Why A 4-Team Playoff Is Still Not The Solution For College Football
As a former college football player, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have not been following the newest developments in the four-team college football playoff to the extent of many of my friends.
It is not that I do not care, or that I am not interested in all the dynamics of the Power 5 conferences and national team rankings. Rather, it is because a four-team playoff decided by a committee is no solution to the problem with the college football post-season.
For the past 15 years, we had the BCS to tell us who was and who wasn’t worthy of playing for the national championship. A single game with only two teams to decide the championship never sat well with me.
The NFL has always had its playoff system right, and in recent years, football fans everywhere screamed for an implementation of the same system for the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Hell, Division II college football has a 16-team playoff system, so why can’t the FBS? I hope it can one day, but that won’t happen until we fix the politics of money behind the FBS system.
More than a billion dollars goes through college football every year, much of which comes from post-season bowl games. Most bowl games, excluding the big six (The Rose Bowl, The Orange Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, The Fiesta Bowl, The Cotton Bowl and National Championship Bowl Game), offer no real benefit in the case of a win.
I say this as a former player, who went to a bowl game every year of my football career.
The real reward of the bowl game was going on a trip for a week, being treated like royalty by the city and bowl committee and getting hundreds of dollars in gifts (I still have the PS3, the TV and the surround sound system I got from playing in several bowl games, which doesn’t include all the swag I got, too).
Winning the bowl game was really just a matter of pride, just like every game I played. As players, we never got anything from winning. The coaches, on the other hand, received a trophy to display in their offices and extra leverage when recruiting new players from high school. Not to mention, the money given to the university and conference just for going to the bowl game.
So, if a 16-team playoff system was implemented, the other teams that would have played in bowl games would not have a post-season or the money and perks that come with it. When money becomes an issue, politics become an issue.
College football is an extremely political entity. It is made up of conference commissioners, university athletic directors and coaches that have to play to the desires of the fans and more importantly, the donors.
You have to please the people to survive in the world of college athletics, and if you don’t, you will be fired mercilessly. Like any business, it is the money that matters and money becomes a huge matter when a national championship is on the line.
Prior to the BCS taking the control of who is worthy to earn a national championship from humans and giving it to a computer, national championships went to teams that never actually played championship games.
My alma mater, Brigham Young University (BYU), was crowned the National Champion in football at the end of the 1984 season, after being voted number one by the coaches and Associated Press.
The team went undefeated that year, but what most realize is that in their bowl game, they squeezed out a victory over an unranked Michigan team that finished 6-6. In today’s college football world, winning a national championship like that would be impossible. Was BYU the best team in the nation that year?
We’ll never know because there was no playoff. Prior to the BCS, we relied fully on human judgement to crown a national champion, and during the BCS, we relied on a computer to designate who was worthy of the opportunity to play for a national championship.
With this new four-team playoff system, we have taken the computer out of the equation and returned the control to human judgement. November 18 marked the first release of the College Football Playoff Committee’s rankings.
Alabama rose from 5th to 1st in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings: pic.twitter.com/lg74oTZdXS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 19, 2014
The small group of “experts” ranked Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State as the top four that would play in the playoff, if it were to take place that day.
How did they decide these four teams? By discussing and debating. It seems that we have reverted back to pre-BCS days where only a small, select group of people can judge the worthiness of teams to consider for a national championship.
The good part about having a four-team playoff system and not a single game to elect the champion is that the teams will be given more control to decide the victor. But, I do not believe that we can conclusively crown an overall champion of college football until a larger playoff system is implemented.
The beauty of the NFL playoffs and the College Basketball National Championship Tournament is that an underdog can win. What would March Madness be if only the four number-one seeds played in the tournament together? Would you care as much for a Final Four chosen solely by a committee and not by the team’s actual performance?
As a former player, I can confidently say that a 16-team playoff system is not only a viable option, but the best option to determine a true national champion.
Let’s take the power away from committees and computers, and give it back to the players and the coaches — the ones working and bleeding on the field — to actually earn the national championship.