Pac-12 missed its best shot at College Football Playoff before season even started

Checking the AP Top 10 with another Saturday of college football ahead of us, you wonder if it comes with a laugh track. Clemson is 5-0, Florida 2-1, Ohio State and Penn State 0-0. With the Pac-12 season looming in November.

So very pandemic. You’d think that with chaos the order of the day, the sport could think creatively about how it all ends. Instead, the four-team playoff remains idiotically rude and simplistic. A perfectly fine idea — switching to eight teams this year, and possibly in permanence — gets lost in the world of condescension and greed.

The eight-team setup could have been arranged months ago, when there was time to sort out the adjusted logistics. Difficult, yes, but look what the NBA and Major League Baseball accomplished on the fly. It has always been an entertaining and fair-minded solution to include teams from each of the Power Five conferences, two at-large teams and a Group of Five (65 teams overall) representative.

Larry Scott, the stunningly incompetent commissioner of the Pac-12, had a chance to make some big noise here. His conference is basically a laughingstock in Power Five circles, and what better way to resurrect a reputation than to sneak into an eight-team playoff and score a major upset?

Instead, Scott dragged his feet and settled for a tepid proposal in mid-September, a plea that was roundly rejected by the College Football Playoff’s management committee.

Then again, Scott could have led a 20,000-strong march on CFP headquarters, and it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. Why? You guessed it. The almighty dollar. With a side of arrogance.

The CFP has a $470 million-a-year TV contract with ESPN, expiring in 2025, that grants rights to all three playoff games and four so-called consolation bowls. An eight-team setup would simply turn those bowl games into playoff matchups — no additional money coming in. Whoops — end of discussion. When’s cocktail hour?

Worse yet, the CFP people don’t want any outsiders crashing their party. They want maximum prestige and TV ratings from the traditional powerhouses. If they keep it nice and tight with two teams each from the SEC and Big Ten, fine. They’d rather not see the likes of Cincinnati, BYU or Oregon getting a shot, and they have a mortal fear of surprise — like UCF going 12-0 in 2017 (and relegated to the Peach Bowl, where it upset Auburn).

Maybe this whole argument gets crushed under a pandemic’s weight. The Big Ten and Pac-12 schedules are packed on a weekly basis right up to Dec. 18 — the day before the playoff teams are announced. No bye weeks, no room for postponements, only games declared “no contest” due to coronavirus outbreaks. One could imagine a bizarre set of standings, and with the coronavirus right on schedule with an alarming spike in cases (a record 77,000-plus in the U.S. on Thursday), worst-case scenarios abound.

What matters, most of all, is hope. We’ve drawn enough inspiration from other sports to realize the possibilities. How sad that college football stays in its insulated world, desperately fearing change, scoffing at the peons who crave the taste of empowerment.

They must be immune

Among the many thousands who just don’t get the mask thing, there appear to be three options: (1) Wear it under the nose. Perfected by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football. Gives those droplets a fighting chance. (2) Down around the chin. Extremely fashionable. Shows you might have cared at daybreak. (3) None at all. Because, you know, what the hell, it’s a hassle. … When you watch Russell Wilson duel Kyler Murray in Sunday’s Seattle-Arizona game — that’s the 49ers’ reality in this division. Outclassed. Just can’t see any way around it. … Very cool to hear Wilson say he “felt like Sue Bird in the clutch” — a nod to the great WNBA star — after the Seahawks’ comeback victory over Minnesota. “This is powerful,” tweeted Paola Boivin, an Arizona State journalism professor and former sports columnist. “In my era following sports, I never remember a male athlete saying something like this.” … Giants fans will deeply resent anything good that happens to the Dodgers, and that’s wonderful, the essence of a full-blown rivalry. But say you’re completely objective, with no rooting interest in any team in either league. How could you not like Mookie Betts, Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger or any of the Dodgers? (Well, except for Clarabell, Dustin May, who really needs a haircut; hope you got the Howdy Doody reference.) … After printing the all-time baseball team from Oakland high schools, we heard from a reader offering up Cincinnati as a viable match. By my research: Solid infield with Leon Durham, Bill Doran, Barry Larkin and either Buddy Bell or Sal Bando. Not great at catcher — Russ Nixon or Jim Leyritz — but a fabulous outfield of Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dave Parker, with Jimmy Wynn off the bench, and Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on the mound. Coming soon: The team from New York City. … When I first visited Minneapolis, covering the A’s in 1981, Sid Hartman had been writing Star-Tribune columns for 36 years. Turns out he was just getting started. Hartman died on Sunday at the age of 100, having written his last column only days before. “He owned this town,” people said of Hartman, and in the days when “conflict of interest” had no meaning in the newspaper business, that was absolutely true. He essentially acted as the Minneapolis Lakers’ general manager in the late 1940s, and after getting George Mikan (the NBA’s first great center) to sign in 1947, he orchestrated the signing of Stanford star Jim Pollard. Those two players anchored the Lakers’ run of five titles in Minneapolis before they moved to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season. Good thing Hartman didn’t carry as much weight in baseball. He pushed hard for the Twin Cities to land the New York Giants in the late 50s, but San Francisco got the nod.

Bruce Jenkins is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Bruce_Jenkins1

Source Article