Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher talks at a press conference after his Seminoles beat Auburn on Monday in the national championship game. Fisher addressed the upcoming college football playoffs, saying, “We’re so involved in winning a championship that we’re forgetting the tradition and history of doing things.” (Reuters)
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — This would seem a propitious time to be young and gifted and a Seminole, chiefly because the newly minted BCS titlist is so young and gifted. The Florida State of next season, coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday, “is going to look very similar to what you’re seeing now.”
What fans saw Monday night in the Rose Bowl was a team willful enough to override an 18-point deficit and win a national championship in the final seconds. A team from the allegedly lesser ACC bring the SEC’s run of BCS titles to a halt at seven. A team that surely will enter the 2014 season ranked No. 1, a spot lately reserved for Alabama, and will have a very good chance to stay unbeaten a while longer.
But what fans also saw in 2013 was the end of something. The BCS title game, 16 years in existence, is no more. Into the breach marches the four-team College Football Playoff, and if this were January 2015, Fisher wouldn’t have been regaling journalists at a morning briefing after winning one playoff game. He’d have been back in Tallahassee readying for another titanic tilt.
Only in the past two decades did big-time college football make the concerted attempt to produce a championship game. A playoff, many say, will be better. But if you’re Jimbo Fisher or Nick Saban, your path to the summit just got harder. A champion-to-be now has two games to negotiate, two chances to lose.
The old way of doing postseason business — two teams, one site, one game — will yield to a survive-and-advance tournament. The semifinals will be played in different cities (New Orleans and Pasadena on New Year’s Day 2015) with the final being staged in another (Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12).
Fisher’s appraisal was rather chilly.
“When I was a child, I remember who won the Sugar Bowl, who won the Orange Bowl, who won the Cotton Bowl, who won the Rose Bowl,” he said Tuesday. “It was a big deal to go. We act like that’s not a big deal now. … We’re so involved in winning a championship that we’re forgetting the tradition and history of doing things. And how many times was the BCS ever wrong? How many times did they ever get it wrong at the end?”
Fisher continued: “We’ve still got the same problem. You’re going to argue over who’s No. 4 and 5 or who’s 2 and 3. What’s the difference? And you keep building these games. Now you’re playing 15 games. Now you’re playing 16 games and then you want to go play 17 games. Well, how many scholarships you got? You need to start letting freshmen play so you can have bodies for the attrition. These guys don’t get to go play in an NFL season. They don’t get to go rehab all day. They got school. They got study halls. They got things to do. Those bodies at that age aren’t developed like a man is.
“And they say, ‘Well, the lower (collegiate) divisions do it.’ I’m going to tell you something — just like the NFL is a much more physical game than (FBS) football, (FBS) football is significantly different than the (FCS), Division II and Division III. Those collisions aren’t the same in size and speed. You’d better be careful what you’re doing to these kids and how you’re doing things.”
Football coaches hate change, but change is here, and the days of a Florida State or an Alabama playing one game and being handed the crystal football are at their end. Had this postseason been next season’s, FSU would have met Michigan State in New Orleans, while Alabama and Auburn would have staged an Iron Bowl replay in the Rose Bowl.
Would those semifinals have produced a better display of football than what happened in Monday’s thriller? That’s an unknown that’s unknowable. College football is embarking on a journey of discovery, and it could be a bumpy ride.
“You’ve got a lot of things that we’d better be careful in this playoff system before we go crazy on it,” Fisher said. “I’m for it. Hey, playoffs — if that’s what you’re going to do, we’re going to line up and play them. But I just don’t want to take the true history and tradition (from) those bowl games.”