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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

They may not have even finished etching The Ohio State's name into the championship trophy, and there's already talk of changing the college football playoff.

I'm not talking about the clamoring for more than four teams - that began long ago. But soon after the glory of meaningful college football was restored to New Year's Day, it could leave just as quickly.

ESPN spoke first, aiming to move the games from New Year's Eve to January 2. While the games occurring during the New Year's Eve-Day holiday was cemented prior to the playoff commencing, ESPN now doesn't want to compete with countdown programming on other (read: ABC/ESPN family) networks. Meanwhile, the Monday night championship game, also codified before the playoff began, could be threatened if the NFL adds playoff teams and seeks to encroach upon the day currently reserved for the championship. But the real enemy to a New Year's Day besot with playoff games doesn't come from outside college football's power structure. It comes from within.

Like many, I hold the Rose Bowl - and, of course, the Rose Parade - in high regard. But its adherence to tradition has stymied progress in major college football, and currently, it's doing more of the same. Before a playoff agreement was reached, the Big Ten and Pac-12 were often the holdouts, citing the sanctity of the Rose Bowl as cause for not wanting to disrupt the system what was already in place. Now, the Rose Bowl's 2pm-Pacific-or-when-no-other-games-are-currently-in-progress kickoff stands in the way, the four of six years when the Rose Bowl isn't involved, of the playoff games occupying their rightful spot during prime time on New Year's Day.

That the Rose Bowl cannot shift in years that it does not host a semifinal is nonsensical. No single game is larger than the sport in which it resides, and yet that's the exact stance that is being projected by the Rose Bowl and approved by the sport's power brokers. It's so entrenched, in fact, that the article speaking of the two other possible time shifts didn't so much as consider playing the games on New Year's Day an option. The Rose Bowl will kick at 5pm eastern, and the subject is closed for discussion. A hefty contract, of course, sits at the core of this. Even giving in to Granddaddy's stubbornness, though, the playoff could conceivably host one playoff at 1pm ET and the other at 8:30ish, following the Rose Bowl. It would force a few concessions: One playoff abandoning a primetime spot, a bit more time difference between the two games, and renegotiating with the Sugar Bowl, who currently occupies the post-Rose Bowl spot on New Year's Day. Still, the displacement could add an interesting wrinkle. If, for example, the 1 seed gets to select which slot they'd prefer, they can opt for the prime time glory or the competitive advantage of extra (albeit a few hours) time. And while primetime still carries weight, the early slot on New Year's Day is guaranteed holiday time for many, while the later game seeks to infringe upon a worknight. Each slot has its pluses and minuses, and if one concedes the staying power of the Rose Bowl, New Year's Day remains what it should be: full of meaningful football.
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