As the NCAA is meeting this winter to discuss rule changes and tweaking some current rules, there’s one major tweak they should consider. Expanding the playoff system in the FBS. With Liberty University joining the highest division in the college football ranks, the FBS reaches a total of 129 schools. So basically, the NCAA is now saying that out of 129 schools, it’s fair that only four make it into the playoffs?!?!
The FBS is now just too big to only allow four teams play for the national championship. There is absolutely no way you can determine the four best teams out of 129 to play in the playoff using a selection committee to only pick four teams. According to the NCAA, it’s the fairest system they can come up with. Really? So college football’s top division can only be fair by placing just four teams in the playoff? Again, the NCAA says yes. However, the other NCAA football divisions have a more expanded playoff format. The FCS and Division II have a 24 team playoff, while Division III has 32 teams. Note that the other three divisions have a more expanded playoff. So what gives? Money. It comes down to money plain and simple.
The FBS currently has 41 bowl games. That leads to revenue of over $100 million total. And that’s just the school’s portion. Yes, the revenue the NCAA makes off of the bowl games is astronomical, but you have to consider individual bowl committees as well. Everybody has to have their hand in the cookie jar and that greed will snub 125 schools out of a chance to play for a national championship. Well, let’s be serious. It’s more like twelve teams will be snubbed out of that chance. It’s not a fair system and the NCAA knows that, the Power 5 conferences knows that, as well as fans across the country knows that it’s not a fair system. It’s all about money. That’s why these days during bowl season, you’ll see teams with a record of 5-7 make a bowl game. Because more bowls equals more money. Regardless if the team is worthy to play in the post season or not. It took forever for the NCAA to allow a team with a record of 6-6 to participate in a bowl game regularly, but now, many teams can earn a bid for just winning five games.
The NCAA could easily reformat the playoff system to at least 16 teams, but they’re afraid they would lose out on that big money. Not necessarily. There is some alternatives that could work, but it would have to sit well with television executives. It could work. It really could. Another argument the NCAA provided was that they don’t want the season to play further than it already does in January. That wouldn’t be an issue either. Well, not a big issue anyways. The NCAA has plenty of time. Heck, they virtually have the whole month of December. As fans, we start craving more football in early December for only none to be found. Unless you get excited for the New Mexico Bowl. Or you follow the lower divisions that actually play a “true” playoff.
And then there’s those pesky bowl games that get in the way. The next argument from officials is that the playoff would interfere with bowl schedules as well as saying the games couldn’t take place in early December because student athletes would have trouble preparing for both finals and a football game. Again, not necessarily. College football could have it both ways if they really wanted to. They could develop a 16 team playoff system that would excite fans and keep the traditional bowl games at the same time. But how?
It’s actually very simple. There is currently six bowls that rotate to host a playoff game. Instead of hosting a game every three years, each of the six could host a game every year. Okay, that sounds better for bowl committees. You can then take bids on the remaining two open slots and let the other bowls bid on them. So now you’re at eight bowl games that will allow for a 16 team playoff and those bowls and schools will still be able to make some big bucks. The biggest issues with the above format would be the college football season would have to be extended an extra week and players could end up playing 16 games in a season, but players from the lower divisions do it all the time. The other major difference would be that you would lose traditional New Year’s Day bowl games, but if the cash was still rolling in, (and it would) I don’t see the bowl committees complaining much. If my format would’ve been played out this year, here’s what your 16 team playoff would’ve looked like.
Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Washington, Oklahoma, Auburn, USC, Penn State, Wisconsin, Western Michigan, LSU, Louisville, Florida State, Michigan, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. Those were the teams that played in the six playoff bowl games that alternate currently and then the Citrus Bowl and the Alamo Bowl, the next two bowls that had the highest payouts. As you can see, that looks to be a good lineup. Each power 5 conference is represented at least twice and even a mid major would get a shot. So it’s time for college football to cut back on their greed and expand the playoff system. If the little guys can do a playoff, there’s no reason the big boys can’t either.