Why Not Start the Playoff in 2013, a year early?

The BCS is dead.

Long live the BCS.

Yesterday college football’s slow revolution came to a predictable close. Back in January SEC commissioner Mike Slive said that he saw a playoff coming. Nearly six months later, it’s a reality. We know most of the details — there will be a selection committee, the semi-finals will be played inside the existing bowl structure, and the top four teams will be chosen. Given the political parameters, I believe that college football’s oldest generation got everything right.  

Except for one thing.

The playoff doesn’t start until the 2014 season.

Which is confusing the hell out of an awful lot of fans. In this day and age how many industries announce a drastic improvement and then table its implementation for two years?

That means we have two more years of the BCS, a flawed system that we’ve chosen to replace.

Why?

An awful lot can happen in two years. Keep in mind it was just a little over two years ago that the Pac 12’s new commissioner, Larry Scott, attempted to lure Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the west coast. Since that time the tectonic plates of college football have shifted a great deal. We now have a playoff and over a dozen schools have changed conferences. So now that we have a playoff agreement, why wait two years for the playoff to start? Especially when the amount of money involved is set to increase drastically. (A few months ago I told you that a playoff was worth at least $500 million. That’s triple what’s being paid now and would represent a minimum of six billion dollars over the 12 year life of the deal).

So why wait?

Especially when ESPN is the favorite in the clubhouse to win the rights to the playoff.

Which means this raises an interesting question: If ESPN, which already owns the television rights to the BCS for the next two years, wins the latest television rights auction, why couldn’t you start the playoff in 2013, a year earlier than planned, making 2012 the last year of the BCS?

Instead of televising the final year of the BCS in 2013, wouldn’t ESPN rather go ahead and start televising the playoff?

An ESPN insider reached by OKTC said the network had not been contacted about starting the playoff early and said that starting the playoff a year early wasn’t up to them. Which is true. But if ESPN wouldn’t oppose the idea, which they probably wouldn’t, why not start a year early?

Hell, given that ESPN has an exclusive negotiating window, isn’t this an incentive that both sides could work into the deal to unlock even more value?

Basically, why risk that three undefeated teams create another 2004 situation in 2013 — with the BCS what can go wrong will go wrong — when you could already be started with a four-team playoff? Why wait to make the sport better?

Put simply, college football ought to move the playoff up a year.

Moving the playoff up to the 2013 season would lead to more money and less fan confusion. It would kill the long interlude between the BCS and a playoff. And it would be relatively easy to work out the details of the playoff over the next year. Since ESPN already televises the vast majority of the bowls, the network could easily adjust the trickle down bowl television schedule as it sees fit. Since the money payout is increasing, most bowls would stand to benefit from the new arrangement. 

So let’s start. 

Now. 

Don’t wait two years for the playoff. 

Let’s start in 2013.  

You can listen to the man who killed the BCS, Dan Wetzel, and me discussing the death of the BCS on his podcast here.

I think y’all will enjoy it.

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