By Sharief Ali
(Reprinted by permission of the Rebel Yell, the official student newspaper of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
With all the newsworthy events transpiring in the world today, it is easy to pick any one of those stories to write about. One story in particular that should be of importance to Las Vegas residents is college football, and the failure of the Bowl Championship Series to pick a true national champion. What does this have to do with Las Vegas? The answer is simple: economics.
In any team sport, the process of winning a championship is not rocket science. The teams play in a regular season, then the top teams with the best records in their respective divisions win a seed in an elimination playoff tournament that culminates with one championship game between two teams which only one can win.
This is by far the most effective and legitimate way of running a championship, because the championship is not chosen, it is won. This is the case in major team sports associations such as Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Cup Soccer and National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball. But where college basketball is a huge success in every sense of the word, college football is a failure.
For many sports fans and non-sports fans alike, March is one of the most enjoyable times of the year at the work place, at bars or at home thanks to the NCAA basketball tournament. The tournament consists of the top 65 college basketball teams in the country playing in single elimination playoff games until the final outcome. But the beauty of March Madness isn’t just the legitimacy of the tournament’s champion; it is also the positive economic impact the tournament has on the nation’s economy, especially our local Las Vegas economy.
Other than convention seasons, one of the busiest times of year is during the March Madness college basketball tournament. During this time, many hotels sell out to visiting tourists who are looking to place wagers on the tournament. The tourists also subsequently pump millions of dollars into our local economy. If this could happen twice a year instead of once, it would be financially beneficial to Las Vegas.
There is no good reason why there shouldn’t be a college football tournament in December. For the last few years, the clamoring for a college football tournament has been steadily increasing among fans, the main reason being that by the end of the year there is almost always controversy surrounding which teams should be chosen to play in the BCS championship game.
The process of choosing the top two teams is based on a very complicated computer formula that ranks teams based on polls, wins versus losses, who the losses were against, who the wins were against, the point disparity in those wins and losses, opponent’s records, difficulty of schedule, among many other variables. But more often that not, by the end of the season, many fans feel cheated by the system.
In 2004, for example, there were three major undefeated teams after the final week of the college bowl season — USC, Auburn and Utah. So instead of having a playoff to decide a clear cut national champion, there were three undefeated teams left standing at the end of the season with USC being declared national champion and Auburn and Utah getting snubbed.
This year, you have the exact opposite of the preceding situation. Instead of having too many undefeated teams, there are many teams clumped together with no clear powerhouse. It is just baffling to me that there hasn’t been some sort of playoff system worked out considering the amount of controversy surrounding the BCS selection process every year since it’s been instituted. A potential playoff tournament would satisfy so many.
One of the main arguments posed by people in opposition to a playoff is the significant amount of revenue that would be lost by the cities hosting the bowl games, therefore bowl game sponsors are opposed to having one tournament. But bowl games don’t need to be sacrificed during a tournament, but rather, each round could consist of bowl games.
And of course there wouldn’t be as many rounds as there are in the NCAA basketball tournament simply because each team could only play once a week, so why not have a three round tournament culminating in a legitimate national championship game?
All of the sponsors could make great profits, perhaps the major cities hosting the games would not get as much hype as they usually get, but the overall picture would prove that a college football championship tournament would provide a huge economic boost to both national and local economies.
March Madness does exactly that, and so would a December college football tournament. Aside from quelling controversy over who should be the number one team in college football, it could also help to alleviate a stagnating Las Vegas economy. It can’t hurt any. It can only help. How much longer will we have to wait for the NCAA to do the right thing?