Swartz on sports: The fix is in

Swartz on Sports, Gabe Swartz

Sports are awesome.

But they could easily be so much better. There are many different things each sport or league could do to enhance the games we love to watch. My completely and utterly un-biased opinion believes these are the best ideas around.

NCAA Football: Make the College Football Playoff 8 teams.

We’re two years into the new College Football Playoff system and I already want more. Four teams is great but eight would be amazing. As was the case in the first year of the system, two very deserving teams from the Big 12 conference- Baylor and Texas Christian- were left out of the playoff in favor of Ohio State. Although Ohio State went on to win the National Championship despite being the fourth and final team in the playoff, Baylor and TCU should have been presented the opportunity to prove themselves in an eight-team field.

Even this year, should a one-loss Louisville team led by their electrifying quarterback Lamar Jackson win out- with their only loss coming in a primetime loss on the road against a top-ranked team in Clemson- they would be deserving of a top eight ranking and a shot at a National Championship. However, because they play in the same conference division as Clemson, they won’t even be able to redeem themselves in their conference title game, despite being more deserving than any team in the other division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. If college football conferences did away with divisions and made the playoff eight teams the college football landscape would be better off.

Logistically, the first round with all eight teams could be played two weeks after the conference championship week on college campuses, with the 1-4 seeds hosting the 5-8 seeds. This would still provide a reward for teams to win their conferences rather than be the second team from their conference in and have to travel to a hostile environment to advance to the semifinals. From the semi-finals out, games would be played with the same major bowl rotations of the Cotton, Rose, Peach, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls hosting games with the two bowls not hosting the semi-finals either hosting a bowl game between the next best teams left out of the playoff, or hosting the national championship and going through a rotation each year.

Major League Baseball (MLB): Eliminate warm-up pitches during pitching changes.  

No other sports allows players to warm-up on the sidelines for an extended period of time and then come into the game and take more warm-ups while the rest of the players watch them. This has got to change. Just last week, as I watched the Game 4 of the NLDS between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, the Cubs trailed 5-2 heading into the 9th inning. The San Francisco Giants proceeded to use five pitchers to face seven batters total in the inning. That included using four different pitchers to face the first four batters of the inning. With a revolving door on the pitching mound for the Giants the inning took much longer than it needs to. While the hardcore baseball fan might enjoy the strategic managerial chess match that comes from these pitching changes and the length of the game that ensues as a result of it, most fans don’t. Taking warm-up pitches out of pitching changes will speed up the game and still allow for managers to wheel and deal in late-game situations. If the MLB cares enough about pace of play, changing this common practice in baseball would save so much time.

National Football League (NFL): Put every game on national television.

The biggest issue with the NFL are not any of the actual game playing rules, it is the ability of fans to watch the games. It’s 2016. Advancements in technology make it inexcusable for fans to be restricted to watching games based on the region of the country in which they live in. College football is a perfect example of this. If college football broadcasts were restricted to regional coverage, I wouldn’t have any interest in watching with the current state of Kansas football.

We know the NFL loves itself some money. If the NFL were to broadcast all games for all to see, the potential for an increase in the value of the NFL TV deal would only go up. This is an absolute no-brainer for everyone involved. The NFL gets more money and fans get to watch the games they want to. With fans having players from all 32 teams on their personal fantasy teams, bad games would still be watched. If someone on my fantasy team is playing, I don’t care if they play for a team that is 2-10 or 10-2, I’ll watch the game to see how they do. Period.

P.S. While we’re at it, let’s loosen up the unsportsmanlike conduct flags for excessive celebration. There are way too many other rules to worry about than how a guy celebrates when he scores a touchdown.

National Basketball Association (NBA): Allow players to enter the NBA draft out of high school. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James. Three all-time great players in NBA history. Amazingly, none of the three of them played a single minute of collegiate basketball, erasing the myth that allowing NBA players to come straight from high school would poison the league. This isn’t an NCAA issue. The NCAA doesn’t set precedent for what age guys can play professionally, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement does. It’s a simple matter that the NBA wants to be able to use college basketball as a free minor league scouting system. I’d be the first person to say I really like seeing guys like Andrew Wiggins or Josh Jackson bring their talents to KU, but with that being said I think the opportunity to head to the NBA should always be on the table for them.

The naysayers will present the counterargument that with the option to go to the NBA every top collegiate recruit will choose the NBA. That’s just not true. With the NCAA allowing players to attend the NBA Draft Combine and then return to school if they don’t like where they are projected to be drafted, high schoolers would be less inclined to make poorly informed decisions than before.

Whether or not these rules are ever put into place, the thought behind it and moving things forward is an important step in making things better anywhere. We’ve seen with new rule changes for better or worse how things like the dress code or Husky Halftime affect BVNW for better or worse. I’d like to believe sports would be a better place if my changes were amended.