A Flexible Tournament Design
I have discussed how to select between 2-8 teams based on qualification standards rather than picking a set number of teams and trying to discern between closely ranked teams. Here is my design for a tournament of between 2 and 8 teams.
In all cases the National Championship Game is played the second Monday of January.
- For three through five teams a Wild Card Game is played as a semifinal on January 1st or 2nd, but not on a Sunday.
- For four or more teams a BCS bowl would be selected to be a semifinal.
- For five or more teams play-in games on December 19th or 20th would determine the lowest seeded semifinal slots.
- For six or more teams a second BCS bowl is used as a semifinal instead of the Wild Card Game.
- For eight teams a December 19th or 20th regional bowl is used to host the play-in game between the #4 and #5 teams.
The National Championship Game rotates among the sites of the BCS bowls.
The Wild Card Game is hosted by cities who had successfully bid for a spot on the Wild Card Game queue.
Play-in games are hosted by the favored teams. Away teams are guaranteed an allotment of tickets upon request. Play-in games can be scheduled on a Sunday only at the request of both institutions.
All selections of BCS bowls for use as semifinals are based on which BCS bowls have conference tie-ins to the highest ranked teams.
In the event that more than eight teams finish undefeated an additional round of play-in games will be added on December 26th and the lowest seeded twelve win teams will play for a spot in these additional play-in games as needed.
It is possible to arrange five thirteen-win teams and six twelve-win teams in such a format, representing one team from each conference with twelve regular season games each plus the current conference championship games.
If ten or eleven teams are needed an additional regional bowl would be selected to act as a play-in game for the first round for the twelve win teams, two for cases with twelve or thirteen teams.
Regional bowls are selected for play-in consideration by the preferences of the participating teams.
Some credit should be given to BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. In 2008 he proposed modifying the SEC's plus one by adding a play-in game for the top 2 conference champions from non-automatic qualifying conferences to a plus one spot. This planted the seeds for this design.
The first thing to point out is that the tournament and BCS bowl structure accommodates 10 or 11 teams per year in most cases. This is achieved by adding an optional Wild Card Game and selectively using the BCS bowls as semifinals to buffer the tournament design.
Note to self: I really need to add a visual bracket for each case to my proposal.
This leaves the pool of eligible teams for all remaining bowls unchanged. The entire design is contained within the current December 19th through second Monday in January bowl window. If 8 or more teams are required this system does consume more than 11 teams, but also adds more bowls to match this increase.
Though not explicit above, the full design also restores the BCS bowls to New Year's Day to allow this day to return to a celebration of elite college football. The only teams at risk of losing a neutral site bowl game experience for the opening round are those who fail to win at home in a playoff atmosphere play-in game.
The city selected to host the next Wild Card Game would have a months notice on whether the event would be needed, more than what is used for NFL playoff venues and other leagues that use a wild card game tiebreaker for their formal tournaments. This game would have been used in 8 of the past 11 years.
By allowing the play-in games to be hosted by the favored teams travel costs for the teams and fans are kept reasonable. By guaranteeing an away allotment, teams that have fan bases willing to travel will always have some tickets available for their fans for all postseason games.
BCS bowls are selected for use as semi-finals using conference tie-ins with the highest ranked teams to allow the highest ranked teams to be honored with their historic bowl tie-ins and provide an added incentive to the BCS bowls to maintain tie-ins with the best conferences. My full plan includes provisions for defining performance based conference and bowl classifications and handling changes in these classification. This, and separation of the bowls from the championship system, would give all bowls the freedom to forge conference tie-ins as they see fit.
2004 saw the most undefeated teams at the end of the regular season in NCAA FBS history with 5. For the tournament to be expanded past 8 their would need to be more than 8 undefeated teams. In the highly unlikely event that bowls need to be selected for use as a play-in game it would be selected by the participating teams from among the first week's bowls.
Some more stats:
2 Teams: 2002
3 Teams: 2005, 2003, 2000
4 Teams: 2006, 2001
5 Teams: 2008, 2004, 1999
6 Teams: 2007*, 1998
*2007 would have had 2 teams if Hawaii did not qualify due to an insufficient schedule.
Average number of teams: 4.2(3.8*)
Current system used: 1(2*) out of 11 years
BCS Bowls used as semifinals: 9, during 7 of the 11 years
Wild Card Games: 8 out of 11 years
Play-in games: 7, during 5 of the 11 years
Likelihood of more than eight teams going undefeated in a given year: 0.4%.
Maximum possible undefeated teams: 16
Maximum possible twelve win undefeated teams: 11
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