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Black Madness: A College Football Play-off Plan

And the bowl system remains intact.

by James Leroy Wilson
October 25, 2011

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Black Madness: A College Football Play-off Plan

Every year college football provides controversy, largely because it has a "one-game" play-off for the national championship based on computer formulas no one is allowed to know. In the past couple of years there has been even more controversy, as the Big 12 and Big East Conferences have suffered "raids" on their teams. Meanwhile, undefeated teams from allegedly weaker conferences are denied the chance to play for a national championship.

It's all madness. I think there is a way to replace it with a more ordered, and a more fun system, that I call "Black Madness." It creates a play-off tournament with games that commence on Black Friday, the day that follows Thanksgiving.

What is required is more uniformity in the rules. To be eligible for the play-offs, I'd impose these requirements:

  • NO conference championship games
  • Every conference will have 8-10 teams, and every team must play ever other conference member
  • Maximum of 12 conferences
  • Every conference champion will be invited to the play-offs, along with four at-large teams
  • Every team plays 12 regular-season games, no more than one of which is from the 1-AA Division
  • The regular season will be played in the 13 Saturdays from the last Saturday in August to the last Saturday before Thanksgiving
  • There will be NO OVERTIMES in the regular season
  • Every team hosts no more than seven regular-season home games

The seeding of the teams, AND the selection of the at-large teams, will be based on these criteria:

  1. Winning percentage
  2. Winning percentage of opponents (I-AA excluded)
  3. Winning percentage of opponents' opponents
  4. Margin of victory will not be included in wins, but margin of defeats WILL count, as will the caliber of opponent (as defined by the first three criteria)

Playoff System

  • Teams will be seeded 1-16 based on the above criteria, and #1 will play #16, #2 will play #15, etc
  • On "Black Friday" and Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend, the first round is played
  • The top 8 seeds play home games, with a quadruple header on both Friday and Saturday with game times (Eastern time) at 11 am, 2:30 pm, 6 pm, and 9:30 pm
  • Games will be scheduled so that Eastern and Northern host teams will play earlier in the day, and Southern and Western teams will play in the evening
  • Overtimes decided by "six-point death;" first team to six points wins
  • Second round will be played first Saturday in December, with the four higher-seeded teams hosting again
  • Third round will be played second Saturday in December, with the two higher-seeded teams hosting again

Bowls and National Championship

  • National Championship will be played the Saturday night following New Year's Day between the two remaining teams, at a predetermined neutral site
  • All other play-off teams will get bowl berths depending on traditional conference affiliation with bowls
  • Non-play-off teams may also be invited to bowls


  • The bowl system is kept intact, allowing more teams to have extra games and fans to enjoy the travel destinations
  • The pre-bowl play-off tournament goes no later than the Army-Navy game is currently played or infringe on final exams
  • The play-off tournament will earn probably more money than the current conference championship games will
  • A new, more interesting tradition will originate on Black Friday; I'd call it "Black Madness," in tribute to college basketball's "March Madness"
  • Fans are spared the expense of going to multiple travel destinations to see their team, because the first three rounds of the play-offs will be at home stadiums anyway
  • Regular season games still have importance
  • A great team that loses one or two games and fails to win their conference may not earn a wild-card berth, putting a premium on victories
  • There will be a premium on being a #1 or #2 seed to host all play-off games
  • There is no incentive to "run up the score"
  • Playing a tough schedule is ENCOURAGED
  • It allows champions of "mid-major" conferences to prove they can measure up to the "major" conference teams
  • Teams will be less inclined to switch conferences, and money will be more equitably distributed to all conferences and teams

Will this ever happen? One can dream.

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