February 1, 2019 | View PDF
While the national championship in college football is still on our minds, it seemed to be a good time to discuss the pros and cons of our current playoff system, and the possibility of an eight team playoff system. First off, the four team playoff has been highly successful pitting the four best teams against each other to determine the national championship on the field rather than subjectively voting on a champion. In each of the six playoffs, the number one team and the number two team has met in the finals all but one year. That was in 2017 when Alabama finished fourth. After the smoke cleared Alabama played Georgia for the title. There is no question that Georgia and Alabama were the best two teams in the country. Ideally, that is all the whole “shooting match” is about; getting the two best teams in the championship game in order to determine who the best team in college football really is.
When the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) system was in place where only the two top teams were selected for the championship game, there was gnashing of teeth by the third and fourth team in the rankings. Since the four team playoff has been in effect, the fifth, sixth and seventh teams are unhappy every year. If for some ridiculous chance the NCAA someday adopts and eight team playoff, guess who will be crying foul? Of course it will be the ninth and tenth teams. There is no possible way to determine the national champion that is better than what we have at this time, the four team concept.
I for one was completely satisfied with the BCS where the national selection committee ranked 25 teams beginning at mid-season, and at the end of the season selected the top two teams to play for the championship. Only one time can I recall when the two best teams were not selected. That was in 2004 when Auburn’s undefeated team finished third to USC and Oklahoma. Auburn was probably better than Oklahoma, who lost decisively to USC. However, there is no way to please the teams who do not make it into the playoffs. The system is not designed to do anything other than bring the number one and number two teams together to play for the national championship.
In 2012, the topic of my column was suggestions as to how to handle a four team playoff and an eight team playoff. Nothing has really changed my mind about those suggestions. However, they do need tweeking. Under the present system, the four team playoff is reeking havoc on the college bowls. There must be some change in order for the NCAA Bowl System to survive. It has been too important to college football for so many years. The championship game was held on the first Monday in January, which this year was January 7. The problem is that the semi-final games are played too close to January 1st, which adversely affects the major bowl games normally held on that day; Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Fiesta. The Rose Bowl has willingly taken itself out of the playoff system with their automatic tie-in with the Big Ten and the PAC 10. Twice the Rose Bowl has been the site of the championship game. It is really not a great venue anymore because of the repairs, additions, modernizations that have not occurred over the years. In addition California is grossly inconvenient for teams from the eastern part of the United States. In general, fans do not desire to travel 4,000 miles roundtrip to see their team play. Neither do they desire to spend thousands of dollars on tickets and motel rooms that have been elevated in price to suit the occasion, or the exorbitant food prices that are hiked as well. To make it easier for fans to come to the championship game, the game should alternate between Atlanta and Dallas until better venues are built.
In my opinion the semi-final games should be held closer to the end of the season, possibly the third Saturday in December. This would give participating teams approximately three weeks from the date of the conference championship games to prepare. This would hardly affect the December bowl games. The bowls that have been held on the third Saturday in December would just have to find another date. This change would not compete with the January 1st bowl games as it does under the present schedule. The championship game could then remain on the first Monday after the New Years Day bowl games.
There will always be conflicts. That is inevitable. There are just so many fans, so many dollars and so many TV viewers. Then, there are no more. As much as I like football, it seems that we have saturated December and January with football to the point where there are diminishing returns on the investment.
Now, to the possibility of an eight team playoff. Lets look at some aspects of the proposal that could be beneficial and some that would be detrimental. The only positive that I can see in this is the fact that more teams could participate, thereby satisfying those who say the present system is unfair. To me, that is a high price to pay for the problems that an eight team playoff would cause.
One problem is that this would water down the college football season. There would possibly be teams in the playoff with two losses and some with as many as three losses. That means that each regular season college game has less importance because a team could qualify with two or three losses. They could get hot in the playoffs and win the national championship without having to exhibit excellence in the regular season. I don’t like that.
Another problem is that it would add another game to the football season for eight quarter-final teams, two additional games for the semi-finalists and three more games for the two championship contending teams. The season is probably too long as it is. In order to win the national championship under this eight team system, a college football team would have to play 12 regular season games, a conference championship game, a quarter-final game, a semi-final game and the championship game for a total of 16 games. In my opinion that is just too much football for college kids.
There are other problems that will come up as well. It has been mentioned how the attendance, viewership and available dollars would be affected. Even the most dedicated fan is not going to the conference championship, the quarter-final game, the semi-final game and the championship game. I would probably watch them all on television because I am a football addict. You may be also. However, football addicts are not the norm. This glut of games will have a negative effect on each game. There are only so many football addicts around. Each game stands on its own as to the value it has to the advertiser, the television provider, the city, the site of the game and to the fan.
The more games that a player participates in, the more chance of a debilitating injury. The college football players of today are not going to give their all for “Ole State U.” if it is going to possibly cost them a signing bonus and a multi-million dollar contract in the NFL. I don’t like it but 90% of college players are playing as if it is an audition for the professional teams. Of those 90% will not make an NFL squad. The red jersey or the blue jersey does not mean to a college player what it used to. It’s all about the money now.
When a college player finishes his third year in college he can leave college, sign with a professional team and get rich. They are skipping their bowl games now. Some would probably skip a playoff game if their agent recommended it. Also, we have a “free agency” system approved by the NCAA. Any player can transfer anywhere for any reason. If they have graduated after three years, they can transfer and be immediately eligible. I can stomach the graduate transfer rule. I don’t like the free agency rule even a little bit.
The NCAA is slowly creating chaos in college football. There is only one way to stop them. That resolution was in effect as this college football season ended. Hit the NCAA in the pocketbook. As crowds dimiss, as TV revenue begins to demish, maybe the member schools which control the funding of the NCAA will rise up and save the greatest game of all time, college football!