Opinion: Division I needs to watch Division II

Sam Hartle

My roommate and I threw a TV watch party on Saturday for the Division II national championship game between Northwest Missouri State and Grand Valley State. Nearly everyone was going for our MIAA cohorts at Northwest. I even got a call from my adviser, which never happens on a Saturday, gloating about her Bearcats.

While Northwest would go on to lose 21-17 after failing to score a touchdown in the final seconds, the very idea of a national championship game was just as important a concept as to who won the game.

In less than a month, most college football fans will be glued to the TV to watch the “national championship” game between the University of Southern California and Texas. I have no doubt these teams are among the best in the country, but pitting them against each other in a title game is based on too many arbitrary variables.

This coming week, a United States congressman is holding a hearing to determine the viability of the Bowl Championship Series. Besides the fact that these hearings amount to grandstanding on behalf of the congressman, why is Division I collegiate football the only collegiate sport, at any level, that doesn’t have a playoff?

The common line fed to us on why we must maintain the bowl system is because of the rich tradition college football has with the myriad of bowls. I’ll admit that I enjoy watching the Humanitarian.com Bowl played on the blue astro-turf of Boise State University, but there’s not much tradition with the game. Further, the traditions of the bowl system have been changed by the BCS anyway. Remember the time when the Rose Bowl was played between the champion of the Big 10 and the champion of the Pac 10?

This year, at least USC is able to represent the Pac 10, but I find it disgusting seeing a team from the Big 12 in the Rose Bowl.

The whole keeping tradition alive argument doesn’t seem to float. The only other argument that BCS proponents keep using is that the money involved with the bowl system helps many schools and conferences in funding athletic programs. Of the two teams in the BCS championship game, the Rose Bowl, each will take home $12-$18 million, rather, the conference gets that money, which is then distributed throughout the conference.

I’m sure we could set up a Division I playoff system in which the conferences would still get a big share of the money generated. For instance, for each team a conference places in a 24-team playoff, they would get $5 million.

The tradition would be kept alive by teams such as Notre Dame, Miami and USC, who have rich traditions of their own. The traditions of the Division II playoff system is supplied by consistently dominating teams who do well on the national stage.

The same thing would happen for a Division I playoff. The tradition would still be there, the money would still be there. Fan interest would increase, the games would be competitive and we would finally be able to truly say that one team was better than everyone else and crown a true national champion.