Give us fewer bowls, more scholarships
A group of ESPN experts present the three things they would most like to change about college football.
Five ESPN expets list the three things they would most like to change about college football:
1. Gain some perspective -- I call this one Fantasy Island (if one is anywhere near Tuscaloosa we could change it to legendary barbeque spot Dreamland). Here goes: Let us all agree that we are going to be sane about what constitutes a successful football season! If Mack Brown of Texas wins more games in six years than any coach in school history, if Frank Solich is 9-3 at Nebraska, if Tyrone Willingham is struggling while making serious positive history at Notre Dame, we agree to give them a reasonable chance to continue to build. We agree to such with a straight face.
2. Re-think overtime -- Dave Barnett and I have had the privilege of broadcasting the two longest Division I college football games ever played. Arkansas won both of them, over Ole Miss in 2002 and Kentucky in 2003. Each went seven overtimes and seemed to last forever. I recall the big defensive linemen being gassed after the first two or three OT periods. The remainder of each game was a matter of which offense screwed it up first because the defensive fronts were helpless. My primary concern shifted from the score of the game to the possibility of serious injury among the exhausted defenders. They were at terrible risk both times. I would like to see two changes to the current overtime rules: start the ball from the 35-yard line rather then the 25, and if the score is still tied at the end of three OT periods call it a draw and go home!
3. New neutral zone rule -- There is an irritating and unnecessary rule in college football that most people do not understand. If a defender jumps into the neutral zone and gets back prior to the snap but causes the offensive lineman directly across from him or an adjacent lineman to move before the snap, the penalty is on the defense. If anyone else on the offense jumps, though, the flag is on the offense. This makes for rapid-fire, often incorrect calls from officials and confusion among the players. I say change the thing so either any movement from the offense draws a penalty on the defense, or go back to the old rule under which the offense must sit tight no matter what.
1. Institute a playoff -- The current BCS system is better than anything else that has been tried, but we still need to see the national championship, and the teams who play in the championship game, decided on the field.
2. Pass interference rule -- College football should institute the same penalty as the NFL for pass interference. The rule in college calls for a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down while the NFL marks the penalty off to the spot of the foul before awarding a first down. A college defender who is beaten deep down the field can simply decide to tackle the receiver, preventing a big play and costing his team fewer yards. The NFL rule is more equitable, punishing defenders who commit pass interference purposely.
3. More scholarships -- Division I-A teams need more players. Depth is important for games and practice situations and teams are sometimes hamstrung by a lack of healthy players. More scholarships would remedy that and allow coaches to have all the players they need to make their programs successful.
1. Change the BCS -- I'm a traditionalist who loves bowl games and the inter-sectional matchups they create, but the BCS has put too much emphasis on one game and taken attention away from the fact that so many teams end their seasons on a high note after winning a bowl game. Fans should accept the fact that the university presidents will not institute a playoff system, but the BCS can be tweaked. The plus-one theory -- which would match up the top two teams after the BCS bowls have been played -- would give the fans a chance to one last game for the national championship and give a chance to the teams that have a legitimate beef over being left out of the BCS championship game.
2. Fewer bowl games -- I'm not against rewarding small schools for good years, but college football has thinned out the bowl season and I scratch my head every time I see a 6-5 team in a bowl. People who don't follow college football year-round get the impression from mid-December games that no one cares because they turn on the television and see empty seats. In reality, those are games that probably shouldn't be played in the first place. Players should be rewarded for special seasons, not average ones. The minimum requirement for postseason play should be at least seven wins.
3. Return to 100 scholarships -- This goes against all my friends who are in favor of Title IX, and while I'm in favor of equal opportunities it is a shame that men's programs are forced to eliminate scholarships and roster spots to achieve that equality. Football unfairly skews the numbers used to determine athletic equality and should stand alone where that is concerned, because I'm shocked when I visit campuses and see just how thin teams are in terms of depth, especially along the offensive and defensive lines. Giving coaches only 85 scholarships forces them to put players on the field before they're physically and mentally ready, which is bad for the team and the player, and more scholarships would remedy that.
Mel Kiper Jr.
1. Run the clock -- College football needs to employ the NFL rule which allows the clock to run after first downs. In the NFL the chains are moved and the ball is spotted as the clock continues to wind down, while in college the clock is stopped after a first down is gained and is not started again until an official spots the ball and gives a signal. The result is college games that are approaching four hours, which is okay for the diehard fans but leaves something to be desired for the casual fan. People do not want to spend that much of their day at a stadium or in front of a television and college football would be better served to run the clock and shorten games as much as possible.
2. Fewer Bowl games -- With 28 bowl games now being played the bowl season has been watered down. The desire to get as many teams as possible into the postseason is understandable, but when there are 56 spots to be filled and some are being taken by teams that finish the season 6-6 there is a problem. There is invariably some team with eight or nine wins left out in favor of a team that finished seventh in a BCS conference and that needs to be fixed. The number of games also requires the bowl season to start in mid-December, dragging it out too long and taking away from the significance of New Years Day. Jan. 1 used to be a special day for football fans, but with so much football being played before that day and the BCS games stretched out over the first five or six days of January the special quality is gone from New Years and we need to get back to that.
3. We need a playoff -- College football needs to determine its national championship on the field. The BCS gave us a split championship last year and plenty of debate about who belonged in the BCS championship game in previous years. The system in place is the best we've been able to come up with, but adding a playoff after the bowl season would allow for fewer bowl games and a return to significance for New Year's Day, while also allowing for lucrative payouts and a champion decided between the lines.
1. More humans, fewer numbers -- I like the new BCS formula. It's an improvement over the confusing list of components that used to determine which deserving team would get left out of the national championship game. Now, get rid of the formula. Appoint a committee of commissioners, coaches and athletic directors from among the 11 I-A conferences. That's what the NCAA does in every other sport, and if anyone complains of being treated unfairly, no one pays attention any longer.
2. Take the fifth -- Give the players a fifth year of eligibility. It will alleviate the pressure to redshirt. It will alleviate the pressure to graduate in four years. It will alleviate the pain caused by players who leave early for the NFL.
3. Help the offenses -- LSU coach Nick Saban, who is to defense what Usher is music, is also an influential member of the Football Rules Committee. Saban believes that the game is tilted a little toward offense right now. He doesn't have a problem with it, and neither do I. In fact, I would do more: bring back the tackle-eligible pass. Bring back the fumblerooskie.