Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Do not give rabbits as Easter gifts

It's been over ten years since I wrote this article. And I stand by it, even though I still get hate mail from rabbit lovers. So with Easter approaching, imagine how happy I am to see this picture making the rounds on Facebook:
Look: I don't hate rabbits. I enjoy watching the eastern cottontails that pass through my yard. I just don't think they make good pets. They require a lot of attention and care. They are not cuddly or friendly; in fact, they're rather aggressive. They can be destructive. And they most certainly should not be given (especially to children) as Easter gifts.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The legacy of Mack Rhoades

Last week, it was announced that University of Houston Athletics Director Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Mack Rhoades would be leaving next month, to take the same job at the University of Missouri. Rhoades' biggest accomplishment while at UH was, without a doubt,  the construction of the university's new on-campus stadium; in fact, he was hired in 2009 precisely for that purpose. Work on a new practice facility for basketball is underway as well.

The Chronicle's Jerome Solomon believes that Rhoades made things better at UH during his time here. "If the only thing Rhoades accomplished during his tenure was getting the funding for the building of TDECU Stadium, his tenure would be considered a success." Solomon writes. He sees the Rhoades era as a positive one for UH Cougar athletics, even if there were some missteps along the way:
Rhoades came in as a young gun, a sharp administrator, a fundraiser, with a lot to prove.

It is arguable that under his leadership, UH has made the most significant financial commitment to athletics in the school's history.

While he made mistakes along the way, Rhoades has lifted UH.

The Tony Levine hire as football coach proved to be a head-scratcher in reality as it did on paper, and James Dickey didn't pan out as men's basketball coach.

But Rhoades quickly had impressive rebound hires in Tom Herman and Kelvin Sampson.

UH's next athletic director will thank Rhoades for a more solid ground on which to stand than an incoming UH AD has in some time.

That deserves applause.
The Houston Press's John Royal, however, is more circumspect:
The Mack Rhoades era at UH lasted five years. But his tenure leaves an open book that will not allow his work to be judged for several more years. He inherited a football team teetering on the edge of national relevance, a basketball team barely hanging onto relevance, two deteriorating stadiums, and a second-tier conference affiliation mainly consisting of teams with no historical ties to Houston or to Texas. 

As Rhoades departs, UH is still very much a work in progress. A football stadium has been built, but Hofheinz is barely holding together. The football team survived a disastrous coaching hire, but still teeters on the brink of national relevance while the basketball team was nearly killed by a disastrous coaching hire. And the school's still affiliated with a second-tier conference with almost no historical ties to UH or to Texas.

Rhoades deserves as much credit as possible for getting TDECU built. He worked tirelessly to get the needed funds, discovering along the way that UH alums talk big games, but often fail to back the talk up with checks made payable to the athletic department (it took the UH students agreeing to add on to their already onerous student fees to help get the thing built). But for all of the good done on the stadium, Rhoades blew it with the hiring of Tony Levine to replace Kevin Sumlin when Sumlin split for Texas A&M.
Royal points to the TDECU Stadium opener last August - a once-in-a-lifetime event, and perhaps the most anticipated event in the history of Cougar football - that was marred by a humiliating, momentum-killing 7-27 loss to double-digit-underdog UTSA: a loss that was the result of Rhoades' decision to promote woefully-underqualified assistant Tony Levine to head coach after Kevin Sumlin left. Or, as a friend of mine put it: "TDECU is the reason why we hired Rhoades. And the first game in TDECU is the reason why we should shed no tears about him leaving."

If Rhoades' decision to hire Tony Levine was a poor one, and his decision to give Levine a raise and contract extension right before the 2014 season an even poorer one, his decision to hire James Dickey to be head basketball coach - a hire I called a "bad April Fool's joke" at the time - bordered on utter incompetence. One of my concerns about Mack Rhoades when he was hired was that he had little experience in hiring coaches, and that concern was justified. Royal continues:
While the momentum of the Sumlin-era football team was stalled by Levine, whatever momentum was generated by Penders was jettisoned by Dickey. The squad was hit by player defections, dispirited play, and struggles against both vastly inferior competition and superior competition. Yet it could have been worse for basketball. The rumors are that Rhoades wanted to hire Billy Gillispie but that his choice was vetoed. Gillispie who had been fired after only two years as head coach of the college basketball factory known as Kentucky, instead ended up at Texas Tech after the UH job fell through, and he flamed out in spectacular style, being hit by allegations of abusing and mistreating his players. 

Rhoades appears to have righted the football and basketball ships by hiring the highly sought-after Tom Herman to coach football and by bringing on Kelvin Sampson, a former Rockets assistant coach who was highly successful as the head coach at Oklahoma and Indiana, to rescue the basketball team. But as Rhoades departs, it's still soon to say for sure that the two sports (the most important in the NCAA sports hierarchy) will recover from the disaster that was inflicted on them by the men Rhoades initially hired to be head coach.
As hopeful as I am about Tom Herman, he hasn't coached a single game yet, so it's still a bit early to call that hire a success (if indeed Rhoades had that much to do with that hire; rumors are swirling that the hire was a decision made above his head). And the UH mens basketball team just finished their season with a 13-19 record, so Kelvin Sampson has a long way to go before the program becomes competitive again. Hopefully Sampson can right the ship with his recruiting efforts; right now there is no local interest in Cougar basketball, and there won't be any until the team becomes competitive again. There's also the issue of basketball facilities, which Rhoades did not fully address while he was here:
And while Rhoades got TDECU Stadium built, Hofheinz Pavilion has continued to deteriorate. There's still no plan to replace or renovate the arena, and there's supposedly not much money available for use on the replacing/renovating. The place is a dump, and even if the team was good, it's difficult to imagine any but the most hard core fans wanting to come out to the games.
It's worth noting that TDECU Stadium is over budget and still not even 100% complete, but it's not clear if Rhoades bears any responsibility for that. What is clear is that Rhoades experienced friction with other University of Houston administrators, in particular Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Carl Carlucci, regarding the construction and operation of the stadium, which doubtlessly made Rhoades' decision to move on an easy one.

The bottom line, according to Royal:
It'll probably be a few more years until the full legacy of Mack Rhoades at UH can be evaluated. If Tom Herman turns UH into a Texas version of Ohio State, and if Kelvin Sampson can rebuild basketball, then the Rhoades era will be an unqualified success. Baseball and the smaller sports are in really good shape, there has been tremendous academic growth from the athletes, and then there's TDECU Stadium. So at least things are looking up for the Houston Cougars. 
A lot, of course, will depend on who the University of Houston hires to be its next athletics director. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A step closer to flights to Mexico from Hobby

A regulatory hurdle cleared:
Southwest Airlines has won U.S. approval to fly from Houston to Mexico City and San Jose del Cabo.

Southwest plans to operate the flights beginning in October from a new international terminal being built at Houston's Hobby Airport.

The number of flights between the U.S. and Mexico is limited by treaty, but the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated Tuesday that both countries agreed to allow additional airlines to fly across the border.
Southwest has also filed with US and Mexican authorities for approval to fly from Hobby to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. It has also requested approval for flights from Hobby to San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize. No word on when those approvals will be granted, or what other international destinations Southwest might serve from Hobby in the future.

That being said, international flights to Hobby are now a reality: one week ago, the airport welcomed its first international flight since the 1960s, a Southwest 737 from the Caribbean island of Aruba. The international terminal at Hobby is not set to be complete until later this year, but (as I noted in a previous post) the presence of a US Customs preclearance facility at Aruba's Queen Beatrix airport allows this particular flight to be handled as a domestic arrival.

What will be interesting to see is if any airlines other than Southwest avail themselves to Hobby's international facilities. Several low-cost Mexican airlines -Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris - either have or will soon start service from Mexico to Bush Intercontinental. At that airport they face competitition with United's extensive Latin American network, as well as all the Latin American services that cattle carrier Spirit is adding from IAH. Given that Hobby is close to the Hispanic neighborhoods of the East End and Pasadena, would some of these airlines consider flying from that airport instead? Would an airline be willing to step into the void and fly from Hobby to Latin American cities that United has abandoned, like Mazatlán or Guayaquil?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Should Daylight Saving Time be year-round?

Last weekend, Daylight Saving Time (DST) began and we collectively engaged in our annual springtime tradition of setting our clocks forward one hour. Joseph Stromberg suggests that we should leave them that way:
Looking at the lobbying groups in favor of DST, however, hints at the real benefit. DST means that people who work a standard day shift (and kids who go to school during the day) get more daylight after work. Manufacturers like this because we tend to engage in leisure activities, take short trips, and buy things after work — but not before — so a longer DST slightly increases sales.

For the same reason, a year-round DST would also be nice for anyone who works inside and simply likes to occasionally see the sun during the short days of winter. It'd mean getting up when it's a bit darker out in exchange for an extra hour of light after work. In Washington, DC, for instance, sunsets in the dead of winter would be at roughly 6 pm, instead of 5, and sunrises would be at 8:30 am instead of 7:30.

The extra hour of morning darkness would be a sacrifice. But the extra hour of evening light would be a bigger benefit to all of us for the same reason that manufacturers like it: we're much less likely to spend it inside, where we have artificial light either way.

Evidence can be found in the fact that primetime TV ratings sink noticeably whenever DST goes into effect, and in a recent study that showed children get more exercise on days with later sunsets, regardless of weather or school hours. This is why most people are looking forward to turning their clocks forward this weekend — they'd prefer to have sunlight after work, rather than before, especially during the shrinking days of winter.

Research also hints at a number of unrelated benefits of DST. For instance, one study found that rates of outdoor robberies declined significantly when DST was extended, after controlling for unrelated factors. The researchers' hypothesis is that some crimes are more easily carried out during dark, and fewer people are going about their evening routines in the dark when DST is in effect.

Similarly, there's evidence that a year-long DST might reduce traffic-related deaths, especially for pedestrians. On the whole, daylight saving means that more travel occurs during daylight, when it's easier to see pedestrians, which is why researchers calculate that full-time DST could save a few hundred lives annually.
I've written about this before, and I completely agree. I enjoy that extra hour of daylight in the summer, I hate having to drive home in the dark in the winter, and so I'd just as soon eliminate standard time completely. We are only in "standard time" for four months out of the year as it is, and the constant switch back and forth is disruptive. So let's just have year-round DST.

I'm not the only person who feels this way:
A Denver fitness instructor, Sean Johnson, last week launched a campaign called Save the Daylight Colorado. Johnson aims to put a measure seeking to abolish clock changes in the state on the ballot at the November 2016 elections.

“I’m a personal trainer and people were telling me they feel drained of energy during the winter and then when the clocks go forward it takes them a month to get used to the new schedule and they hate that,” he told the Guardian. “There are many reasons not to keep switching.”

Johnson cited research presented last year by a cardiovascular expert, Dr Amneet Sandhu, who is a fellow at the University of Colorado, Denver. Sandhu’s research suggests that hospitals see an increase of up to 25% in the number of patients suffering heart attacks shortly after the clocks go forward in the spring.

Loss of sleep resulting from the mandated time change in the early hours of Sunday morning affects the circadian rhythm and can be risky for those already vulnerable to a heart attack, according to Sandhu.
There are apparently also studies showing that car accidents spike and worker productivity plummets immediately following the weekends we spring forward and fall back.
Johnson said he liked summer time – just not the idea of having to put the clocks forward to achieve it. He wants Daylight Saving Time all year round.

Idaho last week withdrew legislation that proposed doing just that, citing federal law that it interpreted as allowing for standard time all year round or switching back and forth, but not 365 days of Daylight Saving Time.

Johnson, however, said he believed the law was ambiguous and if he could gather approximately 100,000 signatures to put his initiative on the ballot, and then have enough people vote for it, Colorado could become the first state to be ahead of time all the time. New Mexico is considering legislation to switch to Daylight Saving Time year round, while a proposal to impose standard time year round in Washington state is being considered. A proposal to do so in Utah was recently defeated.
Apparently there's a bill before the Texas Legislature to do away with the time change as well. It will be interesting to see if any of these initiatives go anywhere, and I'm sure the business interests who benefit from the time change will have something to say about them.

For what it's worth, let this post be a vote for year-round DST. Now that we've sprung forward, let's never fall back again!

A couple of years ago Allison Schrager at The Atlantic suggested that the United States do away with Daylight Saving Time by consolidating into two, rather than four, time zones. Michael O. Church's defense for keeping things the way they are is worth a read as well.

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's still winter, but my tomato plants didn't get the memo

My little gardens have been producing throughout the winter. This was yesterday's harvest:

It really is amazing, considering that, other than some minor weeding and pruning, I really haven't tended to the gardens in several months. But the tomato plants weren't killed by any freezes (can't say the same for the basil, though...), and I guess the otherwise mild winter, along with the rain, have caused them to bear copious amounts of fruit.

I can't complain.

2015 UH Football schedule released

Last week, the 2015 University of Houston Cougar football schedule was released:

     Sat Sep 05     Tennessee Tech
     Sat Sep 12     at Louisville
     Sat Sep 19     off
     Sat Sep 26     Texas State
     Sat Oct 03     at Tulsa
     Thu Oct 08   SMU
     Fri Oct 16     at Tulane
     Sat Oct 24     at UCF
     Sat Oct 31     Vanderbilt
     Sat Nov 07    Cincinnati
     Sat Nov 14    Memphis
     Sat Nov 21    at UConn
     Fri Nov 27    Navy

Kickoff times have yet to be announced, but the Thursday home game against SMU and the Friday game at Tulane's new stadium will obviously be evening kickoffs for ESPN or ESPN2.

There's a lot to like here, especially when compared to the previous season's schedule. There are two schools from "Power Five" conferences on the slate, including a Halloween matchup against Vanderbilt. There's the revenge game against Texas State in late September, and a Black Friday matchup against Navy which ought to be interesting. There's only one set of back-to-back road games and a three-game homestand towards the end of the season. The only thing I don't like is the bye week, as it comes so early in the season. But all in all, this is a decent schedule.

How will the Coogs do against this slate? I honestly have no idea; I have high hopes for new head coach Tom Herman and his staff, but Houston lost a lot of talent off of last year's team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Some of these games: Louisville and Central Florida on the road; Vandy, Cincinnati and Memphis at home - are going to be very physical and tough. And let us not forget that Texas State and Tulane beat the Coogs last time they played.

This isn't to say that the Coogs won't have a winning season this fall, but Herman and his staff definitely have their work cut out for them between now and September.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Hell of unrequited love

Today, the 2015 edition of my least favorite holiday, I find myself between girlfriends, and pondering all the the things I dislike about love and relationships. The worst is unrequited love. As Elizabeth Shore explains, it is absolute Hell:
There’s a curious thing about unrequited love that I’ve never really understood. Why in the world is it considered so romantic? Untold poems and novels have been written about it, countless movies have made us shed sympathetic tears. But if you think about it, the admirer, the one whose heart is filled with love for another who doesn’t feel the same, is in a f**k ton of pain. Deep, intense, debilitating pain. The kind that robs you of the ability to sleep, or eat, or sometimes even breathe. Anyone who’s suffered the hell of a broken heart can sympathize. So again I wonder, why for time immemorial has unrequited love been considered romantic?
It's not noble or romantic or otherwise desirable to continue to be in love with somebody you cannot be with. In fact, it is pathetic, stupid and illogical. Part of the Hell, in fact, is exactly because it's so stupid and illogical. The object of your affection is never going to love you. And you rationally, conciously understand that, but your uncontrollable, irrational desire for them continues to claw at your brain. So why is this concept considered to be so admirable or appealing?

Perhaps the appeal is the idea of someone loving us so deeply and so completely; an all-consuming attachment to just one person. The pursuer is relentless, devoting endless time and effort toward the object of his affection. The ideal of utter devotion being directed toward us could certainly be flattering. Think about someone obsessing over little ol’ you! Except here’s the thing: for me romance is and always will be a two-way street. You love me, I love you. It’s gotta go both ways. And sure, there are obstacles and conflict and challenges along the way. If there weren’t we romance authors would have butkus to write about. Smooth sailing doesn’t make for a compelling read. But to have someone possess intense feelings of love toward someone else, and for that love to be unreturned or even shunned … well, that’s just sad.

(the physical heart does not really control one's emotions, but you get the point)
I'm reflecting upon this due to my most recent interaction with She Whom I've Fancied Since High School. I had this crazy idea that since we were both available, and since we had an otherwise close friendship, I ought to test the waters with her one more time before wading back into the larger dating pool. "Maybe her feelings towards me have changed over time," I rationalized. "Maybe the fact that I've been so loyal to her for so long will cause her to re-evaluate our relationship."

Alas, no such luck. The “no way, no how, you're nothing more than a friend to me so just stop it!” response I received back from her caused me to burn with embarrassment. I went from “well, if I’ve thought about her this strongly for this long, I should at least give it one more try” to “wow, how could I still be such an idiot, especially after all these years?!" It was a humiliation that I richly deserved, because I let these long-simmering emotions for her get the better of me. But it also left me - yeah - heartbroken.
An interesting article in the New York Times talked about the fact that the admirer in a one-way love situation isn’t the only one who suffers. Findings by researchers published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that the rejector sometimes feels as deep or even more emotional pain than the admirer. Curious, right? Apparently, after a period of initial flattery, the rejector feels bewilderment, guilt, and eventually anger at the relentless efforts of the admirer.

Hence, the frustrated tone of She Whom I've Fancied Since High School's response. She knows how I feel about her, but she will never be able to feel the same way about me and it upsets her so she wants me to quit bugging her about it. If only it were that easy, after 25 years!

I can relate, to a point, because of my most recent relationship: for whatever reason, I could not love my ex-girlfriend with the same intensity that she loved me. It's not that I didn't want to or didn't try; it's just that something didn't work: again, love is not logical. Over time, it became very stressful for me. "What is wrong with me?" I wondered. "Why can't I love her the way she loves me?" It got to the point that every time the phase "I love you" came from her mouth, I bristled with guilt and resentment. When I finally told her that I just didn't love her and it wasn't going to work out, a great weight was lifted from my shoulders, even though I know it hurt her deeply.

It's easy to rationalize myself into feeling better by saying "well, at least I gave a relationship with my ex-girlfriend an honest try, unlike She Whom I've Fancied Since High School, who won't even give me a chance." But the pain of loving yet not being loved in return is the same, as is the hopeless realization that the feelings are not something you can easily, rationally control.

So this Valentine's Day, as those couples who are happily in love with each other celebrate, let us also recognize those whose love, real and valid as it might be, is not being returned. These are people who are literally in pain, and they cannot easily make it go away. They deserve compassion and support, because they truly are in Hell.

Help coming for the monarch butterfly

By now I've beaten a dead horse butterfly about the fate of the monarch: its population is collapsing, putting the insect on the bring of being endangered. The Washington Post is going so far as the call it "the monarch massacre." Fortunately, help is on the way:
Texas' state insect faces demise, so the feds are stepping in. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday a plan to revitalize the Monarch butterfly population, which has fallen by more than 90 percent in the last two decades.

Last month, the Chronicle reported that the butterflies were being considered for a place on the endangered species list. Experts said the main culprit of the monarchs' devastating decline is the use of genetically modified, herbicide-resistant crops that allow farmers to drench fields in weed poison, prohibiting the growth of native plants the butterflies use to eat and lay eggs.

"We've been aware of the plight of the monarch butterfly in North America for some time and we have been looking at ways that we can go about reversing the situation, and I think it was decided that what we needed was really immediate on-the-ground action," said FWS spokesman Gavin Shire.

The service pledged $3.2 million to monarch revival, most of which will fund habitat restoration projects. Texas will host 10 of 24 scheduled projects, with in more than $700 thousand in funding. The main goal: plant more milkweed.
I certainly hope this effort isn't too little, too late to make a difference. There was recently a little bit of good news from Mexico, where the overwintering monarch population, based on colony size, seems to have increased from the previous winter's record low:

However, the trend line is obvious to anybody who looks at this graph. As Monarch Watch cautions:
Although this figure represents an improvement from the 0.67 hectares recorded last year, it’s the second lowest population on record and the third low population in as many years.
The FWS is collaborating with two private conservation groups, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, on this campaign to save the monarch. It is also working with state governments. Because of its location on the monarchs' migration path, Texas is key:
The FWS will form a "Texas Native Pollinator Initiative" with hopes of gathering local partners from across the state to spread native milkweed seeds and monitor the monarch population. Other projects involve partnerships with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Shire called Texas, especially the Interstate 35 corridor, a "critical breeding, wintering and migration corridor for the monarchs," which is largely why Texas will see so many of the federally-funded restoration projects.

It's also why the Texas Legislature named the butterflies the state insect in 1995. Then, a billion of the regal bugs flew through the Lone Star State on their way to Mexico each year. Twenty years later, about 30 million remain. Texas used to herald the sight of tens of thousands of butterflies nesting on a single, but it's seen less often today. However the plight of the monarchs has garnered significant attention in just the past month, and promising efforts could bring the fragile creatures back from the brink of extinction.
Plant. That. Milkweed.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ecuador ran a Super Bowl commercial

I never expected to use the words "Ecuador" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence, but...

I guess the oil crash is causing them to really hurt for tourist and retiree dollars. But lots of respect to the Correa administration for "going big" and advertising during the Super Bowl.

With this buy, Ecuador became the first sovereign nation to advertise during the Super Bowl.

And yes, it's time for me to get my ass back down there.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thoughts on the inaugural college football playoff

It's been over a week since it ended - congratulations are in order for the Ohio State Buckeyes - and I'm finally getting around to gloating writing about how successful it was. So successful, in fact, that it made believers of former skeptics:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spent the better part of two decades pooh-poohing any talk of a possible college football playoff. He wasn’t alone. When his SEC counterpart Mike Slive first proposed a four-team model at the April 2008 BCS meetings, it never even reached a vote.

On Monday night, however, Delany struck a much different tune as he stood on the AT&T Stadium sideline watching Ohio State and Oregon warm up for the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Beyond the fact his conference’s school would soon hoist the trophy, the postseason event he and his colleagues finally approved in June 2012 exceeded even their own expectations in terms of fan interest, the selection process and the on-field drama itself.

“You’d have to say those who advocated for it early on were right,” Delany told FOX Sports. “You’d have to say it was great that we all came on board with it.”

That Ohio State, the No. 4 seed and most debated participant, wound up winning the tournament served as a fitting testimonial for why the sport needed to scrap the BCS. All those years we were so sure who the No. 1 and 2 teams were? This year it would have been Florida State and Alabama.

“[The playoff] certainly matched my hope for it, which is teams get to prove it on the field rather than through some of the measures that were used to select the [BCS] top two teams,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. “It certainly fell in the right direction to validate the playoff this year.”
Emphasis added. Oh, and it was the highest-rated event in ESPN history as well. Those of us who have been advocating for a college football playoff for years feel rather vindicated, especially now that the defenders of the previous BCS system have been proven to be utterly full of shit.

While the very first college football playoff was a success, there are still some adjustments that could be made to make it even better. Stewart Mandel argues that, while the playoff made the regular season more exciting (playoff opponents had argued that it would ruin the importance of the regular season), it “rendered almost everything else irrelevant:”
A year after recurring epilepsy put his coaching future in doubt, Jerry Kill led Minnesota to its first winning Big Ten record since 2003 and the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl since 1962. It should have been one of the best stories of the season. But Minnesota’s success mostly got mentioned only because it impacted the playoff resumes of two Gophers opponents -- TCU and Ohio State.

But Minnesota got Alabama-like coverage compared with the Group of 5 schools. Marshall, which finished 13-1, and Boise State, eventual 12-2 Fiesta Bowl champion, might as well have been playing in the FCS for as far as they flew off the radar. And you can expect the sport’s focus to only narrow further in coming years as the playoff increasingly dominates all college football conversations.
I’ve afraid I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Power Five (aka the "superconference") and the Group of Five are in the process of splitting apart. That’s neither fair nor good for the sport, but at this point the momentum is unstoppable. The only hope for Group of Five schools with higher aspirations (the University of Houston included) is that the Power Five's current makeup of 65 schools is not set in stone and that another round of conference realignment will occur in the future. (In that regard, I’m glad Houston replaced Tony Levine before he could drag the Cougar program down any further during this critical time.)

Mandell also praises the way in which the four playoff teams were selected:
TCU and Baylor fans might not agree, but somebody had to miss the cut. More important is that the 12-member committee fulfilled its intended purpose of performing a more nuanced evaluation process than the simplistic AP and coaches polls. Florida State became an unwitting poster child for the new model, with the committee continually ranking the undefeated Seminoles lower than the traditional polls due to their repeated struggles against largely mediocre competition.

“Forever in college football, its been about wins and losses -- you win, you move up, you lose, you move down,” said Hancock. “It wasn’t that way with the committee, and that’s what we wanted. We wanted that deeper dive and we got it.”

Also encouraging, though possibly accidental: The committee delivered an important message about non-conference scheduling with its exclusion of No. 5 Baylor, which intentionally played all cupcakes. While Ohio State’s extra game, a 59-0 Big Ten title game rout of Wisconsin, ultimately gave the Buckeyes an edge over both Baylor and TCU, a source with knowledge of the discussions said the Bears might have fared better if they had beaten even one decent Power 5 foe.
Yes, it was fun watching Art Briles whine because his Bears, whose out-of-conference schedule consisted of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo, and whose conference is the only Power Five that doesn't play a championship game, were excluded from the playoff. The strength-of-schedule issue, however, may in fact prove to be yet another nail in the Group of Five coffin, as Power Five schools avoid scheduling schools from perceived "lesser" conferences in order to burnish their credentials.
Perhaps the best bigger-picture gauge of the playoff’s success is the collective mood of the public coming out of it. For so many years with the BCS, the day-after discussion was full of angst and vitriol, of columnists, talk-show hosts and politicians screaming to burn the thing down.

While plenty of people had gripes with various stages of the process, and while the calls to expand to six or eight teams have already begun, for the most part, college football fans generally seem . . . dare we say it? . . . pleased.
Which brings us to the big issue regarding the playoff: expansion. As it stands, the folks running the playoff claim that they have not even discussed expanding the current four-team format. And I'm certain that we'll see the existing four-team format for at least a few more seasons. Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia athletic director who was on the playoff selection committee, believes that four is the right number because "it should be hard to get into the playoff." He has a point: four out of 120-something teams is a high hurdle to clear, and there's something elegantly simple about a four-team, two round playoff.

That being said, I think an expansion of the playoffs to eight teams is inevitable. This is because the current arrangement requires that at least one of the Power Five conferences be left out of the dance (it is simply a coincidence that the champions of the other four Power Fives made the playoff; it is theoretically possible for the four playoff teams to come from a single conference); this season the odd conference out happened to be the Big XII. I don't think this arrangement is sustainable, given the stakes involved; sooner or later they will decide that all five conferences need a guaranteed place at the table. Furthermore, both the Power Five conferences as well as ESPN have to be looking at the television ratings this playoff generated and be seeing dollar signs flash before their eyes. More playoffs equals more money, and money talks.

If it were up to me, it would go to eight teams, and this is how it would work:
  • The participants would be the champions of the five Power Five conferences (provided they reach a certain ratings threshold; the playoff should not be forced to accept a conference champion that is exceptionally weak), and three at-large berths. Ideally, one of these at-large berths would be reserved for the highest-rated Group of Five school (again, provided they reach a certain ratings threshold); if this format ever actually came to pass, however, I doubt the Group of Five would be included.

  • The first round games would continue to be the "New Year's Six" (Rose, Fiesta, Cotton, Orange, Peach, Sugar) bowl games. This will increase from two to four the number of  these bowls with championship relevance, which is something both the bowl's organizers as well as ESPN will like. 

  • Second round (semifinal) games will be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. This is to combat the travel fatigue that would result by requiring fans to travel as many as three times in a row to playoff games. This would also give more importance to the seedings (as well as the regular season results that decide playoff seeding); right now, all the games are neutral-site games, which creates little advantage for a higher seed over a lower one. 

  • The final would be a neutral site game, as it is now. It would just be a week later - likely the weekend before or evening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 
There are some drawbacks: this schedule may bleed into the spring semester for some participating schools - as it is, classes at Oregon resumed the week before the championship game and at Ohio State the day of - which creates issues for the players as well as students who want to attend. Furthermore, there may be a conflict with NFL playoffs, especially if they, too, expand their field from 12 to 14 teams. An alternative is to play the first round games at the home of the higher-seeded team a week or two before the new year and then use two of the New Year's Six bowls for the semifinals (as is the case now), but that would have an impact on the earlier (pre-holiday) bowl games and negatively impact the other four New Year's Six bowls (who would have to feature matchups of schools outside the top eight) And, of course, if the playoffs did expand from four to eight, there would immediately be people demanding that it expand further, to 16 or even 32 teams.

Okay, so a 32-team college football playoff would probably be a bit too unwieldy; even a 16-team field presents complications. Eight is probably enough for a playoff; going back to Oliver Luck's comment, the playoff should be hard to get into, and I think eight is where you draw that line. Anything larger than an eight-team playoff, furthermore, and you begin to have an adverse impact on the traditional bowl system which I don't think college football is ready to do away with just yet.

At any rate, we're still a few years away from an eight-team field. Right now, I'm just enjoying the fact that college football finally has a playoff of any sort.

Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples likes the four-team format for the time being, but hazards a guess as to what an eight-team bracket would have looked like this season. ESPN's David Hale has an evaluation that is worth reading as well.

Finally, while I am going to miss college football, there are two things the playoff gave us that I am not going to miss: the endless repetition of "Centuries" by Fall Out Boy, which ESPN (unfortunately) chose as the "theme song" for the playoff, and those truly annoying Dr. Pepper commercials featuring Larry the soda vendor.