In December of 2009, Maryland chancellor William Kirwan co-authored a guest column addressing the cries for a playoff system in college football as one of the means of addressing “the runaway spending on athletics”.
The college football bowl season began Saturday, with 34 games scheduled from Dec. 19 to Jan. 7. We expect to hear renewed calls from journalists, fans and politicians for a big-time college football playoff. …
Whatever its other merits or disadvantages, a college football playoff would not solve these financial problems because without underlying reforms, added revenue would merely translate into higher coaches’ salaries, facility expansions and more personnel.
Over 15 months later, Kirwan, one the most staunch opponents of a playoff system at the Div. 1-A level, has done a complete 180-degree in his thought process. And, it appears, the Fiesta Bowl fiasco has finally pushed him over to “the dark side”.
In a conversation with William Rhoden of the New York Times, Kirwan said that a scathing 276-page report released by the Fiesta Bowl last week, detailing significant financial improprieties and resulting in the firing of long-time bowl CEO John Junker, should prompt his chancellor and presidential brethren to take action and rein in the bowls. And by “rein in”, Kirwan means “engage in a palace coup”.
“The bowls ought to be put under the control of the N.C.A.A.,” said Kirwan, who’s also co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which, the Times writes, discusses and sometimes makes recommendations on the major issues of college sports.
“One way to accomplish that is to go to a playoff and let it be an N.C.A.A. championship. That would be one way of breaking the back of the B.C.S. I’ve never been in favor of a playoff, but given what I see going on, I think it’s time to press that issue.”
While not going so far as to recommend a move from the BcS to a playoff, Oregon State president Ed Ray — who’s made his own headlines over the past couple of days on unrelated matters — agrees that it might be time for the NCAA to seize control of college football’s lucrative and prone-to-corruption postseason.
“I think there needs to be a meeting fairly soon between the six B.C.S. conferences and the N.C.A.A. leadership about what are the rules and regulations for conducting postseason bowl games, starting now,” Ray said.
“I’m not interested in a food fight about who’s in charge as much as making sure that we don’t ever see a repetition of what seems to have gone on.”
We’ve thought all along that it would take pressure and/or action from the federal government in order to force a playoff system in college football. Never would we have guessed that an influential individual from inside the inner circle would publicly push for “breaking the back of the BcS”.
It remains to be seen what impact Kirwan’s words will have as the BcS will continue to be a very formidable cartel for the foreseeable future. For now, Kirwan is, at least publicly, a lone wolf abruptly howling for a long-overdue change to the system.
As Kirwan stated in his op-ed, albeit in regard to financial reform, “[c]hange cannot come from the decree of one or two courageous university president. … change can come only from collaborative actions, some of which may prove unpopular on some campuses.”
And Kirwan is absolutely correct when it comes to a playoff, that a change will not come from one or even a handful of administrators; it will truly take a village to raise a playoff in college football.
But, the fact that one individual with more-than-modest sway amongst his colleagues has come out so publicly against the current system is one helluva start.