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Patrick Hruby

Atlantic Sports Roundtable: Can Playoffs Cure What Ails College Football?

Finally.  After decades of disconnected bowls and the much-maligned BCS system, big-time college football announced plans for a four-team playoff system. In this week's Atlantic Sports Roundtable, we discuss whether this is a good thing -- and if it's good enough.

Jake Simpson: ... Drinks all around, right? Everyone's happy with college football's new sacred document and a playoff system that allows two more teams a shot at the national title? Spare me. As critics of George W. Bush used to say of his personnel changes, this is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. This decision does absolutely nothing to deal with the host of intrinsic problems plaguing college sports, particularly college football. A four-team playoff does nothing to combat, among other things: staggeringly low graduation rates, the apparent perpetual dominance of 12 to 14 schools in a 346-school system (that would be the SEC), rampant recruiting violations, synthetic marijuana, and of course the inherent myth of the "student-athlete." Of course, the new system is only meant to fix college football's postseason problem—but it doesn't even do that! Does anyone believe that a 12-0 Boise State team will be picked by the selection committee over, say, an 11-1 SEC team that had one in-conference loss? ...

Patrick Hruby: ...  Fans don't care about those problems. Do. Not. Care. If they did care, Taylor Branch would be the new Southeastern Conference commissioner and National Signing Day wouldn't be Christmas 1A for everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Sportswriter Dan Wetzel recently argued that "you have to employ a situational sliding moral scale" to embrace and enjoy college football. I disagree. There is no scale. Fact is, college football fans are basically the same as sports fans everywhere, not to mention people who love reality television or line up outside Apple stores for the latest iPhone. How the sausage gets made is irrelevant. The sweet, sweet eating is all that matters. From a fan's standpoint, the playoff system figures to be a feast ...

Hampton Stevens: ... Will you two calm down? Yeesh. I thought people were overreacting to the Supreme Court's decision on healthcare. Yes, the new college football playoff system does not address low graduation rates or drug use among student-athletes. The new playoff also does nothing about the high price of gasoline, or how it's just too darn hot outside. The playoff isn't supposed to solve all of college football's problems, any more than the Affordable Care Act is supposed to cure all disease. The new format was created for one reason: to change, at long last, the way college football selects a champion. Finally, instead of the perennial absurdity of naming a champ with post bowl season polls and ranking, fans actually get to see the nation's best two teams—plus a pair not from the SEC—decide who's best on the field. The hated BCS is dead. The clunky, kitschy appeal of bowl season—polyester blazers and all—remains in tact. Hallelujah ...

Read the full article at The Atlantic online