Volume 93, Issue 38

Friday, November 5, 1999


Preparing to plow over Warriors

Two words - wrestling rocks

NCAA could learn a lesson from the CIAU

NCAA could learn a lesson from the CIAU

I have discovered one thing which Canadian university football has over their American counterparts – a national championship which is decided on the field, rather than through a bunch of arbitrary polls.

The Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union playoffs begin this weekend and it signals the start of an exciting road to the Vanier Cup. These playoffs showcase the best teams in CIAU football and culminate in a final game which displays the two which are left – the survival of the fittest.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association may have more advertisers and much more hype surrounding their games, but they severely lack in the playoff excitement department.

The NCAA championship is rarely a match between the two best teams in the country. There are two separate polls, the writer's and coaches' poll, to decide who is ranked number one and two for the national championship. The top two nationally ranked teams then play in a bowl to decide who are the national champions. The problem is why are these rankings decided off the field, rather than on? Is there really no other way to decide something of such importance?

If the powers that be in the NCAA were smart, they would create a tournament similar to basketball's NCAA Final Four.

Here's one simple solution – get the 32 or 64 best teams in the country and have them begin playoffs when the season ends, rather than having them sit around for a month preparing for a bowl game. With this tournament design, the championship team can be determined on the field rather than through a second hand source.

Sure, the NCAA has far more teams than the CIAU, but the question is, do they have quality teams playing? Think about all the crappy bowls which have no effect on the national championship, like the Aloha Bowl which usually features the teams left over from the national rankings.

The NCAA sets up these bowls for one reason – money. A large amount of advertising dollars are generated through the advent of the college bowls. However, if the NCAA were to use a national tournament to decide their national champion they could possibly generate more money, as they would have more games, thus more advertising time to sell to Madison Avenue.

The perfect example of the problem with the American system of ranking the national champion was in 1997. The Michigan Wolverines won the writer's poll, while the Nebraska Cornhuskers topped the coaches' poll. As a result, the national championship was split between the two – a tie for the best team in the country.

The problem was addressed through the bowl alliance, which was created to have the number one and two ranked teams in the country play each other. The bowl alliance would shift between the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange bowls. But the problem that still remains is that it is still the coaches' and writer's poll that determines those original one and two rankings.

Another solution which should be quite obvious to the NCAA – adopt a playoff system like that of the CIAU. The CIAU has far more interesting playoffs because the national champion is decided between the best team in the country according to their play on the field, not on some kind of opinion poll.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999