The regular season has ended, conference champions have been crowned, the bowl pairings have been announced, and now we wait. And wait. And wait.

This year, the BCS sputtered to a halt and everybody knows it. Never before has the need for a Division I college football playoff system been more obvious. So with that in mind, I offer the following fix for a broken post season: a 16-team playoff.

Every major college (as well as prep and pro) sport has a playoff, except D-1 football. There are two reasons — tradition and money. Under my proposed system, you don’t have to exclude those two towering influences.

First things first. Throw out the coaches’ poll. Coaches have vested interests in promoting their teams, especially at the end of the season. Therefore that poll is not objective. Coaches use their votes for other sketchy reasons as well; Bobby Bowden voted Missouri ahead of OU in the final poll, although OU beat Missouri twice. Hmmm. Get rid of it.

Keep the Associated Press Poll. The AP is a respectable organization and has been for a long, long time. You may not agree with sportswriters, but I guarantee you they have — as a group — a much more objective eye toward the game, as well as a healthy respect for it.

Use a simple mathematical strength of schedule formula. In other words, a win over a team with a winning record is more valuable than a win over a team with a losing record. This is a very telling component, just ask Kansas. A side benefit: no more cream puffs on the non-conference schedule.

Drop the preseason rankings. Who knows at that point who is No. 1, and who cares? It means nothing. Unveil the simplified rankings (a combination of AP and strength of schedule) in the middle of the season, after teams have had a chance to prove where they are and where they are headed.

And before I go any farther, perish the thought that the regular season is the playoff. That’s rubbish. There is no way to test supremacy during the brief non-conference schedule. The only way to settle it is to meet head-to-head with everything on the line.

There are 11 D-1 conferences. And yes, some are stronger than others. Regardless, give each conference champion an automatic bid to the post season. This ensures that conference rivalries remain extremely important and it protects traditions. It also underscores the importance of winning your conference, a feat the BCS almost mocks.

That leaves five spots up for grabs in the post season. Give those to the highest ranking teams that did not win their conference championships. This year, for example, Georgia would claim one of those spots, as would Arizona State. This is also an opportunity for independent schools (read: Notre Dame) to participate.

Then you seed the 16 teams based on the aforementioned ranking formula. This ensures that every game is meaningful throughout the year. To reiterate, this system promotes a more challenging (and interesting) non-conference schedule and makes winning the conference of paramount importance.

Here’s a hypothetical. Troy wins the Sun Belt conference championship, but because of strength of schedule lands at the 16 seed. But then Troy wins four straight, defeating every team it faces in the post season (starting with the 1 seed). You want to tell me Troy doesn’t deserve to be crowned National Champion?

If a Troy can win a National Championship under this system, so can any other team. The opportunity will be open to many more D-1 schools, just like it is in March Madness. Troy wins, and maybe there is a shake-up in recruiting. Maybe kids don’t have to go to LSU if they dream of playing for a national title.

As for money, use the current (but pared down) lineup of corporate-sponsored bowls as neutral playoff sites. Advertising revenue will skyrocket because viewership will skyrocket. That’s because a playoff is exciting. Advance or go home, that’s the draw. Another side benefit: eliminate the meaningless bowl games featuring .500 teams.

Which leads me to my next point. Under the current system, a D-1 school can field a mediocre team and still enjoy a payday thanks to conference tie-ins with sponsorships and broadcasting rights. Here’s where college presidents corrupt the current system.

I’m not implying that schools don’t try to win. As coaches and athletes, they are natural competitors. But if enjoying the financial fruits of the D-1 post season (under my proposed system) means schools have to improve — level of play, facilities, coaching staffs, recruiting — is that a bad thing? Not for the fans, who ultimately pay for the lion’s share of the sport to begin with.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no December lull. The playoffs start a week or two weeks after conference championships are decided and continue through the national title game. I guarantee it would be a post season on par with March Madness. As a football fan, I would dare to say it would be better.

There are a few details that would have to be worked out, such as finals week for the student-athletes. And my system doesn’t solve the disparity in how conference championships are decided (all conferences should either play or not play a title game).

The point is the National Championship would no longer be mythical. No more guessing games. No more BCS nonsense. It would be decided between the lines. The better teams will advance. The weaker teams will not. The challenge would be made clear. Show me an athlete, coach, or fan who could object to that.

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