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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

College Football: MAC Attack

Michael Wilbon and Marc Blaudschun, among others, were singing the praises of the MAC in their college football columns printed in Monday's papers. They are correct that it's a nice story that the MAC is beating major conference teams, the big conferences generally screw over the mid-majors, etc.

However, there is a problem with saying that the wider diffusion of talent in college football that we now see can fit nicely with some sort of a playoff system that incorporates the smaller schools' conferences. Many of the MAC's champions like to propose such a change--even Congress is now investigating whether the BCS violates antitrust law. Wilbon laments that college football can never have a cinderella team like college basketball.

What he doesn't mention is that college football can't have a set of conference tournaments and then a national tournament with 64 teams, as basketball does, because of the nature of the sport. The human body can only stand to play football once a week, so the potential number of games in a season is very limited. To really get a good idea of which team is best, there has to be some limitation on the number of teams that can be in contention for the national title.

A playoff system of some sort would certainly be preferable to the BCS by opening up possibilities for more teams, and the MAC schools should get the respect and scheduling they deserve from the majors. But we shouldn't deceive ourselves into thinking that we can create a system where there is never going to be a team left on the outside looking in.