What they should do now is put the No. 1 college football team against No. 2 for the national championship. Play the game in the Rose Bowl this year, then move in successive years to the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl. Put the revenues in a fund from which NCAA members are given grants for worthy projects. Next case, please.
This effectively ends the arguing about who's No. 1. During 1981 seven teams were ranked No. 1. Clemson is likely to hold the spot, but the world is full of folks who will shout across the land, "If we had a rematch, I think we could beat Clemson and maybe beat them bad."
Herschel Walker said those words. It has been three months since Clemson, at home and getting nine Georgia turnovers, beat the Dawgs, 13-3. "I'm not putting them down, but they only beat us, 13-3, when it should have been 40-something to zero . . . If we had another chance at them, they'd be very afraid because I don't think they could play with us."
An easy solution: The one-game playoff, 1 versus 2.
Wait a minute, you say. Wouldn't this offend the bowls by making them preliminaries to a championship game? Would television take money away from the bowls to finance the Biggest Game? Would bowls then collapse and ruin the whole postseason extravaganza?
No, no, no. No more than the pros' Super Bowl hurts the conference championship games, which is not at all.
A college bowl might give up the roll of the dice that brings the supposed "national champion" to its game occasionally. But under the plan outlined here, each major bowl is guaranteed the championship game once every four years. The slight injury done to bowls' pride will be healed by application of a cold cash compress.
Money is the only argument against such a playoff game. Forget the balderdash about players missing classes. Most of these guys are majoring in football, not neurosurgery. The colleges simply live in fear of alienating the bowl people. Without $20 million pumped into their programs by New Year's Day games, big-timers would have to sell pencils out of tin cups.
That's why talk of a playoff tournament gets nowhere.
Two years ago the NCAA's committee on postseason events voted unanimously for a one-game playoff; the recommendation was turned down at the next step, a vote by the NCAA Executive Council, which didn't allow the measure to reach the NCAA membership.
Some people keep trying. Frank Broyles, athletic director at Arkansas after a great coaching career there, is a member of the NCAA postseason events committee. Advocates of a playoff system, Broyles said, couldn't even get the idea out of committee last year. A tie vote, 5-5, killed it at that embryonic stage.
"I'm going to ask them again," Broyles said.
Dear readers of long memory know the playoff idea gets me through every New Year's Day. Of various proposals, my favorite was the eight-team tournament. Winners in the four major bowls would play a doubleheader eight days before the NFL's Super Bowl, with those two winners meeting on the Saturday before the Roman Numeral Classic. Super Saturday, Super Sunday--all in the same stadium.
The catalogue of problems with such a setup is thick. Too many logistical quirks, such as tickets, travel and hotels. Too close an association with the NFL, as if the colleges needed to hitch a ride. Besides which, by the time the tournament ended, everyone would have forgotten the Rose Bowl and its brother bowls. And nobody putting up $20 million likes to be forgotten two weeks later.
Well, Einstein didn't get it right the first time, either.
Vince Dooley, the Georgia coach, said it ought to be a one-game playoff.
"A playoff system is a better way of determing a true national champion than what we have. It would be good for college football. But at the same time I've also said the bowls have been too important to college football and the only way I thought might work is a one-game playoff after the bowls. Take the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and let them play."
Dooley would play the Biggest Game the week before the Super Bowl.
"During that two-week period when all you hear is the Super Bowl, it would be nice to hear about the college Super Bowl for one week and let the pros have the last week."
Jackie Sherrill, the Pitt coach, believes competition between TV networks will lead to such a game.
"Next season, for the first time, we have two networks televising college football," he said. "So it's getting closer. It's going to be here."
To proponents of preposterousness who argue that this hullabaloo about who's No. 1 is good because it keeps everyone interested, Frank Broyles answers:
"If more discussion is good for college football, then pro football, by that reasoning, should forget the championship, forget the Super Bowl and let everybody just talk about who the champion is. That doesn't make sense to me. That's a cop-out."
Broyles, once a tournament advocate, likes the one-game playoff idea.
"I support it 100 percent."
Until next New Year's Day, amen.