It was January 1st, 1990. The 80s were over, and as the final seconds ticked down, Miami's coach Dennis Erickson could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Despite a late charge by the Crimson Tide, the Hurricanes would secure their 11th win of the season and most likely, the National Championship for the third time that decade. While it wasn't absolutely cut and dry, Miami had done what was asked of them and their only blemish was to a Florida State team that opened the season with two losses - ghastly games against Southern Miss and Clemson. In fact, the only team within real shouting distance of the Hurricanes was Notre Dame, but two months prior to the Sugar Bowl, Miami had taken care of the Fighting Irish in the friendly confines of the Orange Bowl with a resounding 27-10 victory. It would take a lot of unreasonable reasoning to deny the Hurricanes their championship.
And so it was. No Bowl Coalition, no Bowl Alliance, no BCS, no computers at all, and certainly no CFP. No, this was the peak season of the beauty of voters. One recognized National Championship from the AP and one from the Coaches. Miami received both, and despite their being legitimate claims for a split from the camps at Notre Dame and Florida State, the Hurricanes could hang a banner, put up a trophy, and claim their rightful spot as the team of the decade. The question was - and still is - was this the right way to do things? In a game weighted on accomplishments, leaving it all out there, and other arrays of cliched conversations, was this the best way to do things? In the next few years, that question would become the centerpiece of Business in College Football, and brings us to why I'm writing about it all today.
With that, we start on a journey through twenty-four, and what will be the twenty-fifth, season that has led to the College Football Playoff. As a Nebraska fan, you can imagine that I have had my fair share of good fortune in light of the various systems, but putting that aside for a moment, I find it absolutely necessary to point out that this is less about which system is specifically right and more about how our quest to, "Crown a King," per say often distorts our view of what is going on around us.
Our first post will start with the Road to a Coalition and look at some of the factors that moved us towards one of the first iterations of a broken system. The next piece will spend time on the failed attempts to gain a consensus in what solutions should come next and will look at the B1G/Pac 10 divide from the rest of the major players. From there we will look at the 1997 season, which would prove to be a major turning point in the reshaping of Modern College Football and also would usher in the rise of the Sun Belt states. Finally, we'll examine the BCS, rise of Conference Expansion, and Big Business over Academic Pursuits. When we're finished, we will see that the road we traveled on wasn't paved with gold, but rather with the intensity of fans and their collective goal to be right. Of course, we will also find out that that path has a few puppet masters making more than a few pennies along the way. It's a story of growth and access and passion, and it's one that's worth telling.
And so, tomorrow I will begin with Part One of Four in this series. If you have questions or comments on where I'm missing out, please join in the conversation. Also, as a point of reference, I'm going back to the 90s because while there have always been clamoring for defined National Champions, the 1990s really is where the idea picked up steam. If anyone finds themselves interested in other split championships and what they did to the landscape of football, hit me up via E-mail (it's in my profile) and we can chat. Or, feel free to put up a fanpost. Thanks for following along!