The Butler Experiment: Is College Football Taking Notes?

College football has a lot to learn about how to choose its champion. Monday night should serve as the final lesson.

One of the very best ever held. College football could certainly learn a thing or two - it needs to.

When the draw for the 2010 NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament was held on March 14, it looked like the final game would certainly include one or more of Kentucky, Kansas, or perhaps Duke. On the other hand, Butler University was just another participant — one with a basketball tradition, mind you — but likely only to break into the Sweet Sixteen if things went swimmingly for the Bulldogs.

What we learned during this tournament, and what we saw on Monday night, was that Brad Stevens’ Butler basketball team belonged in the championship game. They approached the game the right way, without an ounce of bravado, with pounds full of fundamentally sound basketball. They were worthy of being a national champion.

Butler was every bit as good as Duke. Butler was as good as any team in the nation. Butler was not on a fluke run.

If the NCAA decided its basketball championship like college football decides theirs, we would have seen Kentucky, Kansas, or Duke play one of the other two. We would likely have missed one of the very best national championship games ever played — Monday’s final ranks right up there with North Carolina vs. Georgetown of 1982. We would not have discovered a team that is as worthy of the big time spotlight as any.

College football cannot host a 65-team tournament. But, it can give the likes of TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati a fair shot at the title. Pete Flutak at had this to say in his article of March 29:

“…college football’s national champion isn’t really decided on the field. Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU, and 114 other teams had no chance whatsoever of playing for the title in 2009 if Texas and the Florida/Alabama winner went undefeated. None. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Bearcats beat everyone on the slate by 40 points. As long as the SEC champion and Texas were unbeaten, they were going to play for the national championship because the pollsters weren’t going to budge the top teams out of the top spots as long as they kept winning.”

Mr. Flutak is right. College football is wrong.

And, by ‘college football’ I mean all with a stake — the schools, the influential alumni, the corporate sponsors, and the television networks.

College football has to change how it does its business at the business end of the season, or the bowl season will continue to collapse under its own weight to the point where hardly anyone cares, except for the final game that ‘decides’ the ‘national champion’.

College football’s regular season is unrivaled in its excitement and intensity. However, Monday night’s basketball spectacular, concluding the most entertaining tournament of any sport in recent memory, helped to make the final football game look less grand with each passing year.


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