Best ways to create true national football champion a toss-up


Which system do you prefer: College basketball’s March Madness or college football’s bowls-playoff?

Your answer may indicate your view of the beneficial role of government. Should the government facilitate competition or predetermine much of the outcome?

March Madness relates to the free market. College football exemplifies government control.

For years, college football has been plagued with debates regarding the legitimacy of its championship declarations. Such questions do not linger in college basketball. Its champion has silenced the critics by earning it on the court for all to see. But the champion of college football has simply been declared by the powers that be. Thus the critics often rage.

When the failures of systems of government control become apparent, the leaders of those systems feign reform. However, attempts at effective and meaningful reform (requiring the loss of control to allow significant competition) are thwarted.

And so it has been in college football. An earlier attempt to appease critics (while essentially maintaining the status quo) was the Bowl Championship Series, but this “fix” merely replaced declaring a single winner with declaring the top two teams that would be allowed to become the winner.

Predictably, this year’s expanded playoff system falls short as well. The fundamental problem remains: The powers continue to control access to the championship. They are not open to real competition.

“But how is this any different than what the March Madness selection committee does?” you might ask.

A free market is not within anarchy. A well-functioning economic system is benefited by a properly functioning, limited government that does what is necessary to establish the framework within which competition can flourish. Then, the competitors are allowed to determine the champion.

Yes, college basketball’s selection committee is a governing body. But the selection of 68 teams is sufficiently large; no one can credibly argue the true champion was not given its chance to compete.

The College Football Playoff is still not open to this. Apparently the football selection committee thinks it knows best. Tell that to No. 7-seed Connecticut and No. 8-seed Kentucky, however.

The solution for football is a full tournament in addition to bowl games. As they have many years, college fans can continue to enjoy a bunch of bowl games for teams that win at least half of their games but don’t make the cut for the championship. Now let’s create a fully credible competition for the championship within the bowl structure.

Here is how it could be done.

A large number of teams mean true competition. Sixty-four teams won’t be necessary for college football but four teams or even eight teams are inadequate. Use 32 teams by taking the top 25 and then selecting the remaining seven slots in a way that includes the next-best but also ensures representation by all participating conferences. Once the tournament starts, the losing teams can be paired into an additional, final bowl game scheduled over the holidays (roughly two weeks after the teams lose).

Here’s the schedule that would work:

First weekend in December: Announce the selection and pairings of the 32 teams.

Second weekend in December: The 32 teams play.

Third weekend in December: The remaining 16 teams play.

Fourth weekend in December: The remaining eight teams play. Consolation bowls from the round of 32 are played.

The following weekend (late December or early January): The final four teams complete. Consolation bowls from the round of 16 are played.

The following weekend: Consolation bowls from the round of eight are played.

The final weekend (possibly using the following Monday as well, as in basketball): The final games are played. The third-place consolation game is followed by the championship game.

This solution provides the opportunity for more games and more competition resulting in an undisputed champion. So, which system do you prefer?

Jon Bingham is a senior lecturer in economics at Indiana University Southeast. Send comments to [email protected].

Jon Bingham is a senior lecturer in economics at Indiana University Southeast. Send comments to [email protected].

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