Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Playoff hitch? No monkey business

Maybe this whole decide-it-on-the-field thing was a bad idea.

I know, I know. I'm a member of the American sports media. I'm supposed to tell you that the money-grubbers at the Division I-A level have it all wrong.

I'm supposed to convince you that all you have to do is look at the lower levels of college football to find the true essence of sport, the little-known heroes who decide their championships the right way -- with a playoff system.

But is that what we want? Really? The best teams to win it, year after year?

Great! See you at the Stagg Bowl on Saturday, then! Should be a good one: Mount Union against Wisconsin-Whitewater.


Just like last year.

And the year before that.

And the year before that.

Four straight years with these two teams, folks.

Nothing against these two fine schools and these hard-working coaches and players. They're great programs and have certainly earned the right to be here. And that's the problem -- this whole earning thing.

We really need to fix that.

Clearly, in the spirit of progress, it's time for a Division III system shake-up.

Just think of the possibilities if we tweak a few rules. North Central (Ill.) could be here, spicin' up the Stagg. Or Millsaps. Or Willamette. Or Monmouth or Trine or Case Western Reserve.

All these are actual names of actual schools that went 10-0 during the Division III regular season.

North Central and Millsaps were ranked ahead of U-Dub-Dub on when the regular season ended, before these bizarre "playoffs" stuck their noses into everything.

And Trine? Well, everybody knows that Trine is fine. Unless they don't know that. In which case, they simply have not been paying attention.

Personally, I've always been partial to Alfred, a Division III school in New York that occasionally shows up on the Fearless Forecasters slate. It's like rooting for a school called "Brian," only better. "Alfred is going to kick your butt this weekend" is a phrase we -- and particularly kids named Alfred -- don't hear enough.

Alas, the Saxons saw their season end in November with a loss to somebody called "RPI." I can assure you Seth Greenberg will never coach there.

Anyway, under my plan, antiquated requirements for football success such as talent, skill, execution and hustle would all be tossed aside and replaced by a confusing -- yet highly controversial and therefore more interesting -- array of computer rankings, online fan polls and message-board smack-offs.

A monkey will also be involved, if we can secure one.

Too crazy, you say? Crazy sells, baby. Witness Terrell Owens and Manny Ramirez.

Here's how it works: Teams with interesting names will get an automatic bye into the computer rankings stage, at which point they will ... shoot, I don't know ... I guess get another bye.

Then fans will vote -- either online, or by calling a 75-cents-per-minute phone number -- for the teams they want eliminated.

Six surviving teams will be sent to the message boards, where guys with handles such as "D3Freek" and "Alfredfan76" will debate their worthiness anonymously, with all cursing filters deactivated. This portion of the process would be televised on ESPNU.

Then the monkey -- provided one can be secured -- picks the two Stagg Bowl participants.

Corruption. Scandal. Politics. Primates. This system would have it all!

So take heart, Otterbein. Under my plan, your 9-1 record and fabulous name could punch your ticket to the Stagg.

You too, Wabash. Chin up, Earlham (if that is your real name). You've got an inside track, as well. No more worrying about performance. No more fear of the D-III bullies.

This is what it's going to take to get results, my friends. Join me in the movement.

Or we could just keep letting teams earn it. That's just silly, though.

I can only think of two teams that wouldn't mind that.

Weather Journal

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