November 17, 2008
Last month, then-candidate Barack Obama shocked the world with his unabashed support for a college football playoff on the eve of his election, a controversial move that pushed him over the top in the final 24 hours of the campaign. Now, with the power of the nation's highest executive office at his command, the President-elect laid out his playoff plans in further detail in his much-discussed appearance on last night's 60 Minutes:
"It would add three extra weeks to the season," he said at the conclusion of a wide-ranging interview. "You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."
Finally, a man in the Oval Office who shares the hopes and values of his people. A college football playoff is the right thing to do. I've said it many times over many years. I can back it up. And if Mr. Obama is serious about throwing his weight around, I would like to officially throw Doc Saturday's hat in the ring to become America's first Secretary of the College Football Postseason, based on my long list of qualifications:
• I am a doctor. Obviously.
• No one has written more about playoffs over the last three years. At my old digs, I hashed, cheered, pounded and debated the merits of a playoff in excruciating philosophical detail. It's an issue close to my heart and mind, and for all its dirty tricks and appeals to the bogus sanctity of the past, the opposition will not catch me by surprise.
• A record of reaching across the aisle. With all due respect, sir, you are mistaken when you say "no serious fan of college football" disagrees with you about the urgency of a playoff. There are quite a lot of anti-playoff conservatives passionately engaged in the national discourse, and they are quite serious. They must be assuaged by someone who understands their point of view and concedes some of its points. I am that man.
I can work with bowls by assuring all bowl games will continue to exist, even the ridiculous ones in awful places no one wants to go to. I can work with conference commissioners by introducing flexible standards that allow automatic entry for conference champions if (and only if) those teams meet certain criteria. I can work with fans by recognizing that some teams (even conference champions) don't deserve an automatic courtesy. When the New York Giants, for example, upset the clearly superior New England Patriots last February, rendering the NFL regular season nearly meaningless, I joined the playoff detractors in calling out the injustice of a six-loss "champion" that finished three games behind the winner of its own division after 16 games. I, too, highly value the tense, competitive regular season that has always defined college football, and would never allow a bracket to grow too large and inclusive to undermine that key element of its appeal. Which brings us to my next point ...
Yes, we can
• I have strongly endorsed your eight-team policy. Because college football can't afford to allow a wild card like New York, or a middling seed like Villanova, N.C. State or Arizona to "get hot" at the end of the season, it's essential to guard against "playoff creep" by capping the tournament at eight teams. Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, only two teams have finished in the AP's top eight at the end of the regular season with more than two losses: 10-3 Kansas State in 2003, after blowing out undefeated Oklahoma to win the Big 12 championship, and 10-3 Texas A&M in 1998, after beating undefeated Kansas State to win the Big 12 championship, when one of the Aggies' losses was due to forfeiting a win over Louisiana Tech due to an ineligible player. At eight, the riffraff do not make the cut.
• I recognize the historical mandate of Change. As you clearly understand, Mr. President-elect, we're at a turning point in America. The direction is clear, and you need someone on your college football playoff team who understands that trajectory.
Twenty years ago, the bowls were a mishmash of lawless, backroom handshakes with no accountability to the polls. Today, through the Bowl Alliance, which beget the Bowl Coalition, which beget the endlessly-tweaked BCS, the top games are part of a rigidly organized system whose sole purpose is to determine a so-called champion. Ten years ago -- even two years ago -- no president, athletic director, commissioner or other establishment power broker would be caught dead considering the idea of a playoff in public. For too long, we heard, "They will never let it happen." Now, in consecutive offseasons, a small insurgency of the men always said to be staunchly barricading the castle from the bracket-wielding barbarians has not only publicly promoted the idea of a playoff on multiple occasions, in an official capacity, but declared a playoff an inevitability. Its time will come.
• I will not extend special circumstances to special interests. I understand Domers are a key element of your constituency in Chicago, but it's time to put an end to the cronyism and good-ol-boy networks of the last century once and for all. Notre Dame will operate under the same conditions as all at-large teams until it joins a conference and wins it. "Change" means real change.
For all these reasons and more, if you want someone who has put a great deal of thought and work into the issue and who believes in your vision, Mr. Future President, my e-mail is on the sidebar (and Blair Kerkhoff can be my senior advisor).