A much needed game changer for college football

Few moments in sports history go down as game changers.

In 1921 a Pittsburgh radio station, KDKA, broadcast the first-ever sporting event on radio. It was a no-decision boxing match, but no matter the outcome it marked the change of an era for fans and for teams.

In 1961 the ABA added a three-point line to add excitement to the game of basketball, a move that has since ignited the league.

In 1947 Major League Baseball allowed the first African-American baseball player to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a monumental act in the civil rights movement. In 1997 Lance Armstrong founded the Livestrong foundation, which through sports has raised more than $325 million to fight cancer, and it all started from a yellow bracelet that supporters could buy for a dollar.

In the same year MLB added interleague play, which helped the league recover from the strike of 1994.

In 2012, after longtime pressure from fans, college football revised its playoff system to include four teams, who, starting in 2014, will now play for the title of National Champion.

So what does this mean for the Fiesta Bowl, and the Insight Bowl (now the Valley of the Sun Bowl), who both play here in the Valley?

Alan Young, the Chief of Staff for the Fiesta Bowl, has been a member of our community for decades and has confidence that these changes will increase the competition in two of college football’s biggest bowl games.

“Between two bowl games, Valley football fans will be treated to two of the most important games annually in the post season,” Young said. “The average fan will still get to enjoy all of the events tied to the games; the parade, the Tempe block party, and pre game parties.”

Under the new playoff system, the Fiesta Bowl will become one of six teams who will rotate a semi-final playoff game, between two of the top four teams, who will be playing for the right to play in the National Championship. That means that every three years the Fiesta Bowl will host a semi-final game. They will still have a bowl game the other two years, as well.

“We have been meeting with college administrators, and the BCS to expose the benefits of our community, stadium, volunteers and sponsors,” Young said. “Our stance is that we know what we have here in the Fiesta Bowl, but we benefit from the motto of ‘What is good for college football is good for the Fiesta Bowl.’”

As for the National Championship game, cities will have the chance to bid on the game, just like the Super Bowl host is now determined. It is unclear as of yet if cities who are hosting a semi-final game will be able to host the National Championship game as well.

Alan Young, a 25 year volunteer with the Fiesta Bowl committee, has been with the board of directors for ten of those years, and has since become the Chief of Staff. He became involved with the Fiesta Bowl after his pharmaceutical company, Flexall, became a sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl and Young was asked to become a board member.

The committee itself works year round to manage fundraisers and community events surrounding the bowl game. When Young started, the Fiesta Bowl had just become involved in college football.

“It has been amazing to see in the past 25 to 40 years, the Fiesta Bowl go from brand new to one of the most premier bowls in the game. Likewise, the Valley of the Sun Bowl has gone from almost out of business, to one of the big time match-ups between the Big-10 and the Big-12,” Young said.

Fans have called for a playoff change for many years, something bowl committees were hesitant to put into place.

“The concern was, with a 16 team playoff system, bowls who were not given a playoff game would suffer from a lack of relevancy,” Young said.

With the new playoff system, fans get what they asked for, but at the same time teams who could have made an argument for a chance in the National Championship will still be playing in bowl games like the Valley of the Sun Bowl.

Many critics of the new system say that it is only a stepping stone for a longer playoff system. However, with a 12 year agreement set to be signed by those involved, an expansion of the playoff system any time soon would be hard to accomplish.

“The new system is 12 years in length, so after that maybe if fans and administrators feel expanding past four needs to happen, then it will be discussed,” Young said.

The arguments for, and against a playoff system can be made viably. The regular season means much more with only the top two getting a chance for the National Championship, because just one regular season loss could mean the end of a season. Every game counts. On the contrary, teams who go undefeated are left out of a playoff in the olde system, with no chance at being crowned champion, though they were perfect. If you’re a smaller school which enters with no chance at reaching the ultimate goal, why play?

The impact the new system will have on the Tempe area, and the Valley in general, is a perfect example of how the playoff system as a whole will have an impact on the game. The Valley will still have two strong bowl games, and arguably one of the quickest growing bowl games in football in the Valley of the Sun Bowl. Arizona will still have one of the top games of the year ever season, and will host a semi-final game once every three. The quality of games brought in will be just as good, and arguably better, while the chance to host the National Championship is still in the works.

The reality is that with virtually every sport across the globe having a playoff system, college football was behind in times. Implementing a four team playoff keeps both small bowls and big bowls happy, while giving fans what they asked for; more hope that their team may be crowned champion. Hopefully Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, can take a page from the BCS’ book and think a little harder about instant replay, which is bound to be the next major change in the world of sports.


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