It’s evident that the NCAA will have no choice but to expand the college football playoff in the future. With the FBS currently at 129 schools and only four teams making the playoff each season, the excitement and prestige of the playoff would soon die down. To an extent anyways. While there has been several creative playoff expansion formats, the NCAA will most likely choose an option that would require the least amount of rescheduling which will lead to only a couple more teams in making the playoff. That will be great for the Power Five schools, but where will that leave the Group of Five programs? NCAA football has always been the big boys and people often forget about the other half of D1 football teams that make up the FBS.
The Group of Five teams, also known as Mid-Majors, make up 48 percent of the FBS not including independents. So while roughly half of college football’s top division is made up of programs from the Group of Five conferences, none of those teams even remotely have a shot at making the current college football playoff. In any other NCAA Division I sport, along with every lower division all teams have a chance to compete for the National Championship. There’s several reasons why a Group of Five school cannot reach the college football playoff, but they should somehow be acknowledged better. At least the few that can rank in the top 25.
Basically what’s going on is that the NCAA wants the FBS to be big enough to satisfy television and bowl agreements, but they don’t want the Mid-Majors to have a shot at winning a college football championship. By that I mean that they just don’t fit into the criteria that the NCAA has in place to make the playoff. They’re more or less seen as filler schools to make the division look better as a whole. While I’m not going to say a team like Western Michigan will beat Alabama for the national title, I will say they at least deserve the chance. It’s not right that they’re just being used to fill in open air time for the tv networks. A lot of mid-majors even produce exciting NCAA football games and are very competitive. That’s not saying that they can dominate college football if they were in a Power Five conference, but they could most certainly be competitive.
To the NCAA, bowl games are the consolation to the Group of Five conferences. While it’s great for some programs, the bowl structure and layout proves to be disrespectful to the better teams. Besides Western Michigan who went on to play in the Rose Bowl, the next best payout to a mid major was to South Florida. The Bulls went 11-2 last season and received an estimated $900,000 to play in the Birmingham Bowl against a South Carolina team that went 6-7 (after losing to South Florida) for the season. So basically a Power Five school with a losing record received the same payout as a Group of Five school who had a great season. It’s another slap in the face to the smaller schools. Bowl games use to be the pride of college football, but the prestige of bowl games has went down in recent years. Especially with the NCAA using more teams with a 6-6 or 5-7 record to fill bowl game schedules.
While I don’t foresee any changes to the playoff in the near future, the NCAA needs to change the format to make it more fair for all college football teams in the FBS. If mid-major schools are going to be used as fill ins to make more money for the NCAA, then they need to be respected more and be rewarded accordingly. The NCAA says it is “committed to providing a fair, inclusive and fulfilling environment for student-athletes and fans,” but it seems that is the case only if they are making money off of them.