By Dr. Ken 


The 2014 college football season was expected to be ground-breaking with its introduction of a championship playoff. Always dependent upon the polls to choose the national champion or polls that would place the top two teams into a game to determine the championship, those clamoring for a more equitable system finally got their wish. Of course, there is no doubt that the same complaints that dogged the selection of a champion such as regional bias, favoritism of a specific program or star player, or to be very realistic, which team or teams will result in the greatest profit for sponsors and the NCAA, will again be heard. If one chose more than the four teams now slated to enter the playoff system, it would still not be enough according to those who were left out of the tournament.


Like every other college football fan, I have favorites although some of those chosen teams would not make sense to anyone other than me. This is the beauty and attraction of sports, it is an outlet that allows for favorites that don’t have to make sense to anyone other than the beholder. Would I like to see Cincinnati in the annual national championship rounds? Of course but it will never happen. As natives and residents of West Lafayette, Indiana and all with Purdue connections, my wife’s family members are Black And Gold to the core. Because of them and Purdue’s recruitment of star players from our neighborhood in the early and mid-1960’s, I have a soft spot for the Boilermakers.

In the mid to late-1960’s, the Purdue Boilmakers were called the “Spoilermakers” for their penchant for upsetting highly favored teams. The great Bob Griese and Leroy Keyes were among the best of a very talented group of players

Even at their mid-1960’s, Jack Mollenkopf “Spoilermakers” peak, or the winning consistency brought by Joe Tiller, they would not have a shot. The fact is that money will carry the day which means that the traditionally powerful and known programs, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan of the Big Ten, Texas and Oklahoma of the Big 12, USC and only of late, Oregon of the PAC 12, any of the SEC teams will, year to year, make the tournament on a regular basis. If this is a truth you don’t like, join the club and then do something to change the system.


Of course, this 2014 season, is one of those years that many of the aforementioned teams aren’t very good but if those in power had their choice, they would want a school with a large fan base, extensive alumni support, and rich football tradition to make the grade. There are “other schools” and West Virginia comes to mind immediately, that “travel well” and usually bring a significant number of supporters to their bowl games. Through the decades, West Virginia has also had a few excellent teams worthy of playing for a national championship but in the eyes of those charged with insuring that money will be made as a direct result of their selection of matched opponents, the Mountaineers wouldn’t be a first choice.


Quarterback Major Harris was a Heisman Trophy finalist twice as the 1980’s ended, making the Mountaineers contenders for the national title. Even with the exciting offense of current Head Coach Dana Holgersen, WVU would not be a first “big money” choice of the committee


Like most fans, I awaited the first of the official selection committee rankings with interest, although also like most, I understood that many of these highly ranked teams would be nowhere near the top of the chart within a few weeks. It was also with amusement that I saw both Mississippi State and Ole Miss in the top four spots, with the Bulldogs at number one. This in no way implies any disrespect for the Mississippi State program. Although they are not a traditional Southeastern Conference power, they have turned out numerous high caliber players and have had years of solid football. The glory days of Ole Miss during the John Vaught era of the 1950’s to mid-‘60’s have not been hinted at since, [ see HELMET HUT ] but like State, they have had their share of all star players and some very good teams.


However, if any college football fan believed that there would be a National Championship Game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, confining the fan interest to one state and involving schools with a fan base that is comparatively limited when considering the Ohio States, Notre Dames, and Alabamas, some sort of psychological evaluation may be necessary. In brief, there is “no money” in an Ole Miss versus Mississippi State match-up so we will never see it, at least not until yet another change in the selection procedure is mandated.


The 1969 Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State game was a big win for the Rebels and held state wide attention. It is the same today but would not be a money maker as a national championship match up


The teams chosen, ideally, will have national appeal, national following, large alumni support, and sponsors that understand that they will be reaching maximal numbers of potential consumers. Of course, in our specific example, at the time of this writing, Ole Miss has assisted the process by losing two consecutive games and removing themselves from contention and I would think that while a “Cinderella Team” like Mississippi State is always a selling point, those handling the high finance of college football were no doubt ecstatic over State’s loss to Bama last week. They are, I’m sure, hoping for Alabama, Florida State, or Oregon to put a stranglehold on the top spots to insure an inter-regional battle of better known teams. To placate any Mississippi State fans, I like their history, many of their former stars like Jackie Parker, and the coaching history that cites the names of Murray Warmath, Darrell Royal, and Emory Bellard.


The “lesser” teams, with lesser referring to a relative absence from the Top Ten rankings on a year-to-year basis, sometimes have an outstanding team or an outstanding player that carries them to a season of greatness. If the player has a national following, there is an increased probability of being “invited to the dance” and making a high level bowl or in the new system, one of the coveted playoff spots. Without something to draw the audience in however, be it an underdog status for a team that has captured the public’s imagination, or a singular star that is the highlight of the collegiate season, the money brokers will be looking elsewhere if it is at all plausible.


Doug Flutie of Boston College was one of those extraordinary players who put his team on the national map


There have been other seasons where a clear cut number one team was obvious, or at least perhaps two teams that could have been chosen as the best with few complaints from any knowledgeable fan. There is what seems to be a complaint that the Southeastern Conference is favored over others but in truth, it is hard to moan about the level of football that the conference has displayed in the past few seasons. Do our HELMET HUT readers recall the 1971 season when the final national rankings read 1. Nebraska, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Colorado, all members of The Big Eight Conference? Certainly there is precedence for having more than one program from the same conference in the top ten, top five, or as it was in ’71, in the top three in the final rankings if the majority of pollsters believe it is correct. If nothing else, a playoff system as has every other system, allows fans of their favorite teams to remain engaged with the progress of the season from beginning to end or until its obvious that their team is so poor that they have little chance of winning anything. The new playoff system by all predictions, will not resolve the issue to the satisfaction of anyone other than the fans of the two teams that finish the season in the championship game. To date, every selection system has created controversy, anguish, anger, and disagreement among fans, sportswriters, media commentators, coaches, and players. There is no reason to believe that our new system will bring any changes to this.