My First Bracketolgy of the 2018-’19 NCAA Basketball Season

It’s been a while since I last did this (three years in fact!):

This is my first attempt at Bracketology for the 2018-’19 NCAA Tournament.  All rankings here are based on the PowerBase software that I previously used to do this.  There will be some big surprises as the software has some schools are much higher or lower than their national rankings, and they are reflected in the seedings:

All match-ups are first round games except where the teams having to play the opening (play-in) round in Dayton are noted. The first number is seeding, second number is PowerBase ranking going into Monday, March 9.

Conference leader in parentheses that are shown currently hold automatic bid with such (Imporant Note: This now reflect conference tournament games).

*-Current Auto Qualifier

East Regional (Finals in Washington DC 3/29-31):
Sub-regional in Columbia, SC 3/22-24:
1. 1. *Virginia (1, ACC) 114.73 122.02 115.54 116.52 112.94 15-0 8-0 12-3 3-0 6-2 6-1 3-0 0.000
vs. winner of play-in game in Dayton Wed. 3/20
16. 246. **N-CO (16P, Big Sky) 87.00 81.12 90.76 87.46 86.53 11-6 5-1 7-8 5-1 1-3 6-5 4-2 0.000
vs.
16. 292. **Ark-PB (16P, co-SWAC lead)83.47 82.75 85.61 85.84 81.09 6-10 5-0 9-6 3-0 3-1 6-5 2-1 0.000
OR
16. 293. **PVAM (16P, co-SWAC lead) 83.36 76.59 82.75 85.14 81.59 5-11 2-0 6-8 3-0 1-0 5-8 2-1 0.000

8. 32. LSU (8) 102.45 108.66 103.10 104.99 99.90 12-3 9-0 9-6 2-0 4-5 5-1 2-0 0.000
9. 33. Kansas St. (9) 102.39 102.90 103.54 104.36 100.41 12-4 7-1 7-8 2-2 1-6 6-2 2-2 0.000

Sub-Regional in Hartford 3/21-23:
4. 12. NC (4E) 106.65 109.29 106.73 108.15 105.15 12-4 7-1 11-5 2-1 6-2 5-3 2-1 0.000
13. 61. *Princeton (13, Ivy League) 99.69 93.67 96.41 100.85 98.53 9-5 4-2 7-6 2-0 3-2 4-4 2-0 0.000

5. 20. Purdue (5E) 104.63 108.54 102.76 107.39 101.88 10-6 7-0 9-7 3-2 5-2 4-5 2-3 0.000
12. 54. *Stony Brook (12, America East) 100.33 96.68 99.87 100.10 100.56 15-3 7-2 11-5 3-0 3-4 8-1 2-1 0.000

Sub-Regional in Columbia, SC 3/22-24:
2. 4. Duke (2E) 109.54 121.14 111.41 111.05 108.03 14-2 9-1 10-6 3-1 7-3 3-3 2-2 0.000
1. 202. *Wagner (15, Northeast) 89.83 91.10 88.49 90.88 88.79 8-7 5-3 7-6 3-1 2-4 5-2 2-2 0.000

7. 28. *Buffalo (7) 102.74 107.24 106.08 103.76 101.72 15-1 7-0 11-3 3-0 4-2 7-1 3-0 0.000
10. 37. *Davidson (10) 101.86 97.33 102.10 104.42 99.30 12-4 8-0 7-7 3-0 4-2 3-5 2-1 0.000

Sub-Regional in Jacksonville 3/21-23:
3. 11. Maryland (3E) 106.68 108.03 105.84 108.55 104.81 15-3 12-2 10-8 6-1 6-8 4-0 6-1 0.000
vs.
14. 90. *SD St. (14, co-Summit lead)96.78 89.33 94.61 99.14 94.43 14-6 8-1 10-9 4-1 3-5 7-4 3-2 0.000
OR
14. 92. *IPFW (14, co-Summit lead) 96.76 94.44 92.63 98.98 94.54 12-8 8-2 9-8 4-1 4-3 5-5 4-1 0.000

6. 21. Syracuse (6E) 104.34 106.79 102.02 104.50 104.18 12-5 9-3 9-8 3-1 6-6 3-2 3-1 0.000
11. 43. Alabama (11) 101.40 101.93 99.98 103.52 99.28 10-5 7-2 7-7 1-2 4-5 3-2 1-2 0.000
Midwest Regional (Finals in Kansas City 3/29-31):
Sub-Regional in Columbus 3/22-24:
1. 6. *Michigan (1 MW, Big 10) 108.64 120.97 111.81 110.55 106.74 17-0 12-0 9-8 6-0 5-7 4-1 5-1 0.000
16. 229 *Norfolk St. (16) 87.64 83.85 86.47 89.96 85.31 9-10 7-1 9-6 4-0 3-2 6-4 3-1 0.000

8. 31. VCU (8) 102.49 100.29 101.40 104.74 100.25 11-5 8-1 8-6 2-1 3-4 5-2 1-2 0.000
9. 34. Washington (9) 102.37 98.71 101.18 103.85 100.90 12-4 8-1 7-8 3-0 3-5 4-3 3-0 0.000

Sub-Regional in Salt Lake City 3/21-23:
4. 13. Iowa St. (4 MW) 106.44 108.77 104.55 108.58 104.30 12-4 8-1 9-7 2-2 6-3 3-4 2-2 0.000
13. 73. *UCF (13, American) 98.19 108.73 101.30 100.53 95.85 13-2 9-1 8-6 3-0 4-5 4-1 1-2 0.000

5. 19. Louisville (5 MW) 104.90 104.94 104.18 106.86 102.93 11-5 9-1 8-6 2-1 4-4 4-2 2-1 0.000
vs. winner of play-in game in Dayton Tues 3/19:
12. 45. **Wisconsin (12P) 101.21 96.52 104.00 102.48 99.94 11-6 6-2 8-9 3-3 3-5 5-4 2-4 0.000
12. 47. **Oregon (12P) 100.70 88.50 99.25 102.01 99.39 10-6 8-3 5-10 1-2 3-7 2-3 1-2 0.000

Sub-Regional in Des Moines 3/21-23:
2. 2. Michigan St. (2 MW) 110.36 118.18 110.56 112.45 108.28 15-2 9-0 14-3 6-0 7-2 7-1 6-0 0.000
15. 178. *Rider (15) 91.31 92.40 92.03 93.00 89.61 9-7 4-0 5-10 4-0 1-3 4-7 2-2 0.000

7. 27. Temple (7) 102.91 105.73 105.23 104.93 100.90 13-3 7-0 9-6 3-1 2-5 7-1 3-1 0.000
10. 38. Nebraska (10) 101.82 103.11 102.82 104.17 99.47 13-4 9-0 11-5 3-3 7-1 4-4 2-4 0.000

Sub-Regional in Tulso 3/22-24:
3. 9. *Texas Tech (3 MW, Big 12) 107.28 111.53 109.02 109.23 105.32 15-1 10-0 7-9 4-0 4-6 3-3 2-2 0.000
14. 120. *Bucknell (14, Patriot) 94.72 91.85 94.28 95.73 93.72 10-7 4-3 7-9 4-1 2-5 5-4 1-4 0.000

6. 22. Ole Miss (6 MW) 104.17 107.97 102.83 105.85 102.49 13-2 8-0 14-1 3-0 8-0 6-1 3-0 0.000
11. 44. Cincinnati (11) 101.34 99.62 102.58 103.57 99.10 14-3 10-1 8-9 3-1 6-5 2-4 1-3 0.000

South Regional (Finals in Louisville 3/28-30):
Sub-regional in Hartford 3/21-23:
1. 3. *Villanova (1S, Big East) 109.85 110.70 105.76 111.55 108.16 13-4 6-2 9-7 4-0 2-5 7-2 2-2 0.000
vs. winner of game in Dayton 3/19:
3. 244. **Sam Houston St. (16P, Southland) 87.20 87.84 86.13 89.68 84.71 8-8 7-1 9-4 3-0 3-2 6-2 2-1 0.000
13. 298. **UTSA (16P, Conference USA) 82.94 90.76 85.29 83.69 82.19 10-7 6-3 9-3 4-0 3-1 6-2 4-0 0.000

8. 30. *Hofstra (8, CAA) 102.51 104.64 100.35 104.65 100.37 15-3 10-0 11-6 5-0 5-4 6-2 1-4 0.000
9. 36. NC St. (9) 102.25 106.86 103.64 104.27 100.22 14-2 11-1 11-5 2-1 7-5 4-0 1-2 0.000

Sub-Regional in San Jose 3/22-24:
4. 15. Marquette (4S) 105.55 112.07 106.38 108.58 102.53 14-3 12-0 9-8 3-1 8-4 1-4 2-2 0.000
13. 74. *Winthrop (13) 98.19 96.59 95.48 99.76 96.61 11-5 7-1 10-2 3-0 3-2 7-0 3-0 0.000

5. 18. *Arizona (5S, Pac-12) 105.11 95.01 103.75 106.53 103.69 13-4 9-1 9-8 4-0 5-5 4-3 3-1 0.000
1. 56. *Valparaiso (12, MVC) 100.08 94.39 95.60 100.80 99.36 11-6 6-2 6-8 4-0 1-4 5-4 3-1 0.000

Sub-Regional in Columbus 3/22-24:
2. 5. Kentucky (2S) 109.52 112.38 106.61 112.14 106.90 12-3 10-0 6-9 2-1 4-6 2-3 0-3 0.000
15. 176. *Liberty (15, Big South) 91.42 94.59 94.28 92.25 90.59 14-4 9-1 10-5 3-0 4-3 6-2 2-1 0.000

7. 10. VA Tech (7) 103.15 110.23 105.05 105.37 100.93 14-1 9-0 10-5 3-0 6-3 4-2 1-2 0.000
10. 39. Oregon St. (10) 101.76 94.69 99.83 103.07 100.45 11-4 7-2 9-6 3-0 6-3 3-3 3-0 0.000

Sub-Regional in Jacksonville 3/21/23:
3. 10. Iowa (3S) 106.96 103.16 107.36 109.37 104.55 14-3 10-1 8-9 3-3 4-7 4-2 3-3 0.000
14. 106. *UNLV (14, Mountain West) 95.52 90.95 94.20 96.97 94.06 9-6 7-3 9-6 3-0 6-4 3-2 2-1 0.000

6. 24. *Tennessee (6S, SEC) 104.06 121.55 108.16 105.67 102.45 14-1 9-0 8-4 3-0 3-3 5-1 3-0 0.000
11. 42. Texas (11) 101.44 98.79 100.87 102.47 100.41 10-7 7-4 8-9 2-3 5-6 3-3 3-2 0.000

West Regional (Finals in Anaheim 3/28-30):
Sub-regional in San Jose 3/22-24:
1. 7. *Gonzaga (1W, WCC) 108.41 108.81 108.85 110.39 106.43 16-2 11-0 14-4 3-0 10-1 4-3 3-0 0.000
16. 234. *UMKC (16, WAC) 87.42 86.30 85.87 88.85 86.00 7-10 5-2 8-8 2-0 3-3 5-5 1-1 0.000

8. 29. Florida St. (8) 102.64 106.30 105.13 105.18 100.11 13-4 8-1 5-12 1-3 3-6 2-6 1-3 0.000
9. 35. Auburn (9) 102.25 106.46 104.73 105.03 99.48 12-3 9-0 7-6 1-1 5-2 2-4 1-1 0.000

Sub-regional in Tulsa 3/22-24 (2):
4. 16. Oklahoma (4W) 105.51 104.66 108.09 108.00 103.02 13-3 7-0 11-4 2-2 5-2 6-2 1-3 0.000
13. 80. *GA St. (13, Sun Belt) 97.89 96.13 100.34 99.99 95.79 13-4 7-0 7-8 4-0 2-4 5-4 2-2 0.000

5. 17. Houston (5W) 105.29 107.50 106.71 107.71 102.87 16-1 14-0 8-7 3-1 6-6 2-1 2-2 0.000
vs. winner of play-in game in Dayton Wed 3/20:
12. 46. **Arizona St. (12P) 100.74 89.50 101.88 102.44 99.04 11-5 7-2 7-8 2-2 4-4 3-4 2-2 0.000
12. 48. **Georgetown (12P) 100.68 100.03 98.17 102.39 98.98 12-5 9-2 6-10 2-2 3-7 3-3 2-2 0.000

Sub-Regional in Des Moines 3/21-23:
2. 8. Kansas (2W) 107.83 105.09 111.09 110.78 104.89 15-2 11-0 7-10 4-1 4-7 3-3 2-3 0.000
1. 147. *Detroit (15) 93.52 94.82 91.49 94.98 92.05 8-10 5-3 11-7 5-1 5-3 6-4 5-1 0.000

7. 25. Dayton (7) 103.19 97.38 100.39 104.96 101.42 11-5 9-1 7-8 3-0 4-5 3-3 1-2 0.000
10. 40. SMU (10) 101.66 102.61 95.01 102.52 100.80 11-5 8-3 7-9 3-1 6-5 1-4 2-2 0.000

Sub-Regional in Salt Lake City 3/21-23:
3. 14. Nevada (3W) 105.86 98.17 108.00 107.84 103.88 16-1 8-0 10-6 3-1 5-2 5-4 3-1 0.000
vs.
14. 85. *UC-Irvine(14, co-Big West) 97.24 87.71 98.69 98.55 95.92 14-4 6-1 9-8 2-0 3-3 6-5 1-1 0.000
OR
14. 87. *UCSB (14, co-Big West lead)96.98 95.34 96.57 99.53 94.43 13-3 9-0 9-5 2-0 4-3 5-2 0-2 0.000

6. 23. Seton Hall (6W) 104.15 108.60 102.95 106.19 102.10 12-5 7-2 8-8 3-2 2-6 6-2 2-3 0.000
11. 41. Indiana (11) 101.65 103.40 103.24 103.85 99.45 12-5 10-1 8-9 3-3 5-6 3-3 2-4 0.000

BYU due to religious beliefs must be slotted in a Thursday-Saturday regional (Louisville or Anaheim) and before it a Thursday-Saturday sub-regional. BYU is not allowed to play on Sundays and is the west regional is always Thursday-Saturday.

Dayton can play in the “first four” on their home floor and is the only allowable such instance.

Arizona can not play either play-in winner due to Oregon and Arizona St. both being in the play-in round and likewise, schools from the same conference can only play each other in the play-in round if three or more schools from the same conference are there.

Multiple Bids By Conference:
ACC (8)
Big Ten (8)
Big 12 (6)
SEC (6)
Big East (4)
Pac-12 (5)
American (5)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Mountain West (2)

Last four in field that do not have to play in the first round in Dayton:
41. Indiana (11) 101.65 103.40 103.24 103.85 99.45 12-5 10-1 8-9 3-3 5-6 3-3 2-4 0.000
42. Texas (11) 101.44 98.79 100.87 102.47 100.41 10-7 7-4 8-9 2-3 5-6 3-3 3-2 0.000
43. Alabama (11) 101.40 101.93 99.98 103.52 99.28 10-5 7-2 7-7 1-2 4-5 3-2 1-2 0.000
44. Cincinnati (11) 101.34 99.62 102.58 103.57 99.10 14-3 10-1 8-9 3-1 6-5 2-4 1-3 0.000

Last four at-large in field that must play in the first round in Dayton:
45. **Wisconsin (12P) 101.21 96.52 104.00 102.48 99.94 11-6 6-2 8-9 3-3 3-5 5-4 2-4 0.000
46. **Arizona St. (12P) 100.74 89.50 101.88 102.44 99.04 11-5 7-2 7-8 2-2 4-4 3-4 2-2 0.000
47. **Oregon (12P) 100.70 88.50 99.25 102.01 99.39 10-6 8-3 5-10 1-2 3-7 2-3 1-2 0.000
48. **Georgetown (12P) 100.68 100.03 98.17 102.39 98.98 12-5 9-2 6-10 2-2 3-7 3-3 2-2 0.000

First four out:
49. Baylor 100.58 103.73 97.95 101.74 99.43 10-6 7-3 9-7 2-2 5-5 4-2 3-1 0.000
50. TCU 100.57 104.63 103.66 102.44 98.69 12-3 7-1 9-6 1-2 3-5 6-1 1-2 0.000
51. Pitt 100.53 101.18 99.22 102.91 98.14 12-5 11-2 14-3 2-2 10-3 4-0 3-1 0.000
52. Yale 100.49 102.72 101.09 102.59 98.40 10-3 5-0 6-6 0-0 3-1 3-5 0-0 0.000

Next four out:
53. Ohio St. 100.49 97.77 102.31 101.93 99.05 12-4 8-2 6-10 2-3 2-8 4-2 2-3 0.000
55. Minnesota 100.28 102.90 102.85 102.44 98.12 13-3 9-1 8-8 3-2 5-5 3-3 3-2 0.000
57. Clemson 100.03 106.15 99.60 101.72 98.34 10-6 7-2 4-12 0-3 2-7 2-5 0-3 0.000
58. Xavier 99.92 101.88 99.68 102.40 97.44 11-7 9-2 7-10 3-2 4-6 3-4 3-2 0.000

Third set of four out:
59. Florida 99.87 101.49 99.28 101.22 98.51 9-6 6-3 7-8 1-2 4-5 3-3 1-2 0.000
60. Utah 99.78 89.90 96.09 101.06 98.50 8-8 6-3 6-10 2-2 3-6 3-4 3-1 0.000
62. West Virginia 99.65 95.09 95.83 101.47 97.82 8-8 6-3 4-12 0-4 3-6 1-6 2-2 0.000
63. Creighton 99.64 101.28 99.59 101.11 98.16 10-7 6-4 7-9 1-3 3-6 4-3 1-3 0.000

Fourth set of four out:
64. SC 99.61 102.37 96.08 101.07 98.14 8-7 6-4 5-9 3-0 2-7 3-2 3-0 0.000
65. St. John’s 99.44 105.93 103.49 101.56 97.32 14-3 11-1 8-9 2-3 4-8 4-1 4-1 0.000
66. USC 99.33 89.32 94.78 101.97 96.70 9-8 8-3 7-10 2-2 6-5 1-5 1-3 0.000
67. ETSU 99.24 103.57 97.55 101.55 96.93 15-4 9-0 14-3 5-1 6-1 8-2 4-2 0.000

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We Need a 32-Team Playoff in College Football (2018-’19 Version, Updated)

A playoff is something most fans have wanted for years in some way, shape or form to decide the national championship in college football!! While there was four-team playoff in 2014 and will be in 2015, is four teams really sufficient for a playoff?

A four-team playoff finally arrived in 2014, but such has its roots going back a number of years. There is considerable evidence that suggests you could actually need more than that, however:

2009 presented what at the time was the most compelling argument as to why a playoff in college football was needed. That season, were five unbeaten schools (Alabama, Texas, TCU, Cincinatti and Boise State) at the end of the regular season, along with a sixth (Florida) that as the #1 ranked school in the BCS going into its conference title game had to in that game play the school that was ranked #2 in the BCS (Alabama) going in, losing that game and finishing with one loss (the only school that didn’t finish unbeaten to do so). The problem is, of course is that back then, there was not a playoff. Although there were two unbeaten schools that did play for the national championship on January 7, 2010 at the Rose Bowl, will Alabama ever be truly considered the national champion for 2009 (and for that matter, did Texas have a legitimate claim on the #2 spot that season)? What about the other schools that finished 2009 unbeaten and perhaps even Florida, who was #1 for much of the 2009 season before suffering their only loss against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Didn’t they deserve a shot at proving they should be the national champion?

Even if you had a four-team playoff in 2009, it almost certainly would not have been enough to quell matters. One, if not two of Boise State, Cincinnati and TCU would have been likely left out of the playoff and a one-loss Florida team also might have not made it.

While 2010 didn’t have the controversy of 2009, there still was one big question left unanswered: Did TCU deserve a shot at playing for the national championship, even with unbeaten Auburn and Oregon squads? Then there were the one-loss schools like Stanford (only loss was at Oregon), Boise State (only loss was in overtime via two missed field goals to a Nevada squad that would have finished unbeaten themselves and would have been in the argument that they deserved to go to the Rose Bowl over TCU were it not for a loss at Hawaii), or the three Big 10 co-champions in Wisconsin (only loss was at Michigan State), Ohio State (only loss was at Wisconsin) and Michigan State (only loss was at Iowa), especially since Ohio State and Michigan State did not play each other in the regular season.

While TCU would have almost certainly been in a four-team playoff in 2010, who would have joined them? Stanford would have been the most likely based on the fact their ONLY loss was at Oregon, however, there serveral other compelling arguments. Even with an eight-team playoff in that scenario, one of Boise State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Nevada and Wisconsin would NOT have made the field of eight. That by itself makes the argument for a field of at least 16.

2011 had the argument of whether Alabama should have been allowed to play in the BCS Title Game against fellow SEC West member LSU, whom they lost to at home in overtime by a 9-6 score on November 5. There are those who feel Alabama should never have been allowed to play against LSU in the title game, especially as Oklahoma State finished third because Oklahoma State’s only loss (at Iowa State on November 19) came on the day the team found out about the death of the Women’s Basketball coach and an assistant in a plane crash and because LSU had to play an extra game, the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta where they defeated Georgia that December 3. A four-team playoff probably would have settled that as LSU and Oklahoma State would have played each other in one of two semi-finals.

2012 did leave us with one eligible unbeaten in Notre Dame, plus an Ohio State squad that also finished unbeaten but was on probation and not eligible for postseason play. Georgia, however, took a one-loss Alabama squad to the wire in the SEC Championship Game and you also had a one-loss Florida squad in the SEC East that some feel is just as good as both Alabama and Georgia. Meanwhile, out west, the argument could be made that Pac-12 champion Stanford (whose only losses were on the road to Washington and in overtime to Notre Dame) and Pac-12 North runner-up Oregon (whose only loss was to Stanford, also in overtime) also deserve a chance to prove they are champions. There, you would have needed at least an eight team playoff.

2013 had the controversy of whether or not a one-loss team in the SEC Champion deserved to jump over an Ohio State team that had not lost in two years for the right to play in the BCS Championship game prior to Michigan State beating the Buckeyes, and then the argument by some that Michigan State was “Golden Domed” in their only loss of the year at Notre Dame with questionable calls by the officials in the eyes of some. There also could have been the argument of whether or not Alabama would have deserved to play Florida State in the BCS Championship game if Missouri had defeated Auburn in the SEC Championship game because of what many still consider a freak play that did in the Crimson Tide against Auburn. Again, you would likely have needed an eight-team playoff.

2014 had the situation where The Big 12 named Baylor and TCU co-champions when both in all reality deserved to make the playoff. There not being a conference championship game in the Big 12 hurt them, especially in the eyes of many because the Big 12 in quite a few opinions was too scared to simply name Baylor the champion.

2018 had the argument whether a two-loss Georgia team deserved a berth over conference champions Oklahoma (who did get in) and Ohio State (who did not).

While we now have a four-team playoff, even that in many years likely is not enough to settle most, if not all of these arguments, especially if like in 2009 we wound up with five unbeatens and a sixth that for all intents and purposes could have been considered unbeaten.

This is why we need a 32-team playoff in college football!!

As most people who follow college football know, the college Presidents were in the way of there being any form of a real playoff in what is now the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division 1-A) for varying reasons, and until allowing a four-team playoff beginning in 2014 continued to be. While most believe it has been about money and the fear of dividing it up between schools that currently don’t get to take in the lions share of the Bowl revenue (other than the “BCS Busters” in the days before the top “non-power five” school was guaranteed a berth in a “New Year’s Six” bowl game), what is not often said is there is a very small, but in some cases extremely vocal group of professors who are completely anti-sports in some instances that the same Presidents may very well be concerned about making very angry if a playoff beyond the four-school playoff now in place ever happened in the FBS division of college football, and if so perhaps concerned that such in academia would attempt to stage protests with others who are not exactly fond of big-time college sports and have no understanding of the importance of such. This is why even getting a four-team playoff for now is very important, although it is far from perfect and will eventually need to be expanded.

Those in charge in late 2009 went as far as to launch a website called Playoff Problem (that site no longer exists), showing in their minds WHY a playoff would not work, ranging from scheduling to hurting what had been the existing bowl system. A 32-team playoff can easily be overcome with the existing bowl system only having some tweaking, the exact method of which will come up as this moves along.

There already was tweaking for a playoff this season in College Football that began in 2014. Most notably, this now has the “New Years Six” bowl games, the four former Bowl Championship Series games in the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls plus the Cotton Bowl and Peach (known for years as the Chick-Fil-A) Bowl, among what were long considered the top non-BCS Bowl games now added. Three of the games that are not part of the playoff in 2014-’15 (in this case the Fiesta, Rose and Orange Bowls) will be played on New Year’s Day while the Peach Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve with the two playoff games (Cotton and Orange Bowls) also being played New Year’s Eve (even though such games could have been played on Saturday, January 2) because of the Rose Bowl’s likely refusal to either move off its traditional date or at least be pushed back to a night game (most likely a 6:00-6:30 PM local time kickoff) to accommodate the playoff games being played on New Year’s Day.

One noticeable change that occurred with the four-team playoff and was continuing this year was talk of strength of schedule playing into who deserves the four spots. While that may be good for college football right now, if we get a year like 2009 where we have multiple unbeatens, you could easily have one of more not make it, especially in years you have the SEC as strong as it is for example where multiple teams deserve to make it. And then there were schools like Houston in 2015, who were it not for a loss at Connecticut on November 21 would have finished 2015 unbeaten but may not have had any chance to make a playoff because of a weak schedule. What do you have done if Houston had gone unbeaten?

It’s another reason why a playoff in college football involving 32 teams would be best. Such a playoff would require further tweaking with the schedule, with most notably the regular season for FBS schools would begin one week earlier than it currently does (meaning the season would begin in most years on the last full weekend in August) and in most years also end one week earlier than it usually does, with in those years that being Thanksgiving week. While in most years this would force some traditional Thanksgiving rivalry games to other parts of the season where the team(s) involved are in conferences that would have to move (in most years) their conference championship games up to Thanksgiving week, it is a trade-off that would be well worth it, especially since in those years it would also mean there would be an additional week of College Football at the beginning of the season where it only has to compete with NFL Preseason games and Baseball, and in most years the first weekend of college football also not having to compete with the US Open Tennis Championships. It should be noted that in years where Thanksgiving is not on the last Thursday in November, that would not be the case and the schedule would remain as it is now.

The following are questions were originally asked in late 2009 on playoffproblem.com (again, the site no longer exists) concerning a playoff, with answers immediately following the questions:

Who would participate?

As proposed here, a field of 32 schools, mainly using then-existing BCS and now the College Football Playoff formula (with limited exceptions). In this proposal, the College Football Playoff Top 25 would be expanded to a College Football Playoff Top 40 to as best possible assure at least one school in all 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences has a ranking.

The question you may ask is why a 32-team playoff, when many have suggested an eight or 16-team playoff? There is a simple reason that 32 looks to be the right number:

A 32-team playoff gives everyone who even remotely deserves a shot at the national championship the chance to play for it!!

That is the overriding factor of this proposal! While a 32-team field will allow some four-loss teams and sometimes even a five-loss team (that has played a very difficult schedule) into the field, it does give the top teams some early round tests that as long as they pass allow them to advance and play in what would be four regional finals, in this case rotated between what are now the “New Years Six” bowl games, while at the same time allow schools to may have had a key injury to their squads early on the chance to redeem themselves and earn their way up the ladder the hard way, by playing on the road in the first two rounds if they get that far.

How many automatic qualifiers?

The 10 FBS conference champions would receive automatic bids. With those automatic bids also comes a guarantee of no lower than a #4 seed and with that, the guarantee of playing at least a first round game at home. With allowances for special circumstances (i.e.: an extremely strong conference or where conference co-champions did not play each other in the regular season), the top five conference champions (who would be seeded #1 or #2 in each of four regions, this was top six conference champions prior to 2014) would usually be guaranteed to play first and second round games at home (provided they advance to the second round). There would also be criteria that would guarantee any independents (Army, BYU, Navy, and Notre Dame) who, as long as they meet such critieria getting in with the treatment of a conference champion (that will be explained in greater detail in the next segment).

What would be the criteria to qualify?

The criteria would be, as noted to win your conference and not only be guaranteed a berth in a 32-playoff, but the right to host at least a first round game if not a second round game (provided you win your first-round game) in addition. There would also be 22 at-large bids, however, the independent schools could turn an at-large bid into an automatic one by doing any of the following:

  1. Win a minimum of nine games and have at least a .750 win percentage and not be in the final College Football Playoff Top 40. This simply guarantees a berth into the field, which can be the lowest overall seed and having to play at the overall #1 seed in the first round.
  2. Win at least eight games, have at least a .650 win percentage and also be in the College Football Playoff Top 40. The same rules as #1 would apply otherwise, however.
  3. Home field advantage for a first-round game for an independent would be given for winning at least 10 games, have at least an .800 win percentage and finish in the College Football Playoff Top 25.
  4. Home field advantage for first and second-round games for an independent that wins at least 11 games, has at least a .900 win percentage and finishing in the College Football Playoff Top 12 OR finishing unbeaten (for at least an 11 game season) and in the College Football Playoff Top 20. If more than two independents meet this criteria, then the top two independents in the College Football Playoff standings would be guaranteed the second home game, should they advance past the first round.

Excluding independents who meet any of the above criteria, the at-large bids to fill out the field of 32 would solely be determined by the final College Football Playoff Standings, which would again be expanded to a Top 40 for that purpose.

What would be the criteria for seedings?

The seedings would be determined in the following manner:

  1. The top BCS ranked school would be the overall #1 seed, with the remaining three of four #1 seeds (as there would be four regions) then determined, with preference given to a conference champion in the College Football Playoff Top 10, although there would be limited exceptions to allow for a very strong conference, especially where teams in the College Football Playoff Top 5 have to play each other in a conference title game before any playoff began. The four #2 seeds would then be determined in a similar manner, usually set up to where if the #1 and #2 seeds meet in any of the four College Football Playoff games (that in this case would serve as quarterfinals/regional finals), again, now in a rotation of the new “New Years Six” Bowl games. It would be set up so the overall #1 seed would face the weakest of the four #2 seeds, the next strongest #1 seed faces the next weakest #2 seed, etc. (Note: In years where it is part of the playoff, the Rose Bowl when realistically possible would be set up so the Big 10 and Pac-12 Champions would play in the game should their respective champions win their first and second round games unless both conference champions are worthy of a #1 seed).
  2. The four #1 and four #2 seeds would be guaranteed to host first and second-round playoff games, provided they win their first round games. Schools with a #3 seed would be guaranteed to host a first round playoff game, with the chance to host a second round game should either the #1 or #2 seed be upset in the first round, while schools with a #4 seed would also host a first round game with the opportunity to play at home in the second round should both the #1 and #2 OR one of the top two seeds and the #3 seed be upset in the first round.
  3. Conference champions that finish in the College Football Playoff Standings between 16-25 would be guaranteed at worst a #3 seed and a first-round home game (unless multiple independents and at-large schools that meet criteria noted above make it in on such and would be seeded ahead of such a conference champion to where such a school would have to drop to a #4 seed, but still be guaranteed a home game).
  4. Conference champions that finish between 26-32 would be guaranteed a higher #4 seed and a first-round home game, while such champions that finish outside the College Football Playoff Top 32 would only be guaranteed a #4 seed that can be the #16 overall seed and the first round home game that comes with it.

Note on seeding: Schools from the same conference would not be allowed to play each other before the second round except for where the overall #1 seed is playing the overall #32 seed AND then if two such instances are necessary, the overall #2 seed playing the overall #31 seed OR its a situation where the schools are in the same conference BUT DID NOT play each other in the regular season (whether they are in different divisions or otherwise) NOR did they play each other in the conference championship game OR it’s a situation where nine or more schools from the same conference have made the field of 32.

Where would the games be played?

When would the games be played?

These will be answered together:

In this format, the first two rounds would be played at home sites.

In most years, the first round would be played on the week after Thanksgiving, most likely with at least two games on Thursday, two on Friday and the others all on Saturday. The earliest starting date for the first round of the playoffs, however, would be where December 1 falls on a Thursday, meaning in years where Thanksgiving falls on November 22 or 23, the week after Thanksgiving would still be regular season and conference championship games with the following week (beginning with December 6 or 7) being the first round of the playoffs. This would be done to best assure there would not be playoff games during finals at most schools, or if there are, there would be minimal impact on finals at worst.

After in most years a one-week break (in part to account for finals and in part to allow for schools to more easily make arrangements) the second round would be played on the week after the Heisman Trophy presentation. This most likely would have at least one game on Thursday, two on Friday and the rest on Saturday. For the second round, the lowest remaining seed in a region would play the highest remaining seed, while the two other seeds would simply play each other (for example, if the #1, #3 and #4 seeds all win their first-round games in a region, but a #2 seed is upset by a #7 seed in the first round, for the second round the #1 seed would play the #7 seed while the #3 seed would host the #4 seed).

The existing bowls would still be layed in this format, but as noted above with some tweaking:

First round losers along with schools that failed to make the 32-team playoff field would play in the lower tier bowls (provided they are eligible), with the higher-seeded first round losers getting the better of those bowl games. This would include the four of the six non-“New Years Six” Bowl Games listed as being in the rotation for “second round loser” games (below) when they are not hosting such games. These would usually get the highest eight overall seeds that lost first-round games (though adjusted to reflect true seedings since conference champions are guaranteed no worse than a #4 seed in the playoff). The other four games that would host the rest of the first round losers would usually be the Belk, Pinstripe, San Francisco and Sun Bowls.

Second round losers would play in ONE of the two “New Years Six” Bowl games NOT being used for playoff games in this incarnation OR in one of the top two non-College Football Playoff Bowl games. The other two games hosting second round losers would be rotated among what are considered to be the top six non-“New Years Six” Bowl games after the Cotton and Peach Bowl became part of the “New Years Six” Bowl games. The likely rotation of the non-CFB Playoff Bowl games that would be used for second-round losers:

Year 1: Citrus (formerly Capital One) Bowl and Alamo Bowl (with the Sugar and Rose Bowls the other “second round loser” Bowl Games)

Year 2: Liberty Bowl and Holiday Bowl (with the Cotton and Orange Bowls the other “second round loser” Bowl Games)

Year 3: Outback Bowl and Independence Bowl (with the Fiesta and Peach Bowls the other “second round loser” Bowl Games)

(Note: When the Rose Bowl is a “second round loser” Bowl game, that game whenever possible would pit a Big 10 against a Pac-12 school as long as both are in the top four ranked of the “second round losers”)

Meanwhile, the second round winners would move on to what are the current College Football Playoff/”New Years Six” Bowl games, which would be played as they are now over the New Year’s period. The only significant difference for the existing College Football Playoff Bowl games is that there would now be essentially be two four-team mini-tournaments (making up the first two rounds) that would determine each of the participants for what would now be considered regional finals, with the regions broken up as follows in the following rotation:

Year 1: East — Orange Bowl, South — Peach Bowl, Midwest — Cotton Bowl, West — Fiesta Bowl (Sites of Sugar and Rose Bowls host semifinal games)

Year 2: East — Peach Bowl, South — Sugar Bowl, Midwest — Fiesta Bowl, West — Rose Bowl (Sites of Cotton and Orange Bowls host semifinal games)

Year 3: East — Orange Bowl, South — Sugar Bowl, Midwest — Cotton Bowl, West — Rose Bowl (Sites of Fiesta and Peach Bowls host semifinal games)

The Championship Game would be rotated between the “New Years Six” sites, designed so each “New Years Six” site would host two semifinal games and one championship game in a six-year span. Years when “New Years Six” Bowl Games are for the top second round losers are when the sites of those games host the national semifinals.

Using what were the College Football Playoffs and adding in Conference Champions not in the final College Football Playoff Top 25, below is what the first-round games would look like if such were in effect following the final Top 25 being released:

Sugar Bowl Region (South)
#8 Miami (32) at #1 Alabama (1)
#7 Texas A & M (25) at #2 Washington (8)
#6 Mississippi St. (23) at #3 Michigan (9)
#5 Penn State (17) at #4 Northern Illinois (16)

Peach Bowl Region (East)
#8 Stanford (30) at #1 Clemson (2)
#7 Northwestern (26) at #2 UCF (7)
#6 Syracuse (24) at #3 Florida (10)
#5 Washington St. (18) at #4 UAB (15)

Fiesta Bowl Region (Midwest)
#8 Auburn (31) at #1 Notre Dame (3)
#7 Iowa State (28) at #2 Georgia (6)
#6 Utah (22) at #3 LSU (11)
#5 Kentucky (19) at #4 Appalachian St. (14)

Rose Bowl Region (West)
#8 Boise State (29) at #1 Oklahoma (4)
#7 Missouri (27) at #2 Ohio State (5)
#6 West Virginia (21) at #3 Fresno State (12)
#5 Texas (20) at #4 Army (13)

(Note: Since the sites of the Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl would serve as the sites of the national semifinal games, the actual bowl games would in this case play host between them the top four second round losers as noted in the rotation above)

Notes concerning the seedings and other things for 2018-’19:

  1. After the College Football Playoff Top 25 is exhausted, after automatic bids the ESPN Power Ratings Index is used to determine the remaining schools. It is also used to determine the seed order of conference champions NOT in the CFP Top 25.
  2. Notre Dame is a #1 seed for being in the Top 5 and unbeaten as an Independent.
  3. Ohio State is jumped ahead of Georgia in the seeding order both for being a conference champion and when possible, a Big 10 and/or Pac-12 school is given preference for the Rose Bowl with regard to the top two seeds.
  4. UCF is a #2 seed as the top “Group of Five” conference champion, finishing in the Top 15 and winning its conference. Washington is also a #2 as Pac-12 champions meeting the same criteria as UCF (win your conference & finish in Top 15).
  5. Fresno State is the lowest of the #3 seeds based on being ranked in the Top 25 and a conference champion.
  6. Army is an automatic qualifier as an independent with 10 wins AND a Top 25 finish in the final polls (the final polls are used since the last CFP Top 25 was done before the Army-Navy game was played).  They are the highest of the #4 seeds based on that criteria as an independent and get a home game with that.
  7. Syracuse is ahead of Mississippi State because Mississippi State can not play Florida in the first round.
  8. Auburn is ahead of Stanford in the seeding order because while Notre Dame is NOT a conference member at all, Stanford already played at Notre Dame in the regular season and such return trips in the first round would be discouraged where possible.

The breakdown of teams in the field by conference:

SEC: 9 (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri and Texas A & M)
Big 10: 4 (Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State)
Pac-12: 4 (Stanford, Utah, Wasington and Washington State)
Big 12: 4 (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia)
ACC: 3 (Clemson, Miami-FL and Syracuse)
Mountain West: 2 (Boise State and Fresno State)
Independents: 2 (Army and Notre Dame)
American Athletic Conference: 1 (UCF)
Conference USA: 1 (UAB)
Mid-American: 1 (Northern Illinois)
Sun Belt: 1 (Arkansas State)

The “New Years Six” Bowl (Regional Final) winners would advance to the national semifinals. The two national semifinal games would as noted be hosted by the “New Years Six” Bowl Games whose actual games in those years are “second round loser” Bowl Games. In most years, the two semifinal games would be in prime time during the week in between the NFL Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs (though in some years it would be the Monday and Tuesday between the Divisional Playoffs and NFL Conference Championship games), with exact dates depending on the calendar and when the BCS Bowls are actually played. One seminal would have the lowest remaining overall seed playing the highest remaining overall seed, with the other two schools remaining playing in the other semifinal (as will be the case in the actual playoff on Dec. 29, 2018). The exact dates of each game would be determined based on when the current CFB playoff games are played. For this purpose for January 2019, assuming the top seed in each region wins their respective New Year’s Six Bowl game, The first national semifinal would be played on Monday, January 7 with the second national semifinal played the next night, Tuesday, January 8.

The winners of the two national semifinal games would then play for the national championship, which in most years would be scheduled in this format for the Saturday night preceding the NFL conference championship games, however, because of how the calendar falls, in some years the championship game would be played on the Sunday night between the NFL Conference Championship games and Super Bowl (for 2019, it would be on Saturday, January 19). As noted above, the national championship game (and possibly a third place game between the semifinal losers the night before) would be rotated between the sites of the “New Year’s Six” Bowl Games to where each game hosts two semifinal and one championship game during a six-year period.

This is likely the most fair way to decide the national championship in college football. The fact that the “Power Five” conferences would be (in most years) guaranteed of at least their conference champions getting two extra home games (provided such win their first round game) would be enough of an incentive to overcome opposition from the college Presidents, especially since it would still be set up where in most years, the “Power Five” would get a massive percentage of what likely would be a much bigger revenue pie than even now with a four-team playoff in place. This would be especially since most, if not all of the existing bowl games would still be played as in this format, all 32 playoff participants would also be guaranteed a bowl game (and a “Big Six” Bowl if they win their first and second round matchups or even in some cases if they lose their second round game) in addition to at least one playoff game, with the chance to advance to play for the national title if they continue to win games.

While there would be the risk of a three or four-loss team winning the championship, they would still likely have to beat the overall #1 seed on the road in one of the first two rounds. That risk is well worth taking because any school that pulled that off would in all likelihood have to do the hard way in winning (in most years) first and second round games on the road before reaching a “New Years Six” Bowl game. Especially in a year like 2009 that saw the regular season end with five unbeaten schools (and a sixth with only one loss that came in a conference title game where the top two teams in the former Bowl Championship Series standings that were both undefeated going in met), a 32-team playoff would be the best way in all likelihood to give most fans what they really want:

A TRUE national champion!!

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Handle Down 4% on the 2018 Breeders’ Cup: Maybe NOW Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. learns the Breeders’ Cup Needs to Be At Night?

That is the question that I say is yes and have for years.

In spite of there being one additional race on the Breeders’ Cup this year as opposed to recent years (first time with 14 BC Races since 2012), handle for the Breeders’ Cup as a whole was DOWN four percent from last year (Source: The Blood-Horse).

This to me is not a surprise at all, though unlike 2015 at Keeneland, in my opinion, Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. was in a no-win situation this time, something I noted was possible in an earlier blog where I suggested before the 2019-’21 BC sites were announced the 2020 BC should be at Del Mar on Thanksgiving Weekend.  While in my view this originally should have been the first Breeders’ Cup held mainly at night, there was ONE major factor playing against that: The Mid-Term Elections that come/came up the Tuesday after the Breeders’ Cup.

This was likely a much bigger factor than MANY realize, especially given the political climate we have had in recent years, intensifying only that much more since Donald Trump was elected President in 2016.  The rhetoric has been back-and-forth, and it has caused many much more hotly contested races than we have seen leading up to what is/was considered to be the single most important mid-term elections in US History.  There are many on both sides that think this could be a life-or-death struggle, with people on both ends refusing to back down.  This has also led to a record amount of spending for a mid-term election, including many more ads than seen before, including possibly going as far (and if anyone can confirm, it would be appreciated) as to cause NBC stations (and those of other networks) where such races are close to have to preempt all or part of their prime time lineups, particularly on Friday (11/2) and Saturday (11/3), for political ad buys that would have prevented the BC from airing those two nights in prime time on NBC, normally a “death slot” for regular shows and such possibly continuing on Sunday (11/4) and Monday (11/5) where such races are extremely tight.

The mid-terms likely also had an effect on coverage of not only the Breeders’ Cup, but other sports, as such overshadowed many other events going on, even in some circles an Alabama-LSU game that was the biggest matchup between those schools since 2011 (ironically the last time the BC was at Churchill Downs and also the game that set precedents that allow networks to demand events be moved to prime time even if it violates contracts).  A nighttime BC in 2018 would have had the Saturday races opposite that game as well as Oklahoma-Texas Tech on ABC, Notre Dame-Northwestern on ESPN and UCLA-Oregon on FOX among other games.

That said, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that handle should have been UP on this year’s Breeders’ Cup, given two factors:

  1. There was one additional race in this BC as opposed to recent years.
  2. Field size was UP from a year ago, with an average of 12.6 horses per race.

The new format this year also was promising, with something many have wanted for years, and that is all of the BC races for two year olds on Friday and all of the races for older horses on Saturday.  There were some races, especially on Saturday, where handle was down considerably that was in some circles directly attributed to the early start time for the Breeders’ Cup.

So what went wrong?

First, it was the fact either Breeders’ Cup Ltd. was being willfully ignorant of the fact many people were still at work when Friday’s BC races took place or not able to run the Breeders’ Cup races at night due to what was noted above, especially with the political situation being what it is.  Regardless, while Friday handle was solid at $52,000,000 or so, having the BC Races from 7:30-11:00 PM Eastern Time (with most likely a 5:30 PM first post), it likely would have been at least $10 Million higher if it had been at night, after work for most people, even if there would have been complaints from those older about the races running to 11:00 PM on the East Coast.  What many who complain fail to take into account is while some can take Friday off for the Breeders’ Cup events, especially after Labor Day, most can’t do that other than “Black Friday” (day after Thanksgiving) and maybe the Friday between Christmas and New Year’s (plus January 2 in years New Year’s Day is a Thursday).  This is especially true on Wall Street, and even more so when BC Friday also is the day the unemployment number for the previous month comes out.  That forces many on Wall Street to be at their desks all day for trading, especially at brokerage firms that deal with clients who are from outside the US that expect people at be at their desks during business hours and in many cases even during after-hours trading.

Second, having all the Breeders’ Cup Races on Saturday in the afternoon as proven this year and also in 2015 can have a major negative impact on handle.  The early start of the program at 10:45 AM and first BC Race at Noon Eastern Time is when many, especially those who are out at the clubs until 3:00-4:00 AM locally or later are either just getting up for the day or are still asleep, especially those who think nothing of blowing $500-1,000 a night at the clubs, particularly in New York (you can see this almost every Friday and Saturday night in particular).  Add to that Hong Kong likely unable to take any BC races because they occur in the overnight hours there and it is a recipe for a handle drop.  Several races, especially early saw handle drop in some cases sharply (including the BC Sprint, reportedly DOWN 18% year-to-year in spite of only having one less horse in it).

Third, and I seem to be one of the few with this opinion inside the sport, is something I have repeatedly noted in these posts: The fact we have a generation outside of those who actually care about the sport that has the mentality that any sport for it to be taken seriously by them must have their championship events at night, running to at least 11:00 PM on the east coast.  This mentality has been ingrained in most of them since birth, as going that late has mostly been the case with ALL of the “Big 4” sports in the US (Baseball, American Football, Basketball and Hockey) since 1991 starting every such championship game after 6:00 PM Eastern Time and except for the Super Bowl, usually after 7:00 PM ET and more often than not after 8:00 PM ET.   That is something many within the Sport of Kings refuse to acknowledge as well as refuse to acknowledge the changes in our society as a whole, where many consider the daytime hours to be mainly for work and doing certain other activities that can realistically only be done in the daytime while nighttime is for championship events. While in a perfect world, having the BC Races in the daytime is the way it should be, the reality is, we live in a much different society and playing under much different rules than when John Gaines first envisioned the Breeders’ Cup in 1982, which was conceived back when Horse Racing regularly had time slots for telecasts in the fall in the days when the NCAA had a monopoly on College Football broadcasts, often restricting teams to a handful of appearances each year.  The Supreme Court’s 1984 ruling that made that monopoly illegal is why we have seen Saturdays become wall-to-wall college football from Noon until after 2:00 AM Sunday morning in the east most weekends in the fall, something Mr. Gaines could never have envisioned back when the BC was first conceived.

The sheer number of games on TV have just since 2006 (when ESPN first televised the Breeders’ Cup) exploded to where college football is now the 600-pound junior gorilla of sports (while the NFL continues to be the 800-pound gorilla).  The sheer number of games being in the daytime also plays into why the World Series, an event many have for years been clamoring for to return to weekend day games still has Saturday games start after 8:00 PM Eastern Time.  Even opposite the football games noted previously in this,  the Breeders’ Cup still likely would have been NBC’s best shot at a decent television rating on Saturday night given how live sports is the only thing that has done well on Saturday night in recent years (as well as in this case, Friday for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), with the telecasts likely Friday on NBCSN from 7:30-10:00 PM ET and NBC from 10:00-11:00 PM ET and Saturday entirely on NBC from 4:30-11:00 PM Eastern Time.  That likely brings in many 18-49 who don’t care about college football (or football at all), likely giving the BC much more credibility as a championship event than it has now.

Will Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. learn its lesson this time?  This year, there were non-sports factors in play so it would not have mattered, nevertheless, this year showed why eventually the Breeders’ Cup either needs to be at night, or as I suggested in my last blog, going back to a single-day event that can be done as a 14-race marathon that splits BC day into two parts: Part One in the daytime featuring all of the two-year-old races plus the Dirt Mile, and the sprint and grass races for females with the first Breeders’ Cup Race at 1:10 PM and the Juvenile at 5:45 PM and Part Two at night following a break with the Turf Sprint, Sprint, Mile (Turf), Distaff, Turf and Classic, that portion starting at 7:10 PM with the final BC Race (the Classic) at 10:40 PM ET.  That to me would be a best-of-both worlds scenario: Giving traditionalists what they want in the daytime while the “championship portion” would be at night and to me might be the compromise to keep traditionalists happy while also demonstrating to Millennials that the sport is to be taken seriously with the championship portion at night.

Traditionalists can complain all they want about the prospect of a nighttime BC “running” the experience for them, but the problem is this sport needs to realize the next generation that will replace those who have (or will) pass(ed) away is NOT like earlier generations: They have repeatedly demonstrated over the past two decades they want things when they want them and in that regard are much more demanding than any previous generations have been in that regard.  To these generations, time of day has repeatedly proven to matter way more than most people realize, even if they don’t come out and actually that.  There is an old saying that actions speak louder than words, and their actions have repeatedly shown that BC Ltd. is NOT listening to the newer generations that think every championship event must be at night or the sport doesn’t hit their radars at all.

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How The Breeders’ Cup can return to being a single-day event in 2022

As (when this was written), this is the week of the Breeders’ Cup, there has once again been the usual musing that the entire Breeders’ Cup should be all in one day, especially on Twitter. While it does seem a bit unrealistic for some tracks to do so, especially if ANY track hosting the Breeders’ Cup was required to have lights would be easier to do as a day-into-night marathon that would not start early in the day and hamper wagering on the west coast.

If all 14 BC Races were in one day, here’s how I would do it with a 1:10 PM ET start (all times listed here are Eastern (New York) Time):
BC Juvenile Turf Sprint — 1:10 PM
BC Dirt Mile — 1:45 PM
BC Juvenile Fillies Turf — 2:25 PM
BC Juvenile Fillies — 3:05 PM
BC Juvenile Turf — 3:45 PM
BC Filly & Mare Sprint — 4:25 PM
BC Filly & Mare Turf — 5:05 PM
BC Juvenile — 5:50 PM
BC Turf Sprint — 7:10 PM
BC Sprint — 7:55 PM
BC Mile — 8:35 PM
BC Distaff — 9:10 PM
BC Turf — 9:55 PM
BC Classic — 10:40 PM

The lengthy gap between the Juvenile and Turf Sprint is for more time for Pick-Six wagering as well as a dinner break for people at the event and for NBC stations to air local and NBC news from 6:00-7:00 PM ET (if the entire BC is on NBC). It essentially makes the Juvenile and Filly and Mare Turf the features of the daytime portion of the BC with (other than the Turf Sprint) the main BC events otherwise in the nighttime portion.  BC could actually offer two pick-six wagers in this format, one during the daytime portion of the card and another on the six races at night (with a carryover to the night portion if no one hits the pick-six in the daytime portion).

This format would eliminate the Friday problem as many people have to work on Fridays while the BC races are going on while at the same time create a best-of-both-worlds scenario for the sport: The majority of the BC races in the daytime to appease traditionalists (hence the Juvenile races & Filly-Mare Turf all in the daytime) while the main BC races (plus the Turf Sprint) are in the nighttime (“championship”) portion, which appeases Millennials who have repeatedly proven with their actions (that speak louder than any words) that ALL Championship Events MUST be at night or such events don’t matter. That mentality stems from the fact that every single championship game in the “Big 4” Sports (pro and college) in the US (Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey) has been at night dating back to Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the last such contested in the afternoon in ANY of the “Big 4” in the US. It to me would be a compromise that appeases those who want the BC back to a single-day event like it once was while also giving the sport more credibility with the more casual fan who has had it ingrained in them that championship events are those only contested at night.

The earliest in all likelihood this could be tried is 2022 unless Del Mar (the 2021 hosts) agreed to install lights and host it as a single day event as in my view, the run-up to the 2020 Presidential Elections that in the eyes of many will start as soon as the Mid-Term elections have taken place this week, coupled with plans likely already in place for 2019-’21 will make it impossible to attempt before then. With many pining for a return to a one-day Breeders’ Cup, it may be time to seriously look at this.

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Time for NYRA to return the Coaching Club American Oaks to its former status of “America’s only Classic Race for fillies”

Memo to NYRA:

Why does the Test Stakes (being run the Saturday after this writing at Saratoga) at $500,000 carry a higher purse than the Coaching Club American Oaks at $300,000?  Yes, the latter this year did bring in the Oaks winner (Monomony Girl), but I once again think it’s time to do a MAJOR overhaul of the three year old filly stakes schedule that returns the CCA Oaks to its former status of America’s only Classic race for fillies by doing the following (NOTE: The Alabama is NOT changed in all of this):

  1. As noted in an earlier blog where I said it was possibly time to move the Belmont Stakes from Saturday to Sunday (a view that was overwhelmingly disliked, especially by traditionalists who don’t understand how the more casual fan sees things), I would move the CCA Oaks back to Belmont Park and return it to its former distance of 1 ½ Miles for the same $1.5 Million their male counterparts run for in The Belmont Stakes and if necessary have bonuses in place to encourage horsemen to run their top fillies in that race. I would also as noted in that earlier blog be working with Churchill Downs, Inc. and The Stronach Group to make the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and CCA Oaks an official Triple Tiara for Fillies with as part of it the other two legs also lengthened so the fillies run the same distances as their male counterparts.  From there, there would be a major overhaul of the three year old filly stakes schedule at NYRA, moving around numerous other stakes like this.
  2. The Acorn, presently on Belmont Stakes Day, could be moved either to March and become the first Grade 1 race of the year in New York, run on the same program as the Gotham OR be lengthened to 1 1/8 Miles and run on the same program as the Wood Memorial in April.
  3. The Mother Goose, presently run in late June where it currently is languishing, could also be moved to a March/April spot, presumably whichever is NOT occupied by the Acorn.
  4. The Gazelle, currently run on the Wood Memorial program in April, could be moved either to the CCA Oaks’s current spot on the opening Sunday of Saratoga OR returned to its former spot at the beginning of the Belmont Park fall meet in early September, possibly with the CCA Oaks not replaced on that opening weekend or being replaced by the Test, which USED to be the main prep for the Alabama (even at seven-eighths of a mile).
  5. The Test could be moved up to be the opening Sunday feature at Saratoga (and not replaced on Whitney Day). Back when the Saratoga meet was first expanded to 30 days in 1991, the Test was the feature the opening Saturday.

The idea would be in this format, the CCA Oaks is the feature the day before the Belmont Stakes.  If that had to be done on Friday (so the Belmont stayed on Saturday), perhaps that could be done where that card runs late and the CCA Oaks is the finale with such going off after 7:30 PM Eastern Time (since so many are against my earlier idea of moving The Belmont to Sunday).  An alternative would be to have the CCA Oaks the weekend after The Belmont Stakes, but there it would likely have to be on Sunday to avoid a conflict with the Stephen Foster at Churchill, which has occupied the Saturday after the Belmont slot as a major race for older horses for 20+ years.

As for how to get the $1.5 Million purse:

  1. There is no need for the Met Mile and Whitney to each carry a $1.2 Million purse. I would cut both to $1 Million and add that to the CCA Oaks purse.  Right there, that increases it to $700,000.
  2. Next is the Acorn. That can be cut to $500,000 to make the CCA Oaks purse $900,000.
  3. Then there is the Jim Dandy. There is no need for that to be a $600,000 purse, as NYRA likely gets the same field for that race whether it is worth $350,000 or $600,000 given the Haskell is the next day and those looking to go in the Jim Dandy are really looking for a race over the track for the Travers.  That brings the CCA Oaks to $1.15 Million.
  4. The remaining $350,000 to bring the CCA Oaks to $1.5 Million would come from cutting the Belmont Park Derby to $1 Million and Belmont Park Oaks to $850,000. Those races would get the same fields for those purses.

To me, this would be money better distributed into returning the CCA Oaks to its former prominence as the most important race in the sport for fillies and running it most likely the day before the Belmont Stakes and possibly making it the final leg of an official Triple Tiara with the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.  I suspect a CCA Oaks at 1 ½ Miles for $1.5 Million would be attractive to European trainers who have fillies who can run on dirt and need more ground than races in Europe often have for fillies.

This to me I think would long-term really help the sport to have a real “Test of The Champion” for fillies as well as an official Triple Tiara for fillies.  This likely would help in brining in casual fans who might see there is more to the sport than just the Triple Crown races.

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Should The 2020 Breeders’ Cup be on Thanksgiving Weekend?

While this time of the year will be mainly about Saratoga and Del Mar as it should be, the Breeders’ Cup this year is not too far away and it may not be too early of what to do with that BC.

While many know Frank Stronach wants Laurel to host a BC, would 2020 by the right year to do it there?  This has nothing to do with whether or not a track has lights to host the Breeders’ Cup, but a factor that even a couple of months ago when I wrote a blog slamming Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. for not making the 2018 BC at Churchill Downs a nighttime event myself and most others could never have considered: Politics, and not of the Horse Racing variety.

It may turn out BC Ltd. was right in going with a daytime BC at Churchill in 2018 when all signs should had pointed to this being the first Breeders’ Cup to be entirely at night for a variety of reasons, and that being the fact you do not want the first full nighttime Breeders’ Cup being overshadowed by what is going to turn out to be the most costly and most talked-about mid-term elections ever that take place the Tuesday after that BC.

When Churchill was awarded the 2018 BC, I felt it would be the first of several BCs in a row at Churchill for one reason: Lights that allow Churchill to race at night.  Given the potential for new handle from the Asia-Pacific region coupled with many Millennials (those born after 1980) conditioned to believe championship events MUST be at night to matter or they are not relevant, that is still long-term in my view the direction that is going to be needed to be taken with the Breeders’ Cup.  That is even more true if China gets into simulcasting the Breeders’ Cup down the road with all of their population and the fact Asians have repeatedly over a long period of time shown they will bet more than most in many situations (which might also mean the BC will have to run until Midnight Eastern Time so the BC Classic goes off in China around 11:30 AM the next day in Beijing for example).  Of course, at the time Churchill was awarded this year’s Breeders’ Cup, very few people other than those loyal could have realistically anticipated Donald Trump actually being elected President and all of the angst and political back-and-forths that have played out since then.  That has made this year’s mid-terms arguably the most important such ever, and it looks like this year’s Breeders’ Cup will suffer getting attention (regardless of whether or not Justify did try to end his career on a winning note in the Classic) not just because of sports that normally take place that weekend, but because of people being inundated with political ads and news in the days leading up to Election Day on November 6, three days after the BC.  This could easily include a massive amount of political time-buys on television that could pre-empt or delay a lot of programming on local TV stations then in a way that has never been seen before, making it much more difficult to have the BC in prime time this year because NBC affiliates will likely be among those in this situation.

This is where I’m thinking in 2020, we could be facing this very problem much worse, as it will be a Presidential election year with Donald Trump almost certainly looking to be re-elected and the Democrats going far more all-out than they did in 2016 and even more than just in this year’s mid-term Elections.  With so much at stake, we could see the 2020 Election overshadow almost everything else, especially in the days immediately preceding such an Election.  With that in mind, in my view Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. needs to take a serious look at giving the 2020 Breeders’ Cup to Del Mar with that BC taking place on Thanksgiving weekend, which in 2020 would be November 26-28, which would get it away from the Presidental Election.  With the BC in that scenario on Thanksgiving weekend, the Breeders’ Cup could be expanded from two days to three, with it very possibly having the entire BC on NBC that weekend in this matter:

Thursday (live everywhere 3:00-6:00 PM ET after the National Dog Show and Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade that also would air everywhere at the same time): BC Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Turf Sprint and Juvenile Fillies.

Friday (4:00-8:00 PM ET): BC Dirt Mile, Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint, Turf Sprint and Filly & Mare Turf.

Saturday (4:00-8:00 PM ET): BC Mile, Distaff, Sprint, Turf and Classic

This is the one weekend BC Ltd. can get away with the BC over three days (instead of two) and do it when almost everyone is off from work.  While obviously people in retail have to work “Black Friday,” for most people it’s late enough in the day where even if they do have to work, the BC events are after work and most outside of retail even if they do work on “Black Friday” only work a half-day at most.

There obviously would be some major ripple effects to the BC being pushed back 3-4 weeks, mainly it affects many tracks who have big events on Thanksgiving weekend as well as the international calendar, as it might force some major events in Asia (most notably the Japan Cup) to have to be moved up or pushed back.  That however, to me is minor as it would have the championship event on a weekend many are off to begin with and on arguably with Millennials the only weekend all year where having major events in the daytime is NOT a turnoff like it is with many of them otherwise.  A side benefit is many tracks that have been in recent years forced to bunch up their major events into “festivals” can now have such events more spread out and not all at the same time.  Woodbine would also be a major beneficiary of this because the Canadian International and E.P. Taylor suddenly once again become major prep races for the BC Turf and Filly & Mare Turf respectively for example because of their being contested in late October.

2020 may very well be the time to put the Breeders Cup on its latest date ever, and the first time since 1987 at Hollywood Park it would be contested in the second half of November (as well as the first time ever at Thanksgiving).  Doing so has it well enough after the Presidential Election where such will have died down and allow the BC to have more of the spotlight it otherwise would (along with virtually all other sports in the US) lose because of the 2020 Election probably being the most talked about ever.

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Time to Get Rid of Penalty Kicks In The World Cup? How It Can Be Done

Another World Cup, another elimination round with Penalty Kicks.

This was written shortly after Russia defeated Spain on Penalty Kicks after 120 minutes of play yielded a 1-1 tie.  While some love it, penalty kicks leaves a bitter taste in the eyes of many, especially US viewers FIFA and MLS covet and can be a turn-off for more casual sports fans in the US who want to see the game end on something other than something that otherwise is only used a handful of times if at all in a game.

While the NHL does conclude regular season games that go through an overtime period (of five minutes of three-on-three) in a similar manner with penalty shots, once the playoffs begin, playoff games go as long as needed until a goal is scored, whether its five seconds or five full overtime periods.  There is a reason real hockey fans note there is Hockey and then there is Playoff Hockey, which is a completely different animal.  The NFL, the 800-pound gorilla of sports in the US is no different.  While regular season games can end in a tie if tied after 10 minutes of overtime, in the playoffs, other than making sure each team gets one possession excluding when the team going first gets a touchdown, games go as long as needed until there is a score.  Same with Baseball, where in the US Major Leagues games go as many innings as necessary to determine a winner if tied after nine innings (in the Minor Leagues, seven innings if part of a doubleheader).  Few people really want to see games come down to something other than the normal playing of the game.

With that in mind, there is a way Soccer (Football outside North America) can adapt to what most US viewers want to see without it becoming too much of a danger if “The Beautiful Game” goes extremely long.  Here’s how I would do overtime in the World Cup as well as other major championships (CONCACAF, EURO, etc.):

The first overtime (30 Minutes, split into two, 15-minute halves) would play out as it does now with no “Golden Goal,” something that has in the past been used in the World Cup (“Golden Goal” was when such games ended in sudden death).  All current rules would remain in place.  It is after that which I would change, getting away from penalty kicks that can be a turnoff to more casual fans, especially in the US:

If after 120 minutes the score is tied, the game continues with 20-minute periods, ending when the “Golden Goal” is scored.  There would be a 15-minute intermission after each such 20-minute period that is necessary ends without a “Golden Goal.”  There would also be changes in the number of players on the fields and substitutions starting with a second overtime period, as follows:

2nd Overtime: If after 120 minutes the score is tied, the number of players on the field is reduced to 10-on-10 (though if a team was already playing with an 11-on-10 advantage due to red cards, the game would continue as such).  One additional substitution would be allowed at this point, and players who had previously come out of the game would be permitted to re-enter at this point, with any yellow and red card picked up after the 120th minute of a match applicable to that match ONLY and not applicable to any subsequent matches.  Any player(s) who had been suspended for the match due to red cards can enter the match at this point without penalty. Also, any player who comes out due to a reduction in players on the field can re-enter at any time without that counting against the substitution limits.

3rd Overtime: If after 140 minutes the score is tied, the number of players on the field is reduced to 9-on-9 (though if a team was already playing with an 11-on-9 or 10-on-9 advantage due to red cards, the game would continue as such).  Each team would be allowed two additional substitutions at this point along with any player removed due to player reduction allowed to re-enter without such counting against substitution limits.

4th Overtime: If after 160 minutes the score is tied, the number of players on the field is reduced to 8-on-8 (plus any advantages a side had due to red cards).  Each team would be allowed three additional substitutions at this point along with any player removed due to player reduction allowed to re-enter without such counting against substitution limits.

5th Overtime: If after 180 minutes the score is tied, the number of players on the field is reduced to 7-on-7 (plus any advantages a side had due to red cards).  Each team would be allowed four additional substitutions at this point along with any player removed due to player reduction allowed to re-enter without such counting against substitution limits.

6th Overtime and beyond: If after 200 minutes the score is tied, the number of players on the field is reduced to 6-on-6 (plus any advantages a side had due to red cards) and would remain such from this point going forward (though if a player is ejected due to a red card at this point or later, the substitution/player advantage would be dictated by how many players are actually on the field for each side at that point, with if it were 6-on-6 the other team allowed to add a player to make it 7-on-6 for example).  Each team would have unlimited substitutions at this point and able to bring players in freely until the “Golden Goal” is scored, with a break after each 20 minutes of play.

The reduction in players after each overtime would be designed to make it easier to score with fewer players on the field.  The additional substitution would also show how deep a team’s bench really is, as a team with a deeper bench would have a bigger advantage the longer a game goes.  This to me is the way World Cup games in particular should be decided.

 

 

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