Dickey: Can’t count on a playoffs system to fix everything

We may never know which team is really the best in college football this year, and isn’t that wonderful?

Well, not to the couch potatoes who apparently can’t sleep if they don’t know who’s No. 1, nor to the lunkheads in the media who keep hammering at the nation’s university presidents and chancellors to put in a playoff system.

Personally, I liked the old bowl system, with the tradition surrounding the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl, in particular. But that system is gone forever and I’m too realistic to campaign for its return. I don’t like beating my head against the wall.

Apparently, though, the media idiots who keep campaigning for a playoff system like that feeling because they haven’t let up. Well, here’s a newsflash for them: The presidents and chancellors aren’t listening.

There are two good reasons there shouldn’t be a playoff system:

The potential of further injury to players. Football is a game which, unfortunately, often produces injuries that last long after a player’s career. The pros live with that because they’re making good money. College players are not and very few of them ever play in the NFL. It’s almost criminal to expose players who will never go past the collegiate level to the chance of an injury which will be with them for the rest of their lives.

Collegiate ball is different. It is not a minor-league NFL and its function as a breeding ground for NFL prospects is not its reason for being.

In the NFL, the playoff system is perfectly valid. Teams jockey for position during the regular season and the system is designed to produce the best team at the end, which it usually does. The fans at the games are usually there because they’re rooting for a team from their area.

A high percentage of college fans, though, have a direct allegiance to the schools, either as alumni or relation to a family member who is an alum. Much of the attendance at games depends on the quality of the home team. A bad team attracts primarily alums or relatives/friends of alums; good teams also bring out those who are fans of winning.

Television coverage reflects the differences between colleges and pros. In the Bay Area, many fans hoped the Raiders’ home game against the Houston Texans would not sell out, so they could see the game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts instead. As NFL fans, they wanted to see the best football and, as I can attest because I went to the game, the Raiders-Texans was not that.

But I can’t imagine a college fan preferring to see a game matching better teams instead of the one featuring his own team.

This has been a wildly exciting college football season, with monumental upsets, starting with Appalachian State upsetting Michigan in the season opener and an equally startling upset of Southern Cal by Stanford, which has won only one game since. There has been a constant roiling of the polls; the No. 2 team lost five weeks in a row.

All of this has been great for the college game because it has had people talking and debating about the merits of the top teams. That’s much better than a playoff system, so I hope the presidents and chancellors hold their ground.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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