Title:
Flex schedule playoff system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A protective fender is provided for use on a pontoon boat having at least an upper support member and a lower support member. The fender includes an elongated body formed from protective material. A first fastening structure is connected to the body, engageable with the lower support member and moveable between a plurality of positions along a length of the body. A second fastening structure is connected to the body, engageable with the upper support member and adjustable to vary the position of the second fastening structure relative to the body.



Inventors:
Williams, Edward Baxter (North Hampton, NH, US)
Williams, Tyler James (North Hampton, NH, US)
Williams Jr., Edward Richard (North Hampton, NH, US)
Application Number:
11/327584
Publication Date:
07/13/2006
Filing Date:
01/06/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B67/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAMBERS, MICHAEL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AARON T. OLEJNICZAK (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A method of determining a champion from a large pool of sports teams, the method comprising the steps of: providing a regular season schedule for each team in the pool; selecting a number of playoff teams for an elimination championship tournament; having all of the teams in the pool play the games scheduled for the regular season at least until the playoff teams are selected for the elimination championship tournament; scheduling playoff teams to play in tournament elimination games, the elimination games in at least one round of the elimination tournament being played by the respective playoff teams in lieu of one of its games yet to be played during its regular season schedule, said regular season games being automatically canceled; in the case where a playoff team is scheduled to play a game in a given round of the elimination tournament and its scheduled opponent for an automatically cancelled game is not participating in a playoff game for that particular round of the elimination tournament, the opponent shall be rescheduled to play a replacement game with another team in lieu of the automatically canceled game; and playing the elimination tournament among the selected playoff teams to determine a champion.

2. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein: the elimination championship tournament is a single elimination tournament.

3. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the games played during at least two rounds of the elimination championship tournament are played in lieu of games yet to be played during the regular season for the respective playoff teams.

4. A method as recited in claim 3 wherein there are 16 selected playoff teams each playing in a first round of the elimination tournament, and the 8 winners of the first round games play games in a second round of the elimination tournament, thereby leaving 4 teams in the single elimination tournament.

5. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein games played in the semi-final and final rounds of the tournament are scheduled as additional post-season games played for the participating teams without automatically canceling a game scheduled to be played in the regular season. 1

6. A method as recited in claim 5 wherein the sport is college football, and the final round championship game is played as a major bowl game.

7. A method as recited in claim 5 wherein the sport is college football, and the semi-final rounds games are played as bowl games.

8. A method as recited in claim 7 wherein said bowl games are major bowl games.

9. A method as recited in claim 3 wherein: at least one team receives a bye in a first round of the elimination tournament, and the remaining selected playoff teams play in the first round of the elimination tournament.

10. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein there are 8 selected playoff teams, each playing in the first round of the elimination tournament, and the 4 winners of the first round games play games in the second round, thereby leaving 2 teams in the single elimination tournament after the first and second round.

11. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the first round of playoff games is played in lieu of games yet to be played during the regular season for the participating playoff teams, and at least one later round of playoff games is played as an additionally scheduled playoff game for the participating teams.

12. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the games played during at least three rounds of the elimination championship tournament are played in lieu of games yet to be played during the regular season for the respective playoff teams.

13. A method as recited in claim 12 wherein at least one team receives a bye in at least one round of the tournament.

14. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein at least some of the tournament games are played at the home venue of the team with higher rank or seed.

15. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein at least some of the games are played at a neutral venue.

16. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the playoff teams and seeds are selected by a selection committee.

17. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the playoff teams and seeds are determined by ranking system.

18. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the selected playoff teams include at least one team representative from a group of selected conferences.

19. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the replacement games are scheduled strictly to be played between the scheduled opponents of the respective playoff teams in the automatically cancelled games.

20. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein each selected playoff team must have played a predetermined number of games prior to the date on which the playoff teams are selected.

21. A method as recited in claim 1 wherein the tournament elimination games are televised.

22. A method of determining a champion from a large pool of sports teams, the method comprising the steps of: providing a shortened regular season schedule for each team in the pool, the shortened regular season schedule having n games less than the team will play during the full regular season; selecting a number of playoff teams for an elimination championship tournament based on the results of the shortened regular season schedule; scheduling playoff teams to play in tournament elimination games; scheduling teams in the pool that are not selected for the playoff tournament or eliminated from the tournament to play games among one another for the remaining games in the full regular season, wherein teams not selected for the tournament will have n additional games scheduled to fill out the regular season and teams eliminated from the tournament will have n-p additional games scheduled to fill out the regular season, where p is the number of tournament games in which the eliminated team participated; and playing the elimination tournament among the selected playoff teams to determine a champion.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application relates to and claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/642,433 filed Jan. 7, 2005.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to playoff systems for determining a champion from a large pool of sports teams. More specifically, the invention is a scheduling method well suited for situations in which it is desirable that playoff teams play a limited number of post-season games, such as the situation currently facing NCAA Division 1A football.

BACKGROUND

It is widely known that NCAA Division 1A football does not determine its champion through an elimination post-season playoff tournament. Most Division 1A football teams play 11 regular season games, possibly a conference championship game and, if invited, a bowl game. College presidents and chancellors have made it clear that the Division 1A colleges are not interested in extending the season by implementing a multi-tiered playoff system. In recent years, the Bowl Championship SeriesĀ® has selected one of four major bowls to host a national championship game on a rotating basis. The theory being that the BCS uses a ranking system in order to match the first and second ranked teams in the national championship game.

The BCS system is also used to select match ups for other three major bowl games that are not hosting the national championship game for that particular year. The fairness of the ranking system has been the subject of great debate, and in fact the BCS ranking system has been modified from year to year in order improve its fairness.

The BCS ranking system has the benefit of not extending the number of games that Division 1A teams would need to play if the NCAA were to adopt a post-season playoff tournament, like it does for Division IAA football as well as other sports. The BCS ranking system has also generally preserved the importance of college bowl games, and the college bowl system in general.

On the other hand, the current BCS system appears to be somewhat arbitrary especially when two or more teams vying for the second place rank have the same win-lose record, or a lower ranked team actually has a better record than a higher ranked team. It is especially difficult under this system, if not practically impossible, for teams from some conferences to be selected to the national championship game, let alone a major bowl game, even if the team is undefeated. To improve access to major BCS bowls, it has been suggested to add a fifth major bowl to the BCS.

Several methods have been suggested to improve the BCS system. For example, see U.S. Pat. No. 6,053,823 and U.S. Patent Application Pub. No. 2004/0157684 A1. Many suggestions to date relate to ways of improving the fairness of the BCS ranking system, such as requiring that voting in all BCS polls be open to public inspection, or that BCS polls cannot begin until several games have been played. It has also been suggested that the polls and rankings be merely advisory, and that a selection committee pick the teams. Other suggestions include the so-called plus-one format, in which the top four ranked teams (or four selected teams) play semi-final playoff games that are played either before the major bowl games, or as two of the major bowl games with a national championship game to follow. The plus-one format has the obvious advantage of including four teams in a small playoff for the national championship game, rather than two teams, thereby reducing the risk of ignoring a legitimate contender.

Nevertheless, none of the above suggestions provide a way to accommodate a larger number of legitimate contenders in a national championship elimination tournament, without extending the season, and without disrupting the college bowl system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is a method of scheduling an elimination playoff tournament in which games in at least one round of the playoff tournament are played during the regular season in lieu of a regular season game. In this way, an elimination tournament can be played without extending the season more than is desirable. While the method may be adapted to any sports league, it seems to be well suited for NCAA Division 1A football inasmuch as it enables the current bowl system to be preserved with vigor.

In the preferred embodiment of the invention, each team in the pool has a full regular season schedule at the beginning of the season. For example, 11 or 12 regular season games are scheduled for each team participating in NCAA Division 1A football. The regular season games are played in accordance with the regular season schedule (or as close as possible) for most of the regular season, much like as is now conventional. Late in the regular season, playoff teams are selected from the pool, preferably after most teams have played 9 or 10 games depending on whether one or two rounds of the playoff games will be played in lieu of scheduled regular season games. The number of selected playoff teams is a matter of choice, ranging from three or four teams for a mini two round tournament, to as many as 8 teams for a three round tournament, as many as 16 teams for a four round tournament, to as many as 32 teams for five round tournament, or more if desired. The selected playoff teams are then scheduled to play games in a first round of the elimination tournament, unless the team is given a bye in the first round. For all teams playing in a first round playoff game, the playoff game is played in lieu of one of its regularly scheduled games that remain to be played. The previously scheduled game is automatically cancelled. For teams not selected to the playoffs that were scheduled to play in a game that was automatically canceled, a substitute game is scheduled against a substitute opponent, most likely chosen from the teams that were previously scheduled to play a different team that was selected to play in a playoff game. Teams eliminated from the tournament play the next scheduled game on its regular season schedule unless the scheduled game is against a team that remains in the playoffs. For NCAA Division 1A football, it is preferred that first round playoff games be played on the same weekend, as well as the substitute games for previously scheduled non-playoff opponents. The same is true of second or third round games if it is desired to play additional rounds of playoff games in lieu of regular season games.

Using the invention, the number of surviving playoff teams can be reduced to a manageable number by the same date or near the same date as the regular season wound normally end. For NCAA Division 1A football, it may desirable to have no additional games between the regular season and the bowl games. In this case, the number of playoff teams and number of playoff rounds played as rescheduled games during the regular season are selected so that only two teams remain for a championship game after the regular season ends. For example, if 8 teams are selected for the playoffs, playing two playoff rounds during the regular season leaves two teams for a title game at the end of the regular season. Or, up to 16 teams can be selected for the playoffs with three rounds being played during the regular season.

For NCAA Division 1A football, it is believed that a plus-one or a plus-two format (in which one or two additional playoff rounds are played between the end of the regular season and the final bowl games) may be more desirable. With the plus-one format, four (4) playoff teams would remain after the regular season leaving two (2) semi-final games and the national title game to be played in post-season playoffs. Most likely, the semi-final games will be played before the college bowls, with the title game being one of the major bowl games. With the plus-one format, up to 16 teams can be chosen for the playoffs while requiring only two rounds of rescheduling during the regular season.

In the plus-two format, eight (8) playoff teams would remain after the regular season leaving four (4) quarter final games, two (2) semi-final games and the national championship game to be played post season. In this format, the semi-final games could be played in bowl games, perhaps major bowl games, with the national title game to follow; however, it may be more desirable to play the semi-final games prior to the college bowl week, with the national title game being played-in one of the major bowl games. With the plus-two format, up to 32 teams can be selected to the playoffs with only two rounds of rescheduling during the regular season being required.

While the venue of playoff games is a matter of choice, it is contemplated that the national title game will be played in a major bowl game, and that any plus-one and plus-two games be played at a neutral venue, preferably on a regional basis. While playoff games played during the regular season can also be played at a neutral venue, it may be desirable to give home field advantage to the higher seeded team.

As an alternative to automatically canceling games for the teams participating in the playoffs and rescheduling substitute non-playoff games for the opponents, the invention can be implemented by providing a shortened regular season schedule for the teams in the pool. In this embodiment, the length of the shortened schedule depends on the number of playoffs rounds that are intended to be played during the regular season. Using NCAA Division 1A football as an example, the shortened schedule might have 9 or 10 games if two rounds of playoffs are played during the regular season. The playoff teams are selected based on the results of the shortened schedule, and scheduled to play playoff games. The other teams, as well as the teams eliminated from the playoffs, are scheduled to play non-playoff games during the final weeks of the regular season.

As should be apparent from the above explanation, the invention enables an elimination playoff for NCAA Division 1A football without increasing the number of games, or without increasing the number of games more than is desirable. In addition, it should not disrupt the current college bowl system. The bowls will still be free to extend invitations based on regular season results.

The invention can be used initially on a small scale, say selecting up to eight playoff teams, in order to test the acceptance of such a playoff. On the other hand, the playoff system can be expanded as is reasonably necessary to provide fair and adequate access to the playoffs for all teams in the pool. In any event, it would be desirable to televise all tournament elimination games, including the championship game.

Various other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be made apparent from the following description taken together with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing of an eight-team elimination championship playoff tournament implementing rescheduled regular season games as playoff games in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic drawing illustrating representative team schedules of regular season and post-season playoff games wherein games in the first and second round of the playoff are played in lieu of tentatively scheduled regular season games;

FIG. 3 is a schematic drawing illustrating representative team schedules of regular season and post-season playoff games wherein games in the first round of the playoff are played in lieu of a tentatively scheduled regular season game, and an additional playoff game may be played in accordance with a plus-one format;

FIG. 4 is a schematic drawing of a 9-team to 16-team elimination championship playoff tournament implementing rescheduled regular season games as playoff games in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 5 is a schematic drawing of a 17-team to 32-team elimination championship playoff tournament implementing rescheduled regular season games as playoff games in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 6 is a schematic drawing illustrating a representative team schedule of regular season and post-season playoff games wherein games in the first three rounds of the playoff are played in lieu of tentatively scheduled regular season games, and a semi-final game is an additional game in accordance with the plus-one format; and

FIG. 7 is a schematic drawing illustrating a representative team schedule of regular season and post-season playoff games wherein games in the first two rounds of the playoff are played in lieu of tentatively scheduled regular season games, and the quarter-final and semi-final games are additional games in accordance with the plus-two format.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

As mentioned, the invention can be implemented with as few as three (3) or four (4) playoff teams, or with as many as 8, 16, or 32 teams or more depending on the number of playoff rounds that tournament coordinators decide to play. The Figures show the expected most likely implementations of the preferred embodiment of the invention in which at least one regular season game scheduled to be played after the playoff selection date is designated as tentative. As discussed in more detail below, tentative games are automatically canceled if one of the scheduled teams is participating in that round of the playoffs, with playoff games or substitute non-playoff games being scheduled and played in lieu of the canceled game.

FIG. 1 illustrates different scenarios for implementing the invention with eight (8) teams (or less if the top seeded teams receive a bye in the first round). Referring to FIG. 1, an 8-team bracket 10 shows match-ups for a three-round single elimination tournament. The eight teams are preferably selected and seeded by a selection committee, or a ranking system. In round 1, the first seeded team plays the eighth seeded team in playoff game 1. The fourth seeded team plays the fifth seeded team in playoff game 2. Likewise, the second seeded team plays the seventh seeded team in playoff game 3, and the third seeded team plays the sixth seeded team in playoff game 4. In the semi-final round, the winner of playoff game 1 plays the winner of playoff game 2 in playoff game 5, and the winner of playoff game 3 plays the winner of playoff game 4 in playoff game 6. The winner of playoff game 5 and the winner of playoff game 6 play in the championship title game (playoff game 7). The bracket 10 is filled out in FIG. 1 assuming that the highest seeded team wins each game.

Three different scenarios of implementing the invention are illustrated in the lower portion of FIG. 1. In scenario 1, games 12 in the first two rounds of the playoffs are played by the playoff teams in lieu of regular season games. The championship title game 13 is preferably played as the final game of the season. For NCAA Division 1A football, the final game 13 would likely be played as one of the major bowl games on a rotating basis as depicted in FIG. 1. In scenario 1, up to six (6) substitute non-playoff games have to be rescheduled during the regular season, and no additional games played are played between the end of the regular season and the bowl games. For the first two rounds, six (6) substitute non-playoff games will have to be rescheduled unless teams participating in a particular round of the playoffs were scheduled to play each other on the original schedule.

FIG. 2 shows representative schedules for two college football teams in the NCAA Division 1A pool under scenario 1. In schedule 18, Team A has nine (9) regular season games 19 scheduled to play before the playoff selection date 20, and two (2) regular season games scheduled to play after the playoff selection date 20. The two games scheduled to play after the playoff selection date 20 are tentative. Preferably, each team designates one of its tentatively scheduled games 21 for the first round of the playoffs and one game 23 for the second round. Both teams scheduled to play in a tentative game should designate the game as tentative for the same round in the playoffs. A tentatively scheduled game will not be played if Team A is participating in that round of the playoffs or the game is against a team playing in that round of the playoffs. As shown in FIG. 2, if Team A is participating in the first round of the playoffs, the first tentatively scheduled game 21 is rescheduled as a playoff game 21A. If Team A participates in the second round of the playoffs, the second tentatively scheduled game 23 is rescheduled as another playoff game 23A. If Team A is not selected, or is eliminated, from the playoffs and is tentatively scheduled to play a team participating in that round of the playoffs, a substitute game 21B, 23B against another opponent will be played instead. Preferably and most likely, the opponent for the substitute game 21B, 23B will also be a team that was tentatively scheduled to play a team participating in that round of the playoffs.

Referring still to FIG. 2, Team A may schedule a pre-season bonus game, see box 22. In this case, Team A would play at least 12 games, and possibly 13 games if it won enough games to become bowl eligible and were invited to a bowl game 24. It is believed that most teams will schedule all of their conference games prior to the playoff selection date 20, as is shown in schedule 18 for Team A. Assuming that games 10 and 11 are designated as tentative for the first and second rounds of the playoffs as illustrated in FIG. 2, Team A will either play the tentatively scheduled opponent, or the game be automatically cancelled. If the game is automatically canceled, a playoff game or a substitute non-playoff game will be played in lieu of the automatically cancelled game. Thus, Team A will play exactly the same number of games that it was originally scheduled to play.

FIG. 2 also shows a representative schedule 26 for Team B. Team B has elected to play only eight (8) games before the playoff selection date 20. Team B has designated two (2) of its final three (3) regular season games, namely games 9 and 10, as tentative games for rounds one and two of the playoffs, see reference numbers 25 and 27. Game 11 designated by reference number 29 is not tentative even though it is scheduled to be played after the playoff selection date 20. In order to promote scheduling discipline, each team should be required to play (or win) a minimum number of games prior to the playoff selection date 20 to be eligible for the playoffs, e.g. seven or eight games for NCAA Division 1A football. The playoff selection date 20 should be communicated with schedulers in plenty of time so that teams wishing to be eligible for playoff selection are able to schedule enough games before the playoff selection date 20.

Referring again to the 8-team playoff scenario 1 shown in FIG. 1, it is possible to give the higher seeded teams a bye in the first or second round. For example, a six-team playoff tournament can be implemented by giving the top seed and the second seed a bye in the first round. A four-team playoff can be provided by eliminating the first round altogether. In this case, each team needs to designate only one game as tentative (similar to FIG. 3 but without the plus-one game 31). A three-team playoff can be implemented by giving the top seed a bye in the second round as well. Lowering the number of playoff teams reduces the number of games that need to be automatically cancelled and rescheduled, but it also reduces the number of teams having access to the national title game.

Scenario 2 and scenario 3 in FIG. 1 illustrate the use of a plus-one format in a three round tournament. In scenarios 2 and 3, games 14 in the first round of the playoffs are played by the playoff teams in lieu of a regular season games but no others. In scenario 2, the plus-one games 15A are played as additional semi-final games between the end of the regular season and before the bowl games. The title game 16A is played in a major bowl game. In scenario 3, the semi-final games 16B are played in major bowl games, and the plus-one game 15B is the national championship title game. In these scenarios, no more than four (4) substitute non-playoff games have to be rescheduled.

FIG. 3 shows representative schedules for two college football teams in the NCAA Division 1A pool under scenario 2 in FIG. 1. In schedule 28, Team C has ten (10) regular season games scheduled to play before the playoff selection date 30, and one (1) regular season game is tentatively scheduled to play after the playoff selection date 30. As described above, if Team C or its tentative opponent in game 11, box 29, participates in the first round of the playoffs, the tentative game 29 is automatically cancelled and Team C will either play in a playoff game 29A or a substitute non-playoff game 29B. If Team C is selected for the playoffs and wins its first round game, it will play in a plus-one semi-final game 31. If it wins the semi-final game 31, it will play in the national championship title game, probably a major bowl game 24 designated to be the title game. If Team C looses the semi-final game 31, it will nevertheless likely be bowl eligible and will probably be invited to a bowl game 24. Under this scenario 2, Team C will play 11 games during the regular season, a twelfth game if it is invited to a bowl game 24, and possibly a thirteenth game if it plays in one of the plus-one national semi-final games 31. This format has the advantage of having only one game designated as tentative. Schedule 32 in FIG. 3 for Team D is similar to schedule 28 for Team C; however, only 9 games are played before the playoff selection date 30, and only one game 33 of the two games after the playoff selection date 30 is designated as tentative.

An individual team's schedule for scenario 3 in FIG. 1 would likely be similar to schedules 28 or 32 in FIG. 3, except a single plus-one game 31 would be played as the final title game after the bowl games 24.

FIG. 4 illustrates different scenarios for implementing the invention with nine (9) to sixteen (16) playoff teams. Referring to FIG. 4, a 16-team bracket 34 shows match-ups for a four-round single elimination tournament. The maximum number of teams for a four-round tournament is 16 teams; however, less teams can be accommodated by giving a bye in the first and/or second round to the highest seeded teams. Three different scenarios of implementing the invention in a four-round tournament are illustrated in the bottom of FIG. 4. In scenario A, the first three rounds 36 of the playoff tournament are played as rescheduled regular season games, and the title game 38 is played in a bowl game. Scenario A does not require any additional games to be played by any team; however, for a 16-team tournament, up to fourteen substitute non-playoff games need to be scheduled. Also, each team wishing to be considered for the playoffs would have to designate three late season games as tentative. With this exception, an individual team's schedule would likely look similar to those shown in FIG. 2.

Scenario B in FIG. 4 illustrates the use of a plus-one format in a four-round tournament. In scenario B, the first two rounds 40 are played as rescheduled regular season games, the semi-final games 41 are played as plus-one games, and the title game 42 is played in a bowl game. For a 16-team tournament, scenario B requires that up to twelve substitute non-playoff games be scheduled. Nevertheless, it has the benefit that each team only needs to designate two late season games as tentative. An individual team's schedule under scenario B would likely be similar to that shown in FIG. 3, except each team would have to designate at least two games played after the playoff selection date 30 as tentative.

Scenario C in FIG. 4 illustrates the use of a plus-two format in a four-round tournament. In scenario C, the first round 43 is played as rescheduled regular season games, the quarter-final games 44 are played as plus-one games, the semi-final games 45 are played as plus-two games, and the title game 46 is played in a bowl game. An individual team's schedule under scenario C would be similar to that shown in FIG. 3, except an additional plus-two game would be played if a team advanced to the semi-finals. Alternatively, it would be similar to the schedule shown in FIG. 7, except only one regular season game after the playoff selection date would necessarily be designated as tentative.

FIG. 5 illustrates different scenarios for implementing the invention with seventeen (17) to thirty two (32) playoff teams. Referring to FIG. 5, a 32-team bracket 48 shows match-ups for a five-round single elimination tournament. The maximum number of teams for a five round tournament is 32 teams; however, as mentioned above, fewer teams can be accommodated by giving one or more byes to the highest seeded teams. Two different scenarios of implementing the invention in a five-round tournament are illustrated at the bottom of FIG. 5. In scenario Z, the first three rounds 50 of the playoff tournament are played as rescheduled regular season games, the semi-final games 52 are played as plus-one games, and the title game 54 is played in a bowl game. If the plus-one format is acceptable, FIG. 5 shows that up to 32 teams can be accommodated in a playoff, requiring each team to designate only 3 late season games as tentative. Under scenario Z, up to twenty eight (28) substitute non-playoff games need to be scheduled and played. FIG. 6 shows a likely schedule 56 for Team E under scenario Z in FIG. 5. In FIG. 6, Team E plays 8 regular season games 57, and possibly a bonus pre-season game 58, before the playoff selection date 60. After the playoff selection date 60, Team E has three tentatively scheduled regular season games 61, 62, 63. If Team E participates in any of the first three rounds of the playoffs, the corresponding tentatively scheduled regular season game is automatically cancelled with its opponent playing in a substitute game unless it is participating in that round of the playoffs as well. If Team E advances to the semi-final round, it will play in a plus-one game 64. Even if it loses the semi-final game 64, its final game will likely be a bowl game 66 (assuming it is bowl eligible and invited).

Referring again to FIG. 5, in scenario Y, the first two rounds 68 of the playoff tournament are played as rescheduled regular season games, the quarter-final games 70 are played as plus-one games, the semi-final games 72 are played as plus-two games, and the title game 74 is played in a bowl game. If the plus-two format is acceptable, FIG. 5 shows that up to 32 teams can be accommodated in a playoff, requiring each team to designate only 2 late season games as tentative. Under scenario Y, up to twenty four (24) substitute non-playoff games need to be scheduled and played. FIG. 7 shows a likely schedule 76 for Team F under scenario Y in FIG. 5. In FIG. 7, Team F plays nine (9) regular season games 78, and possibly a bonus pre-season game 80, before the playoff selection date 82. After the playoff selection date 82, Team F has two tentatively scheduled regular season games 84, 86. If Team F participates in any of the first two rounds of the playoffs, the corresponding tentatively scheduled regular season game is automatically cancelled, as discussed earlier, and its opponent is scheduled to play in a substitute game unless it is participating in that round of the playoffs as well. If Team F advances to the quarter final round, it will play in a plus-one game 88. If Team F advances to the semi-final round, it will play in a plus-two game 90. Even if Team F loses in the quarter final 88 or semi-final round 90, its final game will likely be a bowl game 92 (again assuming it is bowl eligible and invited).

As should be apparent from the above description, the invention can be implemented in a number of different forms. The invention requires only that one round (or a partial round) of the playoffs be played in lieu of regular season games. Later rounds can be played as additional games as in the above mentioned plus-one or plus-two formats.

Further, the invention can be implemented by simply waiting to schedule all or most late season games among all of the teams in the pool until the playoff teams are selected on the playoff selection date. More specifically in this regard, the invention can be implemented by providing a shortened regular season schedule for each team. The shortened regular season schedule would have n games less than the team will play during the full regular season. For example, the shortened regular season schedule might include 9 games, with the complete regular season schedule having 11 games. In this embodiment, the playoff teams are selected, and preferably seeded, based on the results of the shortened regular season schedule. The playoff games are then played round by round in an elimination playoff. In accordance with the invention, teams in the pool that are not selected for the playoff tournament, or eliminated from the tournament, are scheduled to play games among one another for the remaining games in the full regular season. Teams not selected for the tournament will have n additional games scheduled to fill out the regular season. Teams eliminated from the tournament will have n-p additional games scheduled to fill out the regular season, where p is the number of tournament games in which the eliminated team participated. As with the embodiments of the invention in which tentative games are automatically canceled, it may be desirable that the title game be a bowl game, or that a plus-one format or a plus-two format be used.

In its broadest aspect, the invention does not require that any games be played in predetermined venues. Nevertheless, providing home field advantage to the higher seeds for teams playing playoff games during the regular season may be most desirable, while any plus-one or plus-two games should probably be played a neutral venue. On the other hand, it may be desirable to play all playoff games in neutral venues, perhaps on a regional basis, if appropriate facilities are available.

Referring to the scheduling method in general, the scope of its utilization over time is flexible. For example, the number of selected playoff teams does not need to be the same year to year. The playoff format can begin slowly with a small number of teams and can expand from year to year depending on the need to increase accessibility to the playoffs. On the other hand, the number of teams can be restricted in any given year if desired, by offering byes to higher seeded teams or by limiting the number of rounds of the tournament. In addition, it may be desirable to select playoff teams such that at least one team represents each conference in the pool, or a select group of conferences in the pool.

One of the most interesting aspects of the invention is that it can be implemented, perhaps on a small scale such as described with respect to FIG. 1, without disrupting the current college bowl system.

Finally, while the invention has been described in detail with respect to its applicability to NCAA Division 1A football, it may be applied to other sports leagues as well. In this regard, while a single elimination tournament seems to be the most feasible for NCAA Division 1A football, the invention is not limited to the use a of single elimination playoff tournament. In some circumstances, double-elimination or round-robin tournaments may be more desirable.

While the invention has been described with reference to a preferred embodiment, those skilled in the art will appreciate that certain substitutions, alterations and omissions may be made without departing from the spirit thereof. Accordingly, the foregoing description is meant to be exemplary only and should not be deemed limitative on the scope of the invention set forth with the following claims.





 
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