Does the Playoff System Work for College Football?
Alright college football fans, you got your wish! The ugly BCS system has been fixed by the addition of a four team playoff beginning in 2014. This is what everyone has wanted since the BCS was introduced in 1998 and its flaws were revealed almost immediately.
Initially, I was one of those people who was excited at the notion of a playoff system and I still am…to a point. I believe it’s better than the current system, but far from perfect.
There are a few risks involved with making this change. The first being the future of expansion. Sure, the playoff system includes only four teams right now, but it won’t be long before the fans and universities are asking for more. In the 1970s, the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball featured only 22 teams. It now has 68 teams and counting.
Guess what? Greed rules the world of college sports (more on that later) and if this system is a success, it will grow….and I’m not sure how the sport would work and survive with more teams making the playoffs. Logistically, it would be a nightmare. Where would the games be played? How could you fit in all the games? The season would definitely need to be extended.
The reason most people love college football as much as they do is because every game counts. Coincidentally, that’s the reason I’m not as big of a fan of college football. Every snap can either lead a team to a championship game or thrust them into the abyss….otherwise known as the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl or the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia (Yes, both real bowl games). Or, if you’re a Syracuse college football fan, like me. Your team’s season will probably be over after your first four to five games.
Can you imagine if the NFL was like college football? In 2004, the year the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they lost to a terrible Miami Dolphins team who had won only two games prior. With a loss like that…in the college football world, they would be in extreme danger of playing for a championship.
As much as I don’t like the one (or two) and done philosophy of college football, I understand why others like it. Expanding the playoff format to four will cause the sport to lose some of its “now or never” feel which makes it unique from all other sports.
The third big issue with the four-team playoff alignment is it doesn’t really do anything to stop the bickering people had with the BCS. Sure you add two more teams to the discussion of who should be the national champion, but the selection committee will still need to figure out the top four and there will be debate on why the fifth and sixth teams weren’t part of the top four.
Another big strike against the current BCS system is that it isn’t really fair to the “little guys.” The small, undefeated school with a weak strength of schedule has always had a tough time breaking the top five. With only four teams earning access in the new playoff system, and a selection committee of college football’s elite making the cuts, you can bet that the Boise States of the college football world will continue to be the victims of college football elitism.
One thing that drives this post-season bowl game madness is money. ESPN reportedly pays about $165 million for five BCS games. Industry experts have predicted that a four-team playoff and four other major bowls could command as much as $400 million to $500 million annually. It’s a major cash cow for the universities. That means two more “money games” for the networks and conferences.
The BCS was not perfect and neither is this new system. However, I think even with its flaws, it’s a start in the right direction. We’ll see what happens.