Like a prize thoroughbred churning up the backstretch, college football held its own for more than 100 years as a mainstay on the American sporting stage.
Rivalries like Auburn vs. Georgia arose as celebrated fixtures. Traditions like homecoming and script Ohio blossomed. Schools in footballs power conferences battled for the ultimate reward: a trip to a New Years Day bowl game in a warm-weather climate.
But college football pulled up lame in the mid-1990s. Mostly successful in its mission to identify a true national champion, the Bowl Championship Series also diminished the significance of the other bowls and the regular season in general. Schools responded by developing super-conferences and league title games. Cynicism reigned as the games power brokers scrambled to take back New Years Day.
They have failed. The decision to institute a four-team playoff at the end of the 2014 college football season fixes the search for a champion the way a rifle shot dresses the wounds of an injured race horse. Theres no going back now. College football is dead.
Its not that four teams isnt enough. Its not that the BCS should have been saved. The flaw in the logic of those who support any kind of playoff is the notion that college football needed a clear national champion in the first place. It did not.
One of the prevailing arguments for a playoff is this: All the other sports do it. Why not college football?
Maybe, just maybe, Division I (can we call it that again?) football had it right all along. Maybe college footballs perspective on its importance in the relative scheme of things was a little more reality based.
At its best, college football was a regional sport. Conferences formed based on geography, not television markets. Rivalries ruled. Contested all over America, the athletes, climate and coaching philosophies nevertheless dictated distinct regional styles of play.
Thats what made the bowls so appealing. Yes, they were glorified exhibitions, but they showed us contrasting styles. Ohio State vs. USC. Penn State vs. Alabama. Nebraska vs. Miami.
New Years Day was an event, albeit a quiet and subdued one. The nation nursed hangovers while stuffing its eyeballs so full of football it could actually bear to put the game aside for another eight months. Writers and/or coaches voted to determine the best team and most folks went to bed satisfied.
It was better; plain and simple.
Now, were supposed to get jazzed for a national championship game that will be played on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal, according to the Associated Press.
Initially, that will be Jan. 12, 2015. Expect laughably bad television ratings. Contrary to what some predict, the game wont be the Super Bowl of college football. Kickoff wont come until about the time the Super Bowl typically ends. Only the rowdiest frats will host parties and only those on campuses of the involved schools. The rest — including tens of millions of advertising targets in the Northeast — wont be tuned in. Its just not that important.
Contact Chris Deighan at firstname.lastname@example.org.