Shane: Football less forgiving than basketball

‘March Madness’ mild compared to football’s ‘Total Insanity’

By Shane from Centerpoint
The “real” college basketball season doesn’t begin until March. That’s when the tournament begins. Prior to the “Big Dance”, teams spend about three months trying to earn a spot in the final field of sixty-four. As long as a team plays a respectable schedule that contains three or four quality non-conference opponents and produces a decent conference record, they could lose ten games and still be eligible to compete for the national championship. That is “easy street” compared to the extreme pressure football programs are subjected to, beginning with the opening game. The B.C.S. formula doesn’t allow a football team to lose more than one game (if that). Staying undefeated is the only way a team has any shot at locking down a spot in the championship game. Even after that nothing is guaranteed. If basketball in March is “Madness”, then the entire college football season has to be “Total Insanity”.

Fans love a playoff system. So do coaches and players. In fact, almost every team sport has a structure in place to allow competing teams some leeway to improve as the season progresses. While a few losses might not ruin a college basketball teams chance to finish on top, college football is absolutely unforgiving. Two regular season losses will effectively destroy a football programs goal of being the national champion.

I know that the NCAA tournament is based on a “one-and-done” principle. However, that pressure is centered on a very short two or three-week period. College football stretches that “frantic-zone” out over a three or four-month time frame.

I also know that basketball teams must win five consecutive games, facing the best of the rest, in the highly charged atmosphere of national TV.

College football coaches can only imagine what it would be like to win their division and earn a spot in the playoff. Instead they live under the gun for thirteen weeks (many more if they make it to a Bowl). The intensity required to win every game has a much longer duration when comparing football to basketball.

A college basketball coach has more than one opportunity to make mistakes and also has the luxury of knowing that he has multiple chances to correct errors and right the ship.

Want a great example? A major basketball program can simply win it’s conference tournament – no matter what their record may be – and it will guarantee them a spot in the sixty-four team pool, with a fair shot to win the national crown. I know the scenario above is not likely, but it’s possible.

On the other hand, a football team can lose its first two games and their ticket to the national championship game is cancelled. You can write that in stone.

One early loss to a quality opponent can be overcome, but that team is going to live on “pins and needles” for the entire season, knowing that their fate is based on the hope that other teams will fail at least once too. The process can be nerve-racking at best. Don’t believe me? Just ask any college football fan base. Many have endured the test and few could say they enjoyed the experience.

My point today is not designed to slam college basketball, and I’m not making a claim that football is better because I realize that both systems are legitimate. However, I am saying that basketball is a more forgiving sport. It doesn’t require the same level of perfection, as football, and the sense of urgency is lessened because a few losses will not always ruin the chance to win a title.

So next time you call the NCAA college basketball tournament “March Madness”, remember when next September rolls around that “Total Insanity” is about to begin.