Gold Rush: 100% Cotten

Sept. 1, 2002

by Stan Cotten

Although we are just beginning the 2002 college football season, my thoughts are already on the postseason when a national champion will be crowned by a BCS matchup of what a formula says are the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Don't get me wrong. I think the tweaking of the BCS and the formula are about as good as it's going to get in the current system of producing a national championship game.

But we could have so much more.

A college football playoff at the I-A level would produce enough excitement and plenty of money to satisfy everyone involved. But it would produce something else that the current system does not.

An undisputed champion.

And isn't that why we play? Are we afraid of having only one true winner at the end of the season? The BCS produces a winner we call the national champion, but we can all usually come up with some reason why the No. 2 team really should be No. 4, therefore nullifying the BCS game as a true title affair.

But a playoff produces a real champion. If these teams go through all they go through to play every Saturday, they should all have the chance at qualifying for the playoff and winning a championship.

We all know Tiger Woods is a much better golfer than Rich Beem. But he wasn't for a week recently at Hazeltine, and Beem is the PGA Champion. Why?

Because he had a chance. It was great theater, and we're all the better for it. Even Woods.

Can you imagine college basketball without the NCAA Tournament? Just think of college football with a similar tournament to end the season and crown a champion. It would quickly equal and probably surpass the basketball event as one of the greatest spectacles in all of sport. And we wouldn't have to shred the current bowl system to make it happen. They could all still exist and rotate which ones would host the playoff games. Those bowls who didn't host a playoff game could still invite and pay two teams to come play and give the teams a great week to end their seasons.

But for 16 teams, they would have the opportunity to play, win and advance. And regardless which two teams survived the gauntlet to play for the title, a national champion is what we'd have. What is so wrong with that?

While I was at Marshall, the Herd was still at the I-AA level. Jim Donnan led Marshall to the 1992 national championship with a 31-28 thriller in the title game against Youngstown State. That championship week is one I'll never forget. Marshall fans won't either. The players? Not even close. And I bet to this day eight out of 10 Herd fans would rather have a chance at playing for a national championship than a yearly visit to Pontiac and the Motor City Bowl. Just a guess.

Sometimes change is a good thing. In this case, it's the needed thing.

(Stan Cotten is in his seventh season as the radio "Voice of the Deacons." He was voted the 2001 North Carolina "Sportscaster of the Year.")

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