A college football season filled with more questions than answers. A selection committee that makes decisions with less transparency than the Free Masons. A coast-to-coast chant to make like the Louisiana Purchase and double the size of the playoffs.
This four-year-old child has been immature in the sense that it has replaced some of the problems from the BCS computer system, but we cannot complain with the football that has been played over the past four seasons. The argument of the BCS system being better than the College Football Playoff is null and void. Especially, when the two teams who would have been selected in the old BCS system (No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Oklahoma) lost in their first-round contests for the 2017 College Football Playoff.
In the old system, Alabama would have been hung out to dry instead of looking to crown themselves champions for the fifth time in the past nine years. Furthermore, Georgia’s fans would have been stuck with only watching the Atlanta Falcons try to avenge their Super Bowl loss.
The main argument stems from the ever-changing guidelines that constitute admittance to the four-team playoff bracket. The committee sits high atop their ivory tower looking as 130 teams battle week in and week out determining who is the best in all of the land. This committee consists of 13 members, three of which had to recuse themselves from final votes due to conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interest range from Frank Beamer’s son being the special teams coach for the Georgia Bulldogs to the Clemson and Ohio State athletic directors being on the committee itself.
In the past, the notion of winning a Power Five conference championship was the golden ticket to get the inside track to the playoff bracket. The Big 12 typically found themselves with the most difficult path in, but this year, we were faced with an even more difficult decision with the Big 12 championship being installed for the 2017 season. Before this year, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC had uncontested seats at the table because of the leverage they had over the Big 12 and its regular season champion. Even though we saw Oklahoma get in two years ago, they had the most difficult path out of the five major conferences.
This addition of a Big 12 champion muddied the waters for two conferences this season. With Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia winning their conference championships in dominating fashion, there was no question as to who the top three teams would be.
However, issues arose at the No. 4 spot unlike any of the problems seen in the previous three seasons. We had a conference champion with two terrible losses in the Ohio State Buckeyes and a Nick Saban led Crimson Tide with one loss and an eye test that wasn’t 20/20.
At the end of the day, and to the dismay of Buckeye Nation, Alabama’s loss to Auburn reflected better than a championship in a conference of teams who beat each other up all year. As we saw in their game against Clemson, it seems to be that Alabama was the correct choice.
Now fast forward to 10 seconds after Alabama was named No. 4 and we see the Ohio State fans looking to burn the 13-person committee at the stake. The entire city of Columbus began to cry out for an eight-team playoff, an argument started prior the commencement of the College Football Playoff in 2013.
After a UCF win in the Peach Bowl over the Auburn Tigers, this pulse for an eight-team playoff reached both ends of I-75. UCF will be pushing a few extra chips to the middle of the table with the “National Championship” banner they will be raising in Spectrum Stadium.
The initial goal for the College Football Playoff was to put fate into the hands of the players, coaches and schools rather than in an algorithm. The College Football Playoff, for the most part, has relinquished some of the authority from the college football powers that be, but it has not been perfect.
An expansion of four teams will negate some of the issues that are seen in the covert decisions made with the four-team blue print now, but we still have the potential of the trials and tribulations surrounding the No. 4 spot translating to the No. 8 spot. Even with an eight-team playoff this year, the UCF Knights would have been on the outside looking in as the playoff committee listed them at No. 12 in the final poll.
Ohio State has been batted around like a tennis ball between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for each year of the College Football Playoff. Ohio State has been the perfect example of the lack of guidelines the playoff committee has with the pushing of each poll, and these guidelines have changed with each season.
Each season is unique, and no cookie cutter set of regulations will satisfy the problems we have had throughout the first four years of the playoffs. We are looking for transparency and consistency, and the narrative as to how the committee reached their four-team bracket has changed year in and year out.
Last year, Ohio State was not a conference champion, but they made it to the No. 3 seed over a two-loss, conference champion Penn State. This year, Alabama gained the No. 4 spot over Ohio State, who won their conference championship. Alabama was left out of the SEC championship after their loss to Auburn.
Alabama’s Nick Saban said that you should win your conference championship to be eligible for the College Football Playoff last year, and he had to put on a different hat as he campaigned for the Crimson Tide to be admitted over the Big Ten champions. If anything, the committee has been consistent in their search for the four best teams, but their basis for choosing the four best teams needs to be translated to fans.
Logistically, it would be very difficult for an eight-team expansion to occur. Exhibit A for almost every lawn chair Stan with an expansion plan is the idea of reducing the regular season to 11 games, so teams wouldn’t have to add another game to physically demanding schedule. Why play the Little Sisters of the Poor or Orphan Annie and the Misfits? Without the big dogs playing these teams, we will see better football, and no one wants to see Alabama beat up on Buddy the Baker’s Cupcakes, and we don’t want teams to risk injury against a school who would need more than divine intervention to beat them. These arguments hold water and represent legitimate gripes, but trimming the fat won’t make this playoff conundrum fit into a glass slipper.
On the surface, this is the simple way of solving the main gripe fans have with the College Football Playoff. We get better football, and teams don’t have to risk injury and waste their time.
However, the regular season has too many hands dipping into the honey jar. Businesses, restaurants, fans and schools have too much invested into the college football regular season for it to shrink to anything less than 12 games. Each home game attributes to millions of dollars accrued in each school’s local economy during college football weekends. The local community loses profits in contingency with schools losing profit margins. This isn’t just a deterrent for the top tier teams, but it has consequences for the small programs, which round out the rest of the NCAA.
An eight-team playoff will result in monetary benefits for the eight teams making the playoffs, but the other 122 teams lose either a potential home game or a huge pay day from one of the larger teams. In the 2017 season, there were 26 games which had payouts of $1 million dollars or more just to show up and play. Over $150 million in guaranteed payouts circulated throughout college football this season. These payouts include big-time neutral site matchups, but the majority are accumulated in big schools paying smaller programs to play at their stadium. It’s the reason we see the games such as Kent State vs. Clemson or Appalachian State vs. Georgia.
The “show up” payouts allow for small programs to build facilities and stadium additions that allow smaller schools to remain competitive in a college football landscape that is top heavy. Many of these smaller programs depend on this money to stay afloat, and it also serves to finance other sports within a school. The largest payout for just showing up this season was the $1.65 million sent to Arkansas State for playing at Nebraska. There are other intangible benefits to getting the snot kicked out of you for these teams, but nothing speaks louder than money.
The path to an eight-team playoff won’t travel the way of a shortened regular season because people won’t lean where there ain’t green. The goal of the committee is to “increase revenue for all conferences and independent institutions,” but the expansion to eight teams will cause another hitch in the College Football Playoff that we live and die with each week.
We need to see transparency in the playoff committee if we want to see any productive changes in the near future. Eight-teams seems like a great idea until the economic logistics strike a nerve with each school in Division I football. Shortening the season will not benefit anyone, and the four-team, full regular season format we have now is the best we have.
Keeping the 12 game regular season and expanding to an eight-team playoff is a can of worms dealing with player safety that will be opened one day. But for now, transparency between schools, fans and the committee is the answer to the debacle we’ve seen in the four-team playoff.
Featured image from SI.com
“From Our Haus to Yours”