A Super Bowl for college football?! What may sound like a novel idea isn't at all. The topic has been debated in one form or another for quite some time.
The issue of a postseason playoff and championship game is not expected to disappear soon, either.
For while opponents of such a game remain in the majority, its advocates continue to argue for some sort of playoff. They point out that championships are held in virtually every other college sport, yet football relies on subjective polls to crown mythical national champions.
Besides settling once and for all who really is No. 1, such a playoff would raise additional TV and gate revenues, plus generally increase exposure for the college game -- objectives that cause guardians of amateur ideals to shudder.
Criticism that a playoff would give college football more of a professional look than it already has does not seem to hold much water with the idea's supporters. After all, playoffs have been added successfully for the NCAA's smaller football-playing schools, so why not for the larger ones, too?
A major difference is that the smaller schools complete their playoffs by mid-December. The big-time powers won't even consider a playoff unless it includes the New Year's Day bowl games, which pay out millions of dollars to participants.
"The bowls have done too much good to college football to change them," says Appalachian State coach Mike Working, echoing a commonly held opinion.
Rather than abolish bowl games, most playoff advocates would make them an integral part of the postseason format.
One such proposal comes from Lee Corso, indiana University's head coach, who says, "Usually at the end of the bowl games, there are two great football teams. They play."
Under Corso's plan, responsibility for selecting these teams would fall to a panel of coaches and writers.
"At the end of the final bowl game, those people would be called," he explains. "They'd vote for one game, say Notre Dame vs. Texas. That game would be played at the site of the Super Bowl on the Sunday prior to the Super Bowl.It'd be those two teams for the national championship. The facility is already ready. The press is there, the hotels are there; everything's there because of the Super Bowl."
This may sound great on the surface, and you can bet the networks would fall all over themselves bidding for the TV rights, but does it make sense? Some think not.
Just logistically speaking, there would be problems. With participating teams invited on short notice, making arrangements for thousands of fans to attend the game would be difficult, if not impossible. The stadium could possibly be sold out ahead of time, but the absence of large, lusty cheering sections would rob the game of appeal.
The well-received college basketball playoffs are normally held in neutral sites, yet regional tournaments make the preliminary rounds more accessible to loyal fans. And no matter how small a following a school has at the basketball finals, it can always make plenty of racket in an enclosed building.
While many opponents claim a football playoff would dilute the bowl games, a further consideration is the effect it would have on the players themselves.
John McKay, who regularly took Southern Cal to the Rose Bowl before moving to the pro ranks, asks, "How much fun is a boy going to have in Miami if the next week he might be playing somewhere else for the national chmapionship? I'll tell you how much -- none. The coach will fly him in the night before and out the next day. Phweet-phweet. Hello, goodbye."
Furthermore, a playoff tends to spoil the satisfaction many teams garner in the bowls. "The way things are now," says UCLA's Terry Donahue, "Many teams are able to end the season on a very positive note. To build everything up to one game as they do in pro football leaves you with a lot of losers and just one winner."