impact as Oregon’s Mike Bellotti. After being squeezed out of the National Championship game by Nebraska in 2001/2, Bellotti stated his displeasure for the BCS as well as his support for a playoff. Apparently, nobody cared. Carr could make a big difference by influencing other coaches and taking his case to the NCAA. Somebody has to do the work. I can’t think of a better person to lead the platform than an individual who used to be firmly entrenched on the other side of the debate.

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