Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Jun 2012

What Does (or Should) It Mean to be Crowned "Champion"?

Here's an interesting little piece on Smart Football about the ramifications of the death of the BCS system. Just how important is it to reward the "best" team?

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 28 Jun 2012

21 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2012, 7:16am by jenson


by Alternator :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 12:27pm

I don't see why the author is painting a false dichotomy. In any given season there are usually* between two and, say, six teams that have comparably good seasons, but generally they don't play each other, so you have little to no head-to-head comparisons. A playoff ADDS those direct games, and the regular season filters out the pretenders who have no business being in the conversation.

* Last year's LSU was a bit of an aberration, because they really HAD played most of the other teams you can make a case for, and beat them.

by Alexander :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 1:27pm

My argument last year was that there should not have been a national championship game.

Bama and OkSU should have just played for 2nd place.

by dedkrikit :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 6:19pm

"OkSU"? Do you call the other school OhSU? Or I suppose it could be THE O S U.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 8:36am

Don't forget OrSU... and while we're at it :

USCar and USCal
UTex and UTen
MisSU and MicSU
UWi and UWa

by RickD :: Wed, 07/04/2012 - 4:33pm

God forbid somebody write clearly!

And yes, most people think Ohio State when they see "OSU".

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 11:41pm

The NCAA football "champion" is the product of a season's worth of hype and opinion, not performance against all likely contenders. The MLB, NHL, and NBA champions are much more credible because every team plays against every possible contender several times. And they don't get to count wins against minor league teams toward their victory totals, unlike NCAA Div I teams. This is why I will always consider the BCS and the NCAA polls a meaningless exercise.

by HawksinBklyn (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 2:01pm

Perhaps in the midst of Euro Cup Fever we should look to European soccer for an example. The Premier League, for instance, doesn't have a playoff system, resulting in the team with the highest point total at the end of the season being crowned League Champions. This system rewards the team who had the best performance over the course of the year. However, the teams also participate in the FA cup, a single elimination tournament played throughout the course of the season, rewarding the team that peaks at the right time. I'm not advocating the adoption of this dual system in any American sports, but it's interesting that soccer has found a way to combine both 'champion' systems. Winning both titles generally means you have a historically great team.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 2:15pm

You figure out a way for a football team to play 30 games in a year, and I'll sign on to crowning a champion based on the regular season.

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 11:11pm

Or you can just accept that there is no objective way to determine a "national champion" in football, and quit moaning about polls, the BCS, or playoffs.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/04/2012 - 4:37pm

If you have a championship tournament, the winner is the national champion.

If you don't have a tournament, I don't see how you have a champion. You can have polls about who you think the best team is, but that's a different animal.

Nobody argues that Villanova wasn't the National Champion in basketball in 1985. Similarly, nobody argues (or at least, nobody has argued this to my knowledge) that Villanova was the best team in college basketball in 1985.

I don't quite understand how this topic should be confusing, unless you think "champion" automatically means "best" for some reason. And really, if you think that, it's your own fault for confusing yourself.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:05am

I was talking specifically about NCAA football, not basketball. It's the very small number of football games played each year that makes the concept of "champion" or "best" team problematic. You can have a tournament in football, but if the participants are based largely on the opinions of football writers and coaches, it's hardly much better than the pre-BCS bowl system. That's my complaint: a four-team football tournament in the end will for the most part simply confirm the biases of the football polls.

The purist take is that the "champion" should be equivalent to "the best team". If not, why would we even bother with them in the first place? If you think it doesn't matter, I think it's you who is confused about the issue. Me, I just think there are some sports where you just can't settle the issue, and football is at the top of the list for me. And that includes the NFL.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 06/30/2012 - 3:10am

35 weeks, 31 games. 75 man roster. 10 minute quarters. And a rule prohibiting any one player from being active for more than 25 games a season.

The maximum total number of minutes per player per season is a bit higher. On the other hand that time would be spread out more due to the relatively larger number of byes and the inactive games. A safety bonus would be that players would be a lot less likely to play injured.

by JonC :: Mon, 07/02/2012 - 2:27pm

So, you propose that, in lieu of the concept of "champion" being meaningless, the concept of "team" be made meaningless?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 07/02/2012 - 3:08pm

No, I don't recall proposing that.

by Dean :: Sun, 07/01/2012 - 3:25pm

"Perhaps in the midst of Euro Cup Fever we should look to European soccer for an example"

Yeah, no. I don't HAVE any "fever," and I can't wait until it's over so that these soccer people can quit trying to force-feed their boredom on me.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 07/01/2012 - 11:45pm

Oh, but guess what? You DO have a fever. And the only prescription. Is more cow bell.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 06/30/2012 - 10:33am

Hey, it's all just entertainment. In identifying the champion, I prefer games where both teams know with absolute certainty that the loser is eliminated. For all the talk of the college football method making every game so important, there are a lot of games advertised as elimination types that really are not so.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 06/30/2012 - 12:07pm

I like the idea of round robin followed by single elimination of the set tied for the most wins. If that set only has one team, then do single elimination of the teams tied for second for the right to play the first in a championship.

by snik75 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/02/2012 - 9:50pm

All I know, is that if a team in a set of teams wins all its games, including whatever postseason games it can play, and some other team is declared the champion of that set, to me that "championship" has no meaning. If a team can do that and not be considered the champion, they aren't really in the set, or there is no true way to determine a champion.

The four team playoff will add a lot of legitimacy to the process, but if a team can go undefeated and not be invited, which I suspect could happen with Boise or Hawaii, then it still won't fulfill my personal criteria.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/04/2012 - 4:47pm

Apt comment.

I think that with 4 teams included, even a minor conference team like Boise State should be in the tournament if it goes undefeated. It would be a travesty if the SEC got two bids and an undefeated Boise State team were snubbed, even if there were a general consensus that the #2 SEC team was considered to most likely be the #2 team in the country.

by jenson (not verified) :: Sat, 12/01/2012 - 7:16am

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