College football has off-season work

With the college football season now complete, the countdown to Labor Day begins. Still, there are several challenges the conferences need to address before the kick-off so that they can lay the ground work for more success in future seasons.
With a lockout by the NFL owners looming and the possible shortening or cancellation of the 2011 season, the conferences need to begin to develop a strategy to fill the void that will be left for football on Sunday. The networks are going to need something to help keep the advertising coffers full during this potential lockout, and all the major networks that carry NFL games all have contracts with major college football conferences. CBS, for example, has a very lucrative contract with the SEC to carry the conference’s premier weekly matchups. By giving the conferences modest, one-year increases in TV dollars, it can be a win-win situation.
Besides the money aspects, the conferences will have a chance to expand their national reputations with some fans that might not traditionally be die-hard college football fans. NFL loyalist are going to want to watch football on Sundays. For many of them, going to the bar or a friend’s house to watch football on Sundays is a weekly tradition. While they might not be able to watch their favorite professional teams, offering them an alternative might further endear college football in the hearts of some who are going through NFL withdrawals. And considering many conferences will be rolling out new members next season, an extra Sunday timeslot would help to further the branding of the recently realigned conferences.
Another potential change that needs to be contemplated is the post-season system currently in place. While the current contract is not set to expire for another three seasons, it is well known that few things take longer to change than the college-football postseason system. Many of the top brass in the college football world agree that a playoff is unlikely in the near future, since college presidents are reluctant to change a system and a sport that generates so much money.
A plausible alternative is the so called “plus-one” option, whereby a last set of polls is released after the bowls and one more game is played between the No. 1 and No. 2. This would give teams vying for a national title another chance at playing a strong out-of-conference opponent and further strengthen their resumes to be a national title contender before the final game.
In a revamped BCS system, another bowl would need to be added in order to keep the same number of automatic and at-large bids. Presumably the best and most logical option would be the Cotton Bowl, since it has a long and distinguished history. With the BCS National Championship game already being a week or more after New Year’s, the logistical issues of scheduling another game have already been conquered and arguments that the expansion would interfere with academics is a meaningless point.
Instead of sticking solely with conference ties with the bowl games, however, a slight tweak should be made so that undefeated teams would face each other in the BCS Bowl games. If there are more than two undefeated teams, the higher ranked team should ‘host’ another undefeated in their traditional bowl game. For example, this year, since there were three undefeated teams, Oregon would have hosted TCU in the Rose Bowl with the winner to likely play in the National Championship game. Auburn would have faced Stanford in the Sugar Bowl since Auburn should play a quality opponent to even the playing field.
Granted this system breaks down in the unusual circumstance that there are more than four undefeated teams, but this could be a possible compromise between the current system and a playoff. In years where there are less than two undefeated teams, the standard bowl ties would be honored.
The last and by far the stupidest error that needs to be corrected during the off-season is the names of the Big Ten divisions. The only thing ‘Legendary’ about the Big Ten this bowl season was its perfectly imperfect record for New Year’s Day bowls, which proved how they are not ‘Leaders’ of anything either. I am a big fan of the ‘Rust’ and ‘Dust’ divisions myself but would be open to any other ideas.
With some work this off eason, college football could broaden the appeal of the sport and increase the revenue stream to secure its status for years to come.

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