“It’s going to expand because they’ll never keep everybody happy.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to personally welcome Mark Schlabach to the ranks of the postseason skeptics.

… Only six years ago, a college football playoff was considered taboo.

What changed their minds? Money, of course. The almighty dollar was the driving force behind one of the most dramatic changes in the sport’s history…

And that’s expected to change when exactly?

He goes on to hint at something in his conclusion that he doesn’t quite tease out in its entirety.

… University presidents will be reluctant to let the college football season stretch from fall semester into the New Year. In an era of increased awareness about player safety, coaches and athletic directors will worry about the physical toll of a three-week playoff, and longtime bowl partners will lobby like crazy to protect the “bowl experience.”

But with 76 teams playing in 39 bowl games this coming season, the “bowl experience” isn’t what it used to be. It’s like beating Tennessee or Texas — everybody’s doing it.

When coaches, players and fans get a taste of the excitement and drama of a four-team playoff, they’ll want more.

If they want to keep expanding the playoffs without extending the length of the season, there’s one way to do that:  compress the bowls, either by shrinking the bowl season or by eliminating some of the bowls.  As Schlabach notes, they’ve already cheapened the bowls by inflating their numbers, so who’s really going to object if CFB offers to swap some meaningless postseason games for more playoffs?  ESPN sure won’t.  The real problem will come when they expand so much that they damage the regular season cash cow.  That’s a genie they won’t be able to stuff back in the bottle.

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49 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

49 responses to ““It’s going to expand because they’ll never keep everybody happy.”

  1. Does anyone who really loves the college football experience trust those with the levers of power not to mess all of this up? I certainly don’t. When the WWL rolls out a truckload of cash for an 8 or 16-team playoff, this bunch will grab it and it’s all goes downhill from there.

  2. Cojones

    You can compress the # of games by designating two (or four if eight teams are playing) bowl games as Playoff games.

    The decision to do that would certainly separate the money changers from the player temple priests.

  3. SouthGaDawg

    I still don’t understand why the playoff has to begin on New Years Day. The expanded playoffs can start in December with the semi’s on New Years Day. Then you play the championship a week or so later – same as it is now. As for the regular season, it will continue to dilute until the fans stop paying for tickets and making those contributions. UGA will have so many Sun Belt games in the future, you’ll think we are in that conference.

    • Cojones

      We can play only SEC teams any time the SEC says so. Would that ease your diluted interest? Designation of the “Big 5″ conferences will also put premium games on our season tickets since OOC games will be played against better opponents. Both of these things can be done to avoid the big ole Dilution gremlin during the regular season, but please don’t use the dilution theory to cover all fans’s interest in a true playoff. If UGA makes an 8-team playoff, please don’t tell me you wouldn’t be interested in every game.

    • Debby Balcer

      They do need to account for finals for the players which are usually during the time between the SEC championship and the bowl games.

  4. Cojones

    According to fan votes several years ago for a Playoff, most would be happy now if we just had gone to playoff mode using the top 8 ranked teams. Nope, the moneyed interests kept dragging it from 2 teams to 4 teams and anything resembling a playoff number first intended by many fans now has to be reached by kicking and screaming using any excuse pundits can think of to delay. Logic went out of their window long ago.

    Players playing in Allstar games, Senior games, East-West, North-South(you get the picture) have already elected to play in individual games that are not team games by any shot. Get rid of those games plus championship games and you can reduce those numbers to the number where many of you don’t now fuss over concussions. It seems to me anyone that worries about bad injuries to players because of game numbers is a hypocrit to espouse that they love CFB. Where is this magic number of games that, when played beyond, causes some to twist their hats in sympathy for what may lead to player injury? Using this same logic of player safety will end CFB, not by using the number of teams involved in a true playoff of the best teams in football, but by ending all games because of injury possibilities.

    • mp

      Those all-star games are opportunities for seniors to market themselves. Sure, might as well eliminate the chance for the players on the 112 teams not in the playoffs from trying to get more meaningful reps in front of scouts.

  5. Russ

    “like beating Tennessee or Texas”

    He he! That’s funny right there!

  6. Keese

    Playoffs will not lessen the regular season!…The current bowl system lessens the regular season. College football is not like the NFL and never will be

    • Bob

      With all due respect, nonsense. College Basketball’s regular season passes in anonymity each year because of the large playoffs. Regular season ratings for even “big” matchups like Carolina-Duke no longer bring ratings at all. People don’t care anymore…it is all about 16 days in March. November to March is merely pre-season. College Football better be damn careful or we will wind up the same product as CBB. And that is sad because right now the CFB REGULAR season is the best out there and it ain’t close.

      • Keese

        That neglects the differences in the two sports and how many games are played. There’s way more games and greater margin for error in bball. With 8 team playoff every weekend still counts without those teams being relegated to a bs bowl as a reward. What if Alabama despite a fluke play by AU…you think AU still deserves winds up in the NC game?

        • Honestly, I don’t want to see regular season rematches in the playoff. 4 teams minimize that probability and maximize the likelihood that only conference champions make the playoff. The data indicates over the last 13 years rarely does a team outside the top 4 after the conference championship weekend warrant a shot at the championship.

          The only way I would find 8 compelling was if it were champions only, the 1st round on campus the week after the conference championship games, and the 1st round losers gain automatic access to the 4 upper tier New Year’s bowl games. That format maintains the importance of the regular season (1st round home field advantage), makes the conference championship games an unofficial part of the playoff, and rewards teams without cheapening the regular season.

          • Cosmic Dawg

            This would be my vote. It would also maintain more of the air of collegiality (did I make that word up?) and pageantry, and if you are going to maintain all cfb conferences as one sport, let the Sun Belt champ get a crack at it, too. I am ok with only one SEC team in the playoffs – we have the SECCG already – the playoffs give that game less meaning the way it stands.

        • Macallanlover

          Keese, you are the clear winner by first round knockout. What a bunch of silly nonsense to babble about the irrelevant college basketball tournament. Yes, if the football playoff gets to 32 teams, it will resemble basketball’s version of all average teams are invited, and the “wisdom” of those worried about the sanctity of the regular season will be justified. At four or eight teams, every regular season game is actually more significant because excellence has a reward, and it doesn’t come close to matching any of the “usual suspect” comparisons of MLB, NFL, March Madness, NBA, etc., etc. I don’t think the people who espouse this philosophy really think this, they just parrot other “sky is falling” voices. I have never heard one significant point made to support how 8 teams, or less, would threaten what they fear will be lost.

          And yes, the playoffs should be a continuation of the regular season with the first round being played in mid-December. That is adequate time following the conference championships to get prepared, and allows the Christmas/New Year break to accommodate the semis. Another option would be the four 16 team conference idea which I wish we had gotten to 2 years ago when we were so close. We didn’t get there so until that format is in place, I will continue to support an 8 team playoff to allow the needed inclusion/exclusion mix.

          I do not understand how adding another round is seen as over burdening the academic needs of players when we fly athletes all over the country, often during mid-week, for basketball in a season that stretches from Novemeber to mid March. And only 2, count them two, additional teams will play that extra game under an 8 team concept.

          • I don’t think the people who espouse this philosophy really think this, they just parrot other “sky is falling” voices.

            How convenient for you.

            • Macallanlover

              Despite the snark, I do feel that way., Against the playoffs or a post-season? Fine,, just say so but the apples to oranges comparisons are not a reason to oppose. Having 5% eligible isn’t close to giving 30+% a ticket to the playoffs. And exactly how is the regular season undermined when every single game counts toward your being eligible, and no one has ever taken a play off in the final games in CFB that I have seen, or had pointed out.

              Totally respect, although disagree with, those who just say “play the season but drop the post season”. Got it, don’t get it, but got that you feel that way…it is honest. But making irrelevant comparisons about other sports and organizations, or making up strange scenarios of what will happen by players sitting out when it just hasn’t happened in CFB is not shooting straight, imo. I don’t feel it honest and think people are repeating it without realizing it has no foundation in truth.

              • Hackerdog

                You’re arguing that copying the NFL’s playoff structure would, somehow, NOT result in college teams copying NFL strategy for making the playoffs. But that’s wishful thinking. If you seriously think that UGA fans would rather beat GA Tech, even if it costs them a berth in the national championship tournament, then I think you’re being willfully obtuse.

                • Macallanlover

                  I think you must be looking into a mirror when you call someone “willfully obtuse”. How many times do you need to see this exact example play out for you? UGA did this exact thing just two years ago. FSU did it last year against FU. It happens every single year, college teams do not hold out players in their final games after securing the conference title game bid….which is/was the entry. We also didn’t withhold players in 2002, 2005, or 2011. Neither did Bama or Auburn, or LSU, or SC…..and on and on. When you only have 2, 4, 6, or 8 spots, you can’t lay down. This ain’t college basketball, the NFL, MLB, or the NBA. Look through the window, the picture is crystal clear.

                  • Hackerdog

                    You’re using the behavior of college teams without a playoff to predict their behavior with a playoff and refusing to acknowledge the obvious fact that a playoff will change their behavior. As Bluto would say, how convenient for you.

                    I agree that with 2, or even 4 spots, teams won’t throw a game. 8 or more teams, however, and there’s no such guarantee, despite your assurances to the contrary. 8 teams means conference champions make the tournament. That means a non-conference game, such as against GA Tech, only counts for seeding purposes. Now, I know that you’re perfectly confident that teams will gladly sacrifice their best players in Pyrrhic victories in order to advance from a 5 seed to a 3 seed. But I’m just not sold.

                    And you’re right. college football isn’t college basketball, or the NFL, or MLB, or the NBA. Yet. But just wait. ESPN is one the mother.

                    • Macallanlover

                      First, the Senator has said repeatedly that the BCS has been a “playoff”, and it seems most subscribe to that thought, so going to four is simply a first expansion of that. Even if you don’t subscribe to that, that would make the Conference Championship game the “top prize”, which has always been my contention anyway. Not one school with a shot at either their conference, or perceived NC title has ever rested players after securing their spot. Not one, so I am on pretty solid ground here.

                      As for what happens with a possible (be still my heart) 8 team playoff, I feel it has to involve seeding and a first round home field advantage to the Top 4. That is huge, and no one can risk that lost edge (plus it is one freaking game, not a significant portion of the schedule). The reason I am confident is the logistics of putting on that first round game, I could be wrong but that seems most logical to me. And three of the 8 teams will be depending on a “non-guaranteed” slot which, again reduces the chances of what is viewed by you to be of such concern. Again, minute impact, if any at all.

                    • Hackerdog

                      I agree that no college football teams have rested players in the past. But that was in the old world of either no playoff, or a 2-team playoff. We’re discussing the brave new world of 8 teams, or more. In that world, the behaviors that served teams in the old world will be modified. It amazes me that we even have to argue that.

                      You argue that going from a 4-team playoff where a selection committee chooses the most deserving teams, to an 8-team playoff where conference champions are guaranteed entry will have a “minute” impact. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

                      Yes, I suppose it’s possible to structure the playoff in such a way that going from a 5 seed to a 3 seed will be such an immense advantage, that teams will sacrifice whatever is necessary to secure a top-half seed. But I doubt that the playoff will necessarily be structured that way. Especially when playoff games at neutral sites could be sold to the highest bidder.

                      So, while I’m arguing against likely outcomes, you seem to be arguing in favor of your ideal of perfection, which is almost guaranteed not to happen. That just doesn’t seem productive.

        • If the length of the CBB season is to blame for the relative lack of regular season interest now, how do you explain the former popularity of its regular season? As I pointed out in a post, they’ve been playing 30+ game regular seasons since the ’30s.

          • Keese

            I get what you’re saying with college basketball (or MLB or NFL)… but that does not correlate directly to college football. College football is and always will be unique in its makeup. ..Which makes it wildly popular with those that support a particular school. As much as you hate the money in CFB it’s what’s going to ensure the regular season does not become diluted

            • As much as you hate the money in CFB it’s what’s going to ensure the regular season does not become diluted

              Here’s my problem – there’s a tipping point where the CFB postseason increases in size and format ’til it reaches the stage when it’s more valuable than the regular season is. I have no idea where that is. Nobody does. But what I do know is that the guys running the sport aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are and when they overshoot the mark, that’ll be it.

              Ultimately, to have faith that the college football regular season won’t shrink in significance – and I would argue it’s the regular season that makes CFB what it is – you have to have faith in people like Delany and Slive. That’s a bridge too far for me, thanks.

              • Keese

                Granted these guys are buffoons but these guys along with school presidents want to protect the regular season just the same. Anything is better than what we have now with letdown bowl games. I’d really like to see conference champs playoffs

              • Chopdawg

                Senator, what is it exactly that you think is so significant about the CFB regular season, and why do you think this significance would be reduced by an expanded CFB playoff system?

                Having paid close attention to major college football since the 1961 season, and having witnessed my first UGA game as a freshman in Sanford on a broiling September 20, 1969–a meaningful 35-0 win over Tulane–I just don’t understand the handwringing. What will we lose, if we allow our sport to crown its champion on the field through a reasonable playoff system? I can’t think of a single win or loss we’ve had, through all those years, that wouldn’t have been just as thrilling or as agonizing, if a playoff system had been in place all this time.

                The significance of college football as we know it can only be enhanced through the playoff system.

              • Macallanlover

                True, no one knows where the tipping point for CFB is but it certainly has to be above 10 with around 125 D1 schools. Eight is about 6% of all entries. Elite, yet enough to accommodate deserving teams, and the most teams that the available timeframe will allow.

                • Mac, we don’t know anything “certainly”. It’s not all about the numbers. It’s also about how they structure eligibility; some formats are more stable than others.

                  • Macallanlover

                    No, nothing is guaranteed in any future events. But you have to see, while contrary opinions are fair for all, the “anti’s case” is passionately argued with a strong bias to hyperbole all based on conjecture. I would just like to see the rhetoric toned down and someone supply some solid facts. Like my discussion with Hack above, we aren’t talking about devastation of CFB’s regular season. Possibly, 1-2 games out of thousands MIGHT be effected, and history doesn’t even support that.

                    • Mac, we’ve been down this well-traveled road before. You don’t like the facts others present and that’s fine. But you are doing nothing more than engaging in conjecture yourself when you presume that the regular season won’t be affected by playoff expansion, or that eight games is the obvious stopping point for a playoff.

                      You dismiss the history of college basketball’s tourney experience as being irrelevant to the discussion. I don’t find that convincing for the simple reason that the same people who have molded that postseason are calling the shots on college football’s. That strikes me as a solid fact. Obviously, YMMV.

          • S

            Okay, Senator, here goes:
            1) No one’s ever really paid attention to the basketball season pre-January. The season starts at the climax of football season and has always gotten drowned out. Except at Kentucky.
            2) Because of all the one-and-dones, there’s a distinctly inferior product on the court. Used to be, you could get really excited about signing a Dominique Wilkins because you’d have him around for 3 years. Now, not so much. And fundamentals and interesting offenses have gone by the wayside. I think that, although they happened in the same time frame, that the NBA eligibility rules screwed up the sport a lot more than going to 64 teams.
            3) You’re a Georgia Bulldog. We are the South Carolina Gamecocks of basketball. One regular season conference championship in over 100 years. We don’t win big unless it’s a huge fluke or we have a crook as head coach. South Carolina? Hell, make that MTSU when it comes to recruiting. We’re so bad that the top prospects in our state would just laugh at the thought of playing for us. We have over a century of stank on us, and that means that for just about any Georgia Bulldog, basketball season is something that gets endured until G-Day. We tune into the NCAA tournament out of mild interest, to see what competitive basketball programs look like.
            4) You’re comparing it to the wrong sport. Compare it to NFL regular season/playoffs, or Division 1-AA regular season/playoffs, if anything.

            • I chose my undergraduate school on the basis of wanting to see ACC basketball first hand. I used to pay plenty of attention to CBB season round. So did many, many others.

              If the product is now that inferior, why do so many follow March Madness?

              • Keese

                Because that’s the only way they can get people interested now in the actual sport! At least that’s how I feel as a casual CBB fan….CFB would have to expand the regular season way beyond what it is now for it to lose fan appeal or regular season significance. Just opposite cause and effect fan perspectives regarding the sport

                • Why do I have the feeling you would have said the same thing about CBB in the mid-’70s?

                  • Keese

                    If you say greed will fuel playoff expansion, what would prevent it from expanding the regular season without a playoff? I’m actually glad the presidents/commissioners are letting the sport evolve to what the fans have wanted for a very long time…as opposed to fan indifference we’re use to having on other matters. Look how long it’s taken for the BCS to die and the higher ups to make a decision. They’ll be too indecisive and afraid to make changes that may mess with the money coming in.

    • Castleberry

      Strongly disagree here. I watch a lot of college track and field and in the pac 12 conference championship meet Oregon threw their b team in and USC didn’t even enter a team in the 4 x 400 between the two of the strongest teams in the country because they were resting up for regional and NCAA championship meets in the coming weeks. It will be more of the same for football.

      Would you risk injuring Gurley against Tech if we had an entry in an eight team playoff sewn up?

      • Chopdawg

        I think we would, because it’s the Tech game. Means the same, whether we’re in the playoff or not.

  7. Chopdawg

    “University presidents will be reluctant to let the college football season stretch from fall semester into the New Year”…they obviously didn’t object in the 70′s when the regular season expanded from 10 games to 11, or in 2002 when the regular season expanded from 11 games to 12.

    “When coaches, players and fans get a taste of the excitement and drama of a four-team playoff, they’ll want more”…well, yeah, speaking for at least one long-time fan, they will.

    Would one of you playoff detractors please, please tell me what you’re for, instead of constantly telling me what you’re against? I keep waiting. Specifics, please.

    • OK – I’ll try to tell you what I’m for:
      1) Protection of the regular season – why screw up the best regular season in sports? I don’t think you should be in the playoff if you didn’t win your league, period. How can you be the best team in the country when you’re not the best team in your conference?
      2) Protection of final exams – If student-athletes are going to continue to be students, they need sufficient time to prepare for exams in December.
      3) Reasonable protection of the bowl system – Yes, there are too many bowl games, but these games are a reward for the season. Also, they are a big part of next year’s preparation with shortened spring practices.
      If an extended playoff can provide for all of that, I’m all for it.

      The 4-team playoff is the best solution. My problem with the current design is the selection committee. Everyone talks about bracket creep. The committee is going to be what creates bracket creep. 4 minimizes the impact on the regular season, allows for the players to be able to prepare for and take final exams, and keeps the bowl system in place.

    • AusDawg85

      As soon as you can explain how a playoff will identify the “best” team in college football, I’ll list ad nauseum the arguments against a playoff system that will create the NFL-Lite version of football. I keep waiting. Specifics, please.

      /see what I did there?

      • Macallanlover

        I don’t think there is any possible way to determine who is the “best” team in CFB, past, present, or future. I think we can recognize a “champion” just as we do in other sports. It should be someone who earned their way into a limited competition and prevailed against other qualified contestants. Golf does that every week, doesn’t mean the winner is “the best” regardless of how many titles he wins, but that may lead to some having the opinion of who is best. Who actually knows who is best at anything (other than just for that specific moment/day?) It is just subjective and always will be. It is the process that is being argued, and all sports have one, some better than others.

    • How long you been reading the blog? I don’t think I’ve been particularly shy about offering my concerns about an extended playoff.

  8. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The way out of this is to make the entire season a playoff. If the Big 5 conferences will realign into 4 conference, each with 16 teams, that’s 64 teams. Each new mega conference would have 2 divisions. The division champs (usually who wins a division goes all the way to the last regular season games) would play each other for the conference championship of each respective conference. That’s a de facto first round of the playoffs with 8 teams participating. After that the 4 winners play, then 2 in the NCG. This isn’t really that hard to envision. What’s difficult is getting everyone on the same page and which Big 5 conference disappears. But that system would end the problem of “playoff creep.”

    • Alkaline

      Blame Texas. If they’d agreed to form the Pac-16 back in 2011 then there would likely be only 4 power conferences now. If any of the current Big 5 disappears, I think the Big 12 is still the most susceptible. They are vulnerable geographically since they border every other major conference, and they’ve only got 10 members so they’ll be easier to divide out among the other leagues.

    • Mayor, I agree with you, but your proposal requires a clean break of the surviving 4 conferences from the NCAA. The universities left behind (including ND, which isn’t likely to join a conference for football) will sue immediately. Your proposal is the most solid, but it’s also clearly the most difficult to implement. If D-1 could get the 10 conferences to 8 with appropriate realignment, that would be possible.

      • Mayor

        The problem is those other conferences suck. Oh. maybe they have one or two teams (see Boise, Fresno State) that can play but the rest stink. Those conferences got no business being in the playoff discussion anyway.

  9. PTC DAWG

    Check the ratings of regular season NFL games and get back to me with more of this drivel.

    • Hackerdog

      Check out the NFL attendance figures. Minnesota’s stadium seats 50k. Vanderbilt’s stadium seats 40k. The largest stadium in the NFL seats 85k. Six stadiums in the SEC seat more than that.

      The NFL was built for television. College football was built for attendance. And both will suffer when playoffs expand. Or, how else do you explain the NFL declining the latest proposal to expand the playoffs?