You may not recall, but there was a time when the college football champion was determined by a vote.
And we all lived.
Different groups, such as the Dickinson System, Associated Press, The Sporting News, UPI, etc., declared a champ at the end of the season, sometimes naming different schools as No. 1 and thereby launching bar fights across the land.
Seldom were these fatal. Though I recall the 1978 mess — 11-1 Alabama (AP No. 1), 12-1 USC (UPI No. 1) — as being a little nasty. And the 1997 tie (Michigan, AP No. 1; Nebraska, Coaches’ No. 1) was no weenie roast, either.
Since the 2006 season, we’ve had a Bowl Championship Series title game which, theoretically, has pitted the two best teams against each other so a king can be crowned — sort of — because this is only the way some damned computer has said it should be.
And we have a serious love/hate thing with computers. (See ‘‘2001: A Space Odyssey’’ again to decide if you’d like HAL or any of his ilk making decisions for you.)
But this has been solved, because for the first time since Princeton went 1-1-0 in 1869 and more or less was declared national champ (since it’s not clear who else was in contention for said title), we have the four-team College Football Playoff!
Back in 1997 then-NCAA president Cedric Dempsey said of a possible tourney: ‘‘There’s no passion for a playoff. I don’t see it happening for some time, if ever.’’
I guess some time and ever are here. When one of the earliest declarations from new president Barack Obama in 2008 was our country’s need for a D-1 football playoff, well, what are you gonna do?
‘‘I’m fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other,’’ he reiterated in 2009.
Two trophies were unveiled in Irving, Texas, last summer — one the title trophy and the other the AFCA Coaches’ Trophy. Both go to the winner of the championship game on Jan. 12, 2015 at Texas Stadium, with two semifinal games having been played in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
This is swell, though you have to wonder how cool that Coaches’ Trophy with its giant ‘‘AMWAY’’ scrawled across the base will look behind glass many years from now.
But heres’ the bigger deal: does this tourney actually solve anything?
Yes, we’ve said farewell to the dreaded computer system, but we’ve said hello to ‘‘bracket competition’’ and a panel of 13 ‘‘experts’’ who will seed the best teams.
Hi, Condoleezza Rice! How are former Madame Secretary of State’s picks going today?
No, I’m not making that up. Rice and a bunch of guys — including volatile USC athletic director Pat Haden and retired three-star general Mike Gould — will decide what nobody trusted a computer to do.
And so, as we head to Sunday’s selection date — the committee gets approximately 12 hours after the final conference title game to make its picks — I see numerous, very human, issues in bloom.
For instance, what if the power conference playoff games, or absence thereof, don’t resolve a ranking? Baylor of the Big 12 is 10-1, but ranked No. 6, three slots below fellow conference member TCU, which Baylor beat 61-58 on Oct. 11. Fair? There’s no Big 12 title game to determine if it is.
What about unbeaten No. 4 Florida State? Should a team led by quarterback Jameis Winston, who is being investigated for rape, even be allowed in the tourney? How about 11-1 Ohio State, ranked fifth, and the fact it has lost its first two quarterbacks to injury? Should a team like that be considered? Factoring injuries is one of the core five principles the committee is supposed to use.
What if No. 2 Oregon loses the Pac-12 title game to No. 7 Arizona, but just by a point, in a great overtime game?
If Ohio State smokes Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, even with third-string QB Cardale Jones at the helm, should the Buckeyes move way up?
I see as much arguing among fans as ever. Let’s not even discuss the correctness of two teams playing 15 games. No players were consulted in any of this. As they never are.
Solution? An eight-team playoff. Nah, hell, a 16-team tourney.
This four-team thing is signed through 2025. But that means nothing. Money rules. And a playoff is golden and turning platinum. Forget professionalism and dangerous attrition to purported students.
America always gets what it wants. Fast.