After nearly two decades of the maligned Bowl Championship Series, a revamped college football postseason should be a breath of fresh air. Yet so far, the new system’s inauspicious start feels like saying hello to the new boss — same as the old boss.
The College Football Playoff’s name was revealed on Tuesday, and its website was hacked in less than 24 hours. Then on Wednesday, the confirmed location for the inaugural tournament championship game was announced: Arlington, Texas.
Cowboys Stadium hosting the College Football Playoff is perhaps the most apropos decision imaginable. The venue is a monument to excess, a sterilized palace bereft of tradition. Cowboys Stadium was built for the NFL; college football and basketball are convenient off-day events to help offset some of the $1.2 billion price tag.
Forget the nearby Cotton Bowl, home to one of college football’s most storied rivalries, the stadium in which Ernie Davis made history. Its scars, earned through decades of college football lore, cannot compete with the luxury boxes of Cowboys Stadium.
A genuine postseason tournament is a departure from tradition, but fans have clamored for a playoff for years. The implementation of the new system is the problem more than the system itself.
So much of it feels like a movement to turn college football into a homogenized pseudo-NFL. Placing the first championship game in the quintessential, corporate professional venue is just too appropriate.
Conversely, the college football history-rich Rose Bowl Stadium is hosting the last BCS championship this upcoming season. Awarding it consecutive national championships wouldn’t necessarily be fair. However, it’s as fitting that one era ends in perhaps the most hallowed of college football grounds, while another kicks off in football’s answer to the McMansion.
Of the venues to be part of the College Football Playoff, four are home to NFL teams. Of those three, only the New Orleans Superdome has established much of a college football tradition The Orange Bowl was home to memorable national championship games, college football’s longest home win streak, Hail Flutie. Now, it’s gone.
The Fiesta Bowl was played on Arizona State’s campus, in the mountainside Sun Devil Stadium. It migrated off campus to University of Phoenix Stadium, a dome dropped among the citrus and cotton fields almost as close to Gila Bend as it is Sky Harbor Airport.
The Cotton Bowl still stands, but Cowboys Stadium siphoned off its eponymous postseason game. How long until the Red River Rivalry moves away from its longtime home so fans can pay to watch it on the big screen from their Standing Room Only seats?
History and tradition are no match for profits. Now, the more cynical might read the above and roll his or her eyes. Of course it’s about money.
So it’s a romanticized notion of football. Sue me. I can acknowledge reality, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I miss my Final Fours played in basketball arenas, and I miss my big, college football games played in college football stadiums.