The College Football Playoff – – Reimagined

Last year, the folks who stage the College Football Playoff (CFP) had an idea. You could call it a “bold idea” or you could call it a “dumb idea” depending on the level of charity in your soul. They decided to play the semi-final games of the CFP on New Year’s Eve and said at the outset that they were hoping to create a new tradition in America with regard to how people would celebrate New Year’s Eve. Let me be charitable here and say that did not work very well.

I like college football as much as anyone and probably more than most. I had other plans for New Year’s Eve last year and so I set my VCR up to record the games and I watched them when I got home. Lots of other people went to New Year’s Eve parties and could only watch the game out of the corner of their eye and with the sound on mute. Still others were hammered beyond measure and would not have known they were watching a football game as opposed to driving a milk wagon. The result was that TV ratings were horrible – and TV ratings are critical to the CFP concept.

    At the core, the CFP was sold to the various football conferences as a way to rake in a ton of money from the TV deal that the CFP could demand. Without TV money as the underpinning, the BCS system would still be in place.

    Any serious drop in ratings has to be taken very seriously by the CFP mavens because continued low ratings will mean smaller TV dollars from advertisers and therefore smaller TV dollars from the networks to the schools.

The “bold idea” of changing the American tradition with regard to the celebration of New Year’s Eve is looking like a “dumb idea” for the moment. But give the CFP folks credit; they recognize that they have dealt a losing hand and they are looking to try to fix it. Here is the new idea:

    College football is associated with Saturday in the US. [Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain selling you games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights…] Thus, the default option will be to play the semi-final games on the Saturday before New Year’s Eve.

That sounds like an easy solution until you recognize that Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are exactly one week apart and that means the games could take place on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – and the CFP folks realize that is a non-starter.

In 2016, New Year’s Eve is a Saturday; playing the games on the Saturday before New Year’s Eve would put the games on Christmas Eve. That will not happen but the games will start an hour earlier than they did last year (3:00 PM and 7:00 PM EST) with the idea that this will fit better into the party schedule of many people. It is a move in the right direction – – but it probably ought to be moved back even earlier in the day since it is not a workday.

In 2017, New Year’s Eve is a Sunday and the CFP does not want to compete in a 3-way goat-rodeo with the NFL and New Year’s Eve parties. Next year, the game will be played on Saturday 30 December. And so it goes…

The CFP idea is a good idea. It may someday need to be expanded to 6-teams or 8-teams; if that time comes, we can deal with it then. What the CFP has to avoid is to damage itself with self-inflicted wounds. The New Years’ Eve scheduling idea was potentially a self-inflicted wound and the mavens in charge chose to move off their initial idea quickly. Take that as a good sign.

Moving up the ladder a step, the NY Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick finally reached a deal. It would seem from the outside that both sides got much of what they wanted after about 5 months or wrangling.

    The Jets did not want to be saddled with a big long term deal given that Fitzpatrick is 33 years old and that last year was – by far – the best year he ever had. If last year is really a true indicator of his career arc he is the latest of late bloomers. Should he equal last year’s performance and not regress to the mean, the Jets should be happy campers indeed. The deal they gave Fitzpatrick was for 1-year and $12M guaranteed.

    The Jets had offered 3-years and $24M with either $10M or $12M guaranteed depending on which reports you read. Other than starting QBs working on their rookie contracts, $8M per year as a starting QB in the NFL has become akin to chump change. Fitzpatrick did not want to be painted into that corner for what could be the rest of his career. So, he gets about 50% more this year and then can be a free agent and go through all of this again next off-season depending on how well he plays in 2016.

Truth be told, neither side had much leverage here. No other NFL teams were burning up the phone lines calling to offer Fitzpatrick a long-term deal at any sort of annual number he might like. On the other side, the Jets faced the possibility of heading into the season – coming off a very productive 2015 – with a QB depth chart that read:

    Geno Smith
    Bryce Petty
    Christian Hackenberg

Speaking completely about 2016, that depth chart is a losing proposition; the Jets have playoff aspirations in 2016 and if those are the 3 QBs who will divvy up the 16 games on the schedule, those aspirations will turn to desperations. The Jets needed Fitzpatrick and no one else made him any viable offers. Finally, the two sides managed to sit down and make all of this work.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald from about a month ago:

“Shaquille O’Neal spent four days in Cuba this week as a U.S. State Department ‘sports envoy.’ There is a phrase for that: ‘Waste of tax dollars.’”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………