Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New York Post: BCS to move to a "Final Four" in 2011

The New York Post is reporting that the BCS is seriously considering adopting a "plus-one" format in 2011 that will match the top 4 teams in a Football Final Four, with the winners advancing to a championship game. The semi-finalists would meet in 2 of the existing BCS bowl games, and the winners would play a week later in a title game. The report isn't clear, but it looks like the existing BCS title game might transition into a "regular" bowl game to be played along side the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta.

The positive of this idea is that you get two very compelling "Final Four" bowl games. For last season, the matchups would have been Ohio State vs. LSU and Florida vs. Michigan. And in my opinion, a much more compelling championship matchup between LSU and Florida.

But the logistics of teams playing in two bowl games in a week is going to be a huge problem. Bowl games work today because fans have nearly a month to get travel plans made between the time the matchups are finalized and the games occur. Ticket sales can be managed, and travel agents have time to arrange for charters and airline seats. That all goes out the window in this scenario.

Do the teams and fans have to fly from one bowl site to the next? Or do you play all three games at one site? If you play all three games at one site, how do you handle practice facilities for 4 teams for the "Final Four"? How does that city's travel industry handle two New Years Day bowl games? Do they have the hotel rooms? Can you fly in double the number of football fans? Then consider the fans. How many fans can hang around a bowl site for an extra week? (Probably only blue-hair retirees, for the most part.) Or will they try to fly home the day after the game, and then return a few days later?

If you play the semifinals in different cities, and then play the title game in yet another city, how do travel agents handle this? Win, your flight goes to another bowl. Lose, your flight goes home. Suddenly attending a bowl game takes up a week and a half of vacation time instead of just 2 or 3 days of vacation over the holidays.

My take? Optimistic fans will simply stay home for the semi-finals and have their travel plans ready to fly to the championship game. Folks with plenty of money and free time may be able to attend both games...but that won't fill the bowl stadiums. In the case of the Rose and Fiesta Bowls, the locals may take up the slack...but the Orange Bowl will really struggle to sell semi-final tickets.

If this scenario happens, it really will spell the end of the bowl system as we know it. The logistics of teams playing two bowl games a week apart will lead to the semi-final games being moved to home fields, where larger stadiums closer to fans will mean even MORE money.

Bottom line: While a "Final Four" has it advantages, it's still inferior to a true 8 or 16 team playoff.

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