When the news broke Tuesday that we're getting a four-team playoff in 2014, a surge of excitement shot through me. I've never been a big playoff advocated, but how can you not be at least a little geeked to watch these games? For the fans, there's no arguing that the entertainment value of a college football playoff wallops the BCS.
If I was excited, I can only imagine how BCS arch critic Dan Wetzel must have felt. The Yahoo! columnist's book Death to the BCS is garnering plenty of acclaim in the last 24 hours as having driven a stake through the heart of college football's unpopular postseason model. The withering of the BCS – along with a massive portfolio of brilliant work – have helped elevate him to the position of being not only the best sports columnist alive, but the most powerful as well.
Naturally, fans and contemporaries in the sports media couldn't wait to see Wetzel's touchdown dance. He delivered, spiking the ball on the BCS's coffin of cronyism and pissing on its grave of corruption for good measure.
Although blown away by the brilliance of Wetzel's prose yet again, his victory lap of a column reminded me why this playoff-BCS debate has irked me from the start.
Death to the BCS demonstrated in full that college football's bowl system is highway robbery dressed up in pomp and tradition. It embodies all the worst parts of American society today – greedy largesse fueled by kickbacks, connections and insultingly disingenuous PR pitches. On top of all that, taxpayers are the ones footing the bill for the outrageous salaries and booze cruises.
But what has never really been proven to me is that this newfangled playoff thing actually makes anything about college football better.
I sent up a flare on Twitter yesterday asking people to define what makes this new system "better" than what we have. The responses I received were either filled with platitudes about a "truer" national champion or the entertainment value in the opportunity to see underdogs win the crystal ball.
But Wetzel would have us believe that a playoff is our payoff in a Faustian bargain to ignore all the seediness that underlies big-time college sports as a whole, not just the BCS. The lying. The cheating. The exploiting. The mockery of higher education.
The reality is that a playoff isn't the end of that transaction. It's doubling down on the deal.
We're talking about injecting more money and more pressure into a system where the competition is already cutthroat and the demands are superhuman. Getting into the playoff will give boosters and the media yet another artificial measuring stick by which they can tell coaches that they're not meeting expectations. The newly found cash can be used can be used to inflate coaches' salaries even more, giving them all the more reason to bend the rules and look the other way in the name of winning. More handlers will come out of the woodwork peddling influence over recruits' commitments. The demands will grow on university administrators to admit students whose 40-yard dash time is the highlight of their application. Once these unprepared athlete-students get to campus, even more will be shuttled off into worthless majors made up of path-of-least-resistance classes. (In some cases, no-resistance.) Fewer hours studying freshman calculus, more hours studying the playbook.
But we'll continue to ignore all that crap so we can get those three magical playoff games. Then seven, then 15...
I'm sure I'll feel better then.