I propose Cal participates and/or organizes an Out Of Conference tournament each year. The goal is to generate a spectacle that will attract a national college football audience. The need for greater national exposure is widely known. For the debate at hand I consider Top-tier teams as having a long history of winning football and the idea that marquee OOC cross sectional games generate the most hype, exposure, and to the victor, credibility. Currently, I view Cal as a second-tier program, their problem with scheduling marquee OOC opponents is finding a top-tier opponent. I believe that the risk/reward ratio for top-tier teams does not motivate these teams to play second-tier football programs. The lack of direct competition between the first and second tier teams also contributes to the maintaining of the status quo, in that, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle preventing second-tier teams from becoming a top level team. Second-tier teams fail to receive national exposure, which hinders the school’s standing in the poll, which impacts their ability to land bigger and better bowls, as well as better recruits. Without the national exposure, Cal will not receive better bowls. Without better bowls Cal will not land better recruits, which in turn impacts the level of play on the field.
*My classification for top-tier and second-tier teams can be found at the end of this post
Since top-tier teams are reluctant to play second-tier teams I propose the second-tier teams organize an Out Of Conference tournament each year. The tournament would consist of 3 second-tier teams from 3 separate BCS conferences spread throughout the country. The tournament would be sponsored and the winner awarded The Denslow Cup (or whatever the sponsor is). Each of the 3 participating schools plays one home game and one away game, ensuring each team will receive one big ticket home game each year, and relative fairness in the scheduling is achieved. The team with the best record wins the Denslow Cup, if all the teams are 1-1 (which is highly possible) the winner would be determined by point differential. The games would be played over three consecutive weekends.
To achieve maximum national exposure, the 3 participating teams would be second-tier teams from 3 BCS conferences spread throughout the country. Ideally, Cal would represent the Pac-10 and the western United States. The other two participants would originate from the Great Lakes/Northeast (Big-10/Big East) and the former Confederate states (Big-12 South, SEC, and ACC). This composition would hopefully engage audiences throughout the college football world for three consecutive weekends in September. Furthermore, the regional representation prevents arguments that a participating team failed to accomplish anything by winning the Denslow Cup, since a team from their region would have been defeated.
A Mock Schedule
For speculation let’s choose Boston College and Georgia to accompany Cal in this tournament, a mock schedule would be: week 1 – Cal at BC, week 2 - BC at Georgia, week 3 – Georgia at Cal. The Denslow Cup would then be presented to the victorious schools at their next home game, extending coverage and reminding the nation of the victor for another week.
The Big Idea
Although the tournament games may still be trumped by another marquee OOC game (for example, USC-Ohio St.) the schools involved will be in the national conscientiousness for three consecutive weekends. Also, the regional audience of the team not playing will still have interest since the end result does impact their team. For example, Georgia fans (and the SEC) would have interest when Cal plays BC, we (and the Pac-10) would be interested in the BC-Georgia game as the end result directly impacts our chances at the Denslow Cup. Furthermore, at the end of the season, perception does play a significant role in determining whether or not we play in a bowl game. Claiming we competed in the Denslow Cup or better yet, won the Denslow Cup provides greater credibility to our claim of greatness. I would assume the cup would be recognized nationally entitling us to a stronger talking point. I don’t believe we have the ability to follow the A + B + C model that Ted Miller suggests, therefore we should follow a B+ + B+ + C model, my tournament idea allows for this, while increasing national exposure. Also, it would hopefully land increased revenues through sponsorship, and if the same teams participate a non-conference rivalry game to impassion the fanbase. Furthermore, I hope the OOC Tournament can become a tool to transcend the tradional college football heirarchies and establish themselves as an elite top-tier team.
I understand that the most likely outcome is all the teams finishing 1-1, therefore determining a winner based on point differential is a bit anti-climatic. I thought of adding a fourth team, but I feel that having three second-tier teams scheduled, would be too difficult for the participants. Playing 3 second-tier teams would result in too many OOC records with two losses, one loss is forgivable, but two prior to conference play will kill a team’s hopes of a good season. Plus, it would result in an insanely difficult schedule. I also thought of evolving the idea into a pre-season playoff, but determined the second game would be a logistical nightmare.
Top-tier teams: Top-tier teams have a long history of winning. They consist of schools that are a National Title contender entering November, 3 out of every 4 years. They either win or come within a game of their conference title every year. 10 win seasons aren’t special, and a down year is considered winning 9 games. Teams fitting this profile are: USC, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio St. Michigan, LSU, Alabama, and Virginia Tech (sort of). Another key characteristic that differentiates a top-tier team from a second-tier team is the roll of the national media. If during a prolonged down period they string together a series of victories and the media subsequently deems them ‘back’ and begin to consistently overrate them, or if the national media provides in depth coverage regarding the team in spite of that team’s play dropping off severely over the past few years, and that team no longer being a relevant national title contender nor a perpetual conference contender, I still consider them a top-tier team. Teams fitting this profile are: Penn St. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Florida St, Miami and Tennessee (Michigan also would work here).
Second-Tier Teams: Second-tier teams from the BCS conferences are the perennial conference challengers. They challenge for the National Title game once every four years, and perpetually challenge for the conference title, but generally fall a game or 2 short. They average around 9 wins a season with an occasional uptick to 10 wins, and downturn to 6 or 7 wins. Second-tier teams also are comprised of the top-level teams from non-BCS conferences. These are consistently among the teams considered for a non-bcs at-large bid, and it is a surprise when they don’t win their conference. Like the other second-tier teams they are a regional power, and are consistently ranked in the back half of the top 25 rankings. Second-tier teams would be: Cal, Oregon, Oregon St., Pitt, Auburn, Georgia, Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Boston College, Utah, BYU, Colorado, Boise St, and TCU. A year ago I would have included West Virginia in the top-tier, but without richrod and because the Big East is weak, I demoted them. The following schools I feel have potential to be a second-tier team, but need another season or two of winning at their current pace to become legit second-tier teams: Cincinatti, Rutgers, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma St. USF.