They work hard for the money.

Bill Hancock’s disingenuousness aside, we all know why we’re getting playoff expansion.  And I think most people expect we’ll see expansion of that expansion in the not too distant future.  What I’m curious about is whether we’re on the cusp of seeing another fault line exposed, over the matter of player safety.  I don’t mean that in the Bielema sense, either.  I’m talking about asking players to fight through fifteen, sixteen or seventeen games in a year to win a national title.

While head coaches strike me as control freaks (comes with the territory, to some extent), for the most part, none strike me as being willingly ignorant of the toll a college football season takes on a student-athlete physically.  That’s led me to wonder if any of them have thought about what happens when those two issues intersect.  I got some answers last week.

“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze agreed with Richt, saying college football would have to cut into the regular season for the well-being of the student-athletes participating. Alabama’s Nick Saban didn’t exactly take a side on the matter, but he did say that if expansion comes, the sport should consider the toll more games would put on players.

“Not having thought much about it, I do think that for college players, with their age, with their responsibility to academics and the things they have to do that we’re pretty much closing in on the limit of how many games they should be playing and how we can still fit them in,” Saban said. “In our league, you’d have to win 15 games to win [the national championship in a playoff]. If you expand the playoff, you’d have to win more than that.”

Under the current format, four teams will compete in the College Football Playoff, meaning there will be two semifinal games before a national championship game. That’s after Power Five conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have their conference championship games following the regular season. The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game.

“I have always been concerned with the length of the season,” Freeze said. “But it’s so financially profitable that I’m not sure that there would be any interest [in shortening the regular season]. If you end up going to a longer playoff, there has to be talk of cutting the season back a game, at least.

“The workload that would be on these young men, I would think you’d have to look at shortening the season some if the playoff is expanding.”

Wow, I had no idea there was a college football topic Nick Saban hadn’t given much thought to, but there you go.

Seriously, the common theme there is awkward.  These coaches may have legitimate concerns about how their kids hold up as a season grows ever longer, but they all report to athletic directors who answer to school presidents who have other concerns they consider more legitimate.  You’ve seen enough goings on over the past ten years, so you tell me – whose concerns are likely to be given greater weight?

The other part of the equation to keep in mind here are that priorities can change over time, if the guys running the show lose track of their calibrations.

While Freeze suggested cutting the regular season by a game, Richt didn’t have a specific number for the regular season. Saban, however, threw out the idea of eliminating conference championship games in order to make room for an expanded playoff and cut down the burden of an extra game between the regular season and the playoffs.

It’s hard to see either of those options being attractive to Mike Slive, who’s trying to build a broadcast network asset while maintaining the value of a crown jewel conference championship game that’s been enormously successful for over two decades.  Also, judging by the current debate over the size of the conference schedule, lopping off a regular season game can’t be something any SEC athletic director wants to consider as an option.

But who’s to say how those things look to those folks a few years down the road?  Before you argue it wouldn’t matter, because no school or conference is voluntarily relinquishing any of that sweet money, don’t forget to factor what a future players union may have to say into the equation.  Life is full of tough choices; it’s just that guys like Slive have been able to dodge most of ‘em over the last decade.  We’ll see how long his luck (or that of his successor) holds up.

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15 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

15 responses to “They work hard for the money.

  1. Bob

    Solution. Leave the damn playoff at 4 games. That is probably more than we need anyway. The march to ruin the greatest regular season in all of sports is on. All for a national championship obsession that will in the end have just as many, if not more, arguments as we had in 1997.

    • I’d be fine with that IF, and only if, the 4-team model works for the SEC. That aside, +1.
      ~~~

    • Alkaline

      How would you feel about having the CCGs feed directly into the semi-finals? Could make the Big12 champ play the lowest seeded CCG-winner for the 4th spot. I would think the commissioners would love that since it basically would give them ownership of the playoff’s first round.

  2. Scorpio Jones, III

    Well duh…I have been bitching about this exact problem since the topic came up years ago.

    The national championship will be won by the trainers.

    Obvious solution is to increase the scholarship limits to….what, 105? But with all the other strange fruit the NCAA is dealing with, what are the chances that will happen?

    I, also, doubt the idea of dropping the SEC Championship game will fly, it would cost the conference too many TV dollars.

    Then, there is the problem of dropping a game if it is not done NCAA-wide.

    Surely this is not the first time it has occurred to Nick and Mark that the extended season could present some significant personnel issues.

    Ron Courson for Heisman.

  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    The golden goose is dying…buffoons like Hancock are just spouting fodder for her obituary while we, the fans…the only people who actually do give a shit about the game, for free…sit on our hands.

    Sad, very sad, indeed.

    We are gonna miss college football.

  4. S.E. Dawg

    If the playoff is expanded and the season not shortened, then the scholarship limit should be expanded to have more quality fresh bodies throughout a game or season.

    • Lrgk9

      I think this is where we are going. Puts more separation between the Haves and Have Nots as well. Delany will approve.

  5. I know this has be discussed countless times, but I need reminding why a playoff kills the regular season.

    I’m not necessarily against a playoff, but I think to be done properly the bowls needs be axed, set a 16 team field and roll with it.

    If your team doesn’t make the playoffs, let them play in a bowl game.

    Problem solved.

    Next.

  6. Cojones

    If going to 8 teams means 16 games, then remedial thoughts are needed to possibly decrease player injuries during the playoff and still maintain competition:

    1. Let there be universal player insurance for all conference champ(cc) games. Ditto for Playoff games.
    2. Make cc games teams eligible for more points to be considered in NC Final 8.

    3.Do away with one ooc patsy opponent and the costs that go with it (player injury, monies paid for opponent and fan interest). Fans could help through threatened boycotts of such games.

    4.As incentive, make the NCAA NC monies distributable to participating team players; hold other than grad seniors and NFL-recruit pay in int-bearing accts for later distribution. In this manner many players who otherwise would not go into the NFL will get equal compensation from the NC game as those going into the Pros.

    Shoot down these idealistic ideas and we may then get some good ones placed forward.

  7. Cojones
    1. Make major bowl games aligned as an elimination matchup. Mo’ interest, mo’ money. Rose Bowl would be open to all conferences. This would not omit factoring in proximity whereas there is plenty of population to fill that bowl if it has a Pac-10 Champ in it (Pac-10 vs #2 SEC team).
  8. Keese

    They would eliminate divisions and crown conference champs based on records, then matchup conferences in rounds of eight. Or they become too afraid the rock the boat and risk inflow.

  9. Wrangler

    Not advocating for expanding the playoff, but if it happens, here’s the solution:

    • Stay at 8 regular season conference games.
    • Reduce to 3 regular season non-conference games.

    • After teams complete that 11 game slate in 13 weeks, crown the division winners to play the CCG in week 15, while all other conference teams play each other in seeded cross-division match ups in week 14 hosted at seed with better conference record, applying tie breakers as necessary (2E at 2W, 3W at 3E, etc.).

    This adds quality conference “inventory,” keeps max games for NCG teams at 15, only reduces total games by one, and should reduce some of the cross-division droughts.

    Arguments against would be possible weakening of resume for CCG teams hopeful of spot in playoff (1 fewer [home OOC cupcake] game), and challenge of planning games at one week’s notice.

  10. Cousin Eddie

    Why not limit the number of games a given player can participate in? If a player has used up his alotted games he has to sit out the remaining games. Would bring in to play the depth of the bench and make coaches use some strategy. Example this year i could see Gurley sitting out the Troy game to allow himto compete in a game in the post season. Kids that practice and arescond team and never have a chance to start could be in line to start a game when the starter has to sit.