But they’re settling it on the field!

You work your butt off to sponsor a true national title game, you have the benefit of exciting semi-finals going for you, and this is your reward:

Montana’s 24-17 win Saturday over visiting Appalachian State in a second-half snowstorm provided a riveting finish, but it cost the city of Chattanooga more than $1 million.

The Football Championship Subdivision finalists are set for Friday night with Montana and Villanova, a combination that will travel the fewest fans since the title game came to Finley Stadium in 1997…

The point isn’t that this delegitimizes the 1-AA title game, but that slapping a playoff label on a postseason format in and of itself doesn’t automatically translate into greater riches.

Postseason game sponsors are rational actors who aren’t in the business of setting up money losing matchups.  Rail against that as much as you’d like, but if a sponsor is obligated to hand out $30 million+ to a couple of schools, it’s going to make an effort to arrange for a game that gives it the best shot it can get to cover the numbers first.  It’ll worry about the quality of the participants later. That’s how crudely capitalism works sometimes.

49 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

49 responses to “But they’re settling it on the field!

  1. keith

    Senator, are you really going to use the example of the FCS to prove something about playoffs. If there were a playoff in the big boy division, and believe me, there will be one day sooner than later, it will BLOW the doors off of the amount of money made on what we have now.

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    • I see. The “every other division has a playoff” argument only works one way.

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      • rbubp

        Yes.
        Especially when it comes to ticket sales. Shame, Senator, you know better.

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        • rbubp

          But I guess I would temper my own comment in that I would expect any kind of playoff to make the same money as now, not more. The question, as always, is how that money would get distributed.

          But please don’t try to compare revenues in the minor sports with potential revenues in FBS football or D1 basketball. That’s like saying that because the lacrosse playoffs lost money, and football playoff won’t do well.

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          • Macallanlover

            My plan would be to “buy” the votes of the smaller schools by cutting the pie across the board (not equally, but with a heavy, minimum guarantee, $500-$1MM to all schools). Lot of have-nots in that 120 school D1 group. Works well in securing votes in politics!

            I think there would be significantly more total dollars when you bid that contract out. That includes leaving the bowl system in place, with some minor fallout and looking at a net five additional games being sold to a TV network. The four 1st round games at the home stadiums of the 4 highest rated teams would be additional, as would the championship game played after the 2nd round games from Jan 1. Those two would not be net additional as they would take place at current BCS locations.

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            • Hackerdog

              I think you’re coming at the problem backwards.

              The small schools and conferences are already interested in scrapping the BCS in favor of a playoff that would allow greater access to the non-BCS conference teams.

              It’s the BCS conferences that aren’t interested in sharing. And they’re the ones that count.

              The BCS isn’t a democracy. You could get every non-BCS school president in the country to sign a petition favoring a playoff. But until the BCS schools are convinced there’s more money for them in an alternative, then the system won’t be changing.

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    • Hackerdog

      I disagree with you, but I admire your absolute certainty.

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  2. Ari, is that you?

    You guys in the upper chamber must think the American people will believe anything.

    I hear only 4 people showed up for a D-League basketball game. Should the NBA consider folding?

    I admire your persistence, but respect you more when you say, “there is not going to be a playoff and there is nothing you can do about it.”

    I’d take a mulligan, Senator.

    Maybe an #8-9 or #7-10 match-up could produce a low attendance game. But I would have to think TV money would more than make up for it.

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    • Mike, I’m not arguing that because they’re losing money in Chattanooga, they’ll lose money on a D-1 playoff. I’m not that shallow.

      I am making three points here, none of which I’ve seen refuted in this comment thread:

      1. Just because you slap a “playoff” label on a post season doesn’t mean that everybody makes more money.
      2. Bowl game hosts and sponsors are rational actors in the marketplace. If you make a playoff big enough, you’ll have empty seats in the early rounds. You also risk fans not traveling as much. That’s gonna matter.
      3. There is a certain degree of hypocrisy in arguing that “every other division has a playoff, so why not D-1?” on the one hand, and saying in the next breath that we can’t take any lessons from Chattanooga losing money this year.

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      • 1. The money question will remain a question until a playoff proposal is accepted and bids are solicited. The BCS does not want this question answered.

        2. Empty seats will happen. They happen every year in the basketball tourney. This is true, however, let’s pay special attention to about 15 of these 30+ bowl games. I expect we are going to see a lot of empty seats.

        3. Revenues in any sports are not degraded proportionally as they classification level is reduced. The free market is going to be drawn to the best. Basketball tournament is a prime example. These “mid-majors” are not ratings draws during the regular season, but when the tournament starts the are ratings gold.

        I argue if Toledo were to win its conference with a 7-4 record and make a run in a football playoff, knocking off big names in the process, eventually playing an undefeated Alabama for a true Championship, for that day, Toledo would have more fans than any other team in the nation.

        We both know the problem is never going to be making sure the “pie” is big enough. It will always be about limiting the number of pieces cut out of it and ensuring they are served as often a possible to the chosen conferences.

        They will never state that publicly, thus enter Ari.

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        • When I refer to the money issue, there’s more to it than just the size of the new contract for the playoffs. There’s the question of distribution and there’s the question of how much the regular season revenue stream is impacted.

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      • wheaton4prez

        1. Who said that changing the label of the post season would have any affect on it’s own?

        2. It’s true that the play-offs would not be feasible at some size. That’s why we can trust that the players who stand to gain or lose from it will make an effort to not let them become too large. Also, I don’t think this point is lost on most people who want a play-off. Sure, there are some whacky large post-season ideas floating around out there. The existence of bad ideas doesn’t refute the merits of good ones.

        3. You can take lessons from Chattanooga losing money. It means that a play-off shouldn’t be too large. That doesn’t take away from the merits of having a play-off in the post season.

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  3. Macallanlover

    To compare the 1-AA playoffs to what D1 would look like is naturally going to make playoffs look like a bad idea. Any adoption of the 16 team format done over a four week period is destined to looked stupid. Eight teams, playoff to run mid December to mid January. That is like comparing the women on the view to Gretchen/Juliet/Martha/Shannon/Jamie on FOX.

    Chattanooga certainly gets dinged with this matchup, but any survivors of an 8 team playoff in D1 would not only pack a mid-continent Dome with 2 weeks notice, they would have EARNED their place into the game and attracted a following of fans throughout the country. Exciting times indeed, but like many fantasies, only in my dreams.

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    • The Realist

      “mid-continent dome”

      Like where they play the Super Bowl every year?

      “…they would have EARNED their place into the game and attracted a following of fans throughout the country.”

      This would be true if college football wasn’t such a regionalized, polarizing sport. Most fans are fans of their team first and foremost. If their team isn’t on the agenda, then many will not care what is happening in the playoffs. College football doesn’t lend itself to casual fans as the Super Bowl does because of the “regionality” of the conferences, traditions, rivalries, etc.

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    • Hackerdog

      I wouldn’t be so certain of the attendance numbers. The ACC championship game is an example of one that the fans typically can’t be counted on to travel to. And that’s when it’s located within the region. Do you think those same fans will be more likely to travel to the west coast to watch a game?

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      • Macallanlover

        To both Realist and Hacker:

        I feel the fanbases of the two schools would have just been to the Semi’s two weeks earlier, and they could have been 2500 miles away. I would propose the championship game would be played in either San Antonio, Dallas, St. Louis, or Indy, depending on the bid. That way fans from any school should not have too far to travel on short notice. Being in a dome would insure no weather issues for fans or players during the worst time of winter.

        As for attendance, I don’t think anyone could seriously think of the ACC as an indicator of interest in agame like this. We are talking a REAL championship, for the first time in history. The first round games would be a home game for all but 5,000 lucky fans who could get the limited visitor tickets. The 2nd round would be the usual bowl allowance of tickets, with less time to act, but much more significance. The two teams who advance would have no problem selling their share of the tickets, infact they would have a problem getting all they wanted. The localities are all large and both corporations and local citizens would buy the tickets not withheld for the schools. No empty seats, and no “coporate stranglehold” on tickets like they have at the Superbowl where 70K fans with no interest in either team dominating the stadium.

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        • Hackerdog

          In other words, a playoff will be great because a playoff will be great.

          I’ve never been a fan of begging the question as a debating tactic. But as I said before, I admire your certainty.

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          • Macallanlover

            No, I respect your right to disagree about plaoffs, I was just rebutting your point about attendance. I cannot personally envision empty seats at a national champioship game for D1, and I feel comparisons to the ACC CG is a pretty weak argument. Of all the concerns I have about getting a playoff to occur, support from fans is not on the list.

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            • Hackerdog

              You were begging the question. You believe attendance figures will be high because it would be nice if they were. You reject the comparison of the ACC championship game because it doesn’t support your position.

              Now I don’t expect you to conduct some scientific study to predict attendance numbers on a variety of playoff models, but it would be nice if you were open to the possibility that past performance (in smaller schools not traveling well) just might predict future results.

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              • Macallanlover

                Wow, if you really think anything close to that, you don’t understand what I am saying at all. But if that is the way you want to spin what I am saying, have at it. I think you might be the only person that wants to compare the ACC game to a potential CFB Superbowl. Hell man, it doesn’t even compare remotely to the Big 12 CG, much less the SECCG!

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                • Hackerdog

                  You are the one misunderstanding my position. I think that the championship game of an 8 or 16-team playoff would generate better revenue than the current championship game.

                  But there are other games that must be played. And those match ups would probably involve some smaller schools that don’t travel well.

                  Last year’s Orange Bowl between VA Tech and Cincinnati was practically giving away tickets. The poor showing by Cincinnati fans was a big reason why the Fiesta and Orange bowls passed on the Bearcats this year. Now the Orange Bowl didn’t decide the national champion last year, but it was the biggest football game in the history of the Bearcat program. And the fans still didn’t show up.

                  Your position seems to be that smaller schools would travel well, despite past history, because they just would. I’m not sold.

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  4. another angle

    The title game in Chattanooga is a half-assed ran game.Those in charge depend on Appy st. to fill the place, no plan b.They may lose the game after this year.My point is you can’t use that for a reasonable comparison.Bidding out a bcs title game same as final four etc. would be a ton of cash.btw Chattanooga has gotten lucky with app st.3x ga s 3x etc. this is #5 for mont. App. st getting a 4 seed was unfortunate.

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  5. If you are comparing playoff series, you’d be better served by comparing the NCAA Division I basketball tournament instead of the football Division I-AA playoffs. No matter who the teams are that play in the final, the building is packed. No doubt that would be the same for the football game. It would be the event of the year, much like the Super Bowl. Can you imagine what kind of bidding war would arise between CBS, Fox, NBC (if Notre Dame is guaranteed a spot), and ABC/ESPN to broadcast that game each year? C’mon Sen, terrible argument. Thanks for posting tho.

    But i agree that we likely won’t see it happen anytime soon if at all. The big wigs are too stubborn.

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    • Hackerdog

      The real question isn’t whether the championship game of an 8 or 16-team playoff would generate bigger ratings than the current BCS championship game. It would. The question is whether the aggregate attendance/ratings numbers would increase under a playoff system.

      So far, no one has answered that question with anything more than wishful thinking.

      On one hand, the occasional game late in the regular season between two teams fighting to get into the playoff would probably generate increased attendance and ratings. On the other hand, a game late in the regular season between one powerhouse team that has already locked up a playoff berth and will be resting its starters and one underdog that can’t possibly get into the playoffs, regardless of the game’s outcome, will probably have its numbers suffer.

      One result of a playoff system may follow college basketball. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about any regular season basketball games. I know Duke plays UNC during the year and that gets some excitement. But the rest of the country just waits for the playoffs before tuning in to watch.

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  6. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The other thing is what about sportsmanship and integrity of the process? If the only thing that matters is money (how well the schools travel and TV the ratings for the participating schools) let’s just skip to the Championship Game and have ND play USC each year.

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    • Mayor,

      Well, that’s where the BSC HAS succeeded in part. I think most folks forget that we used to have the #1 team in the nation playing in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. . . .against the #11 team in the nation. Miami did this, i saw it on the ESPN’s show about The U the other night. So, at least we are getting a #1 versus #2. It is much better than it used to be. . but there can still be improvement.

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  7. The Realist

    Just for grins, if there were a playoff this year, Boise State would still be left out. You’d have 6 auto-qualifying conference champs, plus TCU as an auto-qualifier at #4, plus Florida at-large. That is, unless you have a 16-team playoff that likely would include four 3-loss teams… meaningful regular season be damned.

    Just sayin’.

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    • drothgery

      I don’t know very many playoff advocates who think BCS 6 + 2 at-large is a reasonable playoff plan. If you do an 8-team playoff, you can’t have autobids. Ties, ND, and multiple good non-autobid teams require more than 2 at-large spots.

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      • How about a 12 team playoff with the top 4 seeds getting byes in the first round? That would work. You could include 8 conference champs and 4 at-large. Six BSC conference champs, then choose the other two conference champs by which two conference champs are ranked the highest. You would need a selection committee – use the same guys who run the BSC so they will still feel like they have some power – to choose the 6 teams other than the BSC conference champs. I think 12 teams is a fair number where you won’t have teams screaming, “we got left out”. If you can’t make the top 12, then just shut up.

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        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          Like it or not the right number is 16. That is a big enough group to be sure the really best team cannot be left out but small enough to omit the obvious interlopers. The playoff should be seeded with the highest ranked playing the lowest ranked.

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          • 12 or 16, matters not to me. Just as long as every conference champ is in, and there is an opportunity for a few at-large bids.

            I understand why BCS conference commissioners and presidents would oppose, but for the life of me, I cannot understand a fan being opposed to it.

            With no financial interest in the argument, how can anyone oppose a playoff?

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            • Because an extended playoff would suck. 😉

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            • Hackerdog

              I can oppose a playoff because I don’t want to spend the final week of the regular season watching a middle of the road Big-10 team playing a middle of the road Big-12 team because all the teams that I care about are either eliminated from the playoff, or have sewn up a spot and will be trading a loss in the final game for healthier starters during the playoffs.

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          • Then what would we need conferences for?

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  8. wheaton4prez

    It’s a valid point that profitability must be considered for any scheme, play-off or not. However, it is taking that idea too far to suggest that there isn’t a play-off system that would be profitable.

    Certainly, comparing a theoretical BCS play-off with the FCS play-off leaves a lot to be desired in the similarity department.

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    • Certainly, comparing a theoretical BCS play-off with the FCS play-off leaves a lot to be desired in the similarity department.

      I agree, but that doesn’t seem to stop playoff proponents from playing the “every other division has playoffs, why can’t D-1 football do it?” card.

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      • Sen, it isn’t just “every other division” that has playoffs, it’s EVERY OTHER SPORT!

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        • DawgPhan

          Since there are probably only 3-4 examples of a working, profitable playoff currently happening and yet playoffs happen in “EVERY OTHER SPORT” it would appear that playoffs are losing exercises in virtually “EVERY OTHER SPORT”. You dont get to hold on to the “EVERY OTHER SPORT” argument when we know that basically every playoff is a failure.

          How about this…anti-playoff folks give up the “regular season” argument and the playoff folks give up the “EVERY OTHER SPORT” argument.

          Doing what is best for CFB should be the goal, not the “I dont like watching the bowl games so we should stop having them” self-centered stance that most playoff folks take.

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          • DawgPhan,
            Outside of D-1 Basketball and FBS football, can you name another money-making sport in college? Forget about tourneys for a moment. Just name another profitable intercollegiate sport.

            There are profitable women’s basketball programs, but overall women’s basketabll is a money loser.

            College baseball is a money loser, but the College World Series is a money maker.

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            • DawgPhan

              Does the college baseball WS make money for the schools? I dont know, seems unlikely that it does, but I dont know.

              Point being that playoffs in college are resounding failures at every level in every sport. There are just a handful of working playoffs while the rest of them are utter failures and seeming the most pointed to example(D2 football) is looking to dig itself an even bigger hole, all the while the coaches(and players?) seemingly enjoy it less and less.

              the grass is always greener, isnt it.

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              • That is like saying every sport except FBS football and D-1 basketball is a failure because they do not make money.

                I would argue that every AMATEUR sport is a success.

                Are high school sports failures because they do not produce a windfall?

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                • DawgPhan

                  What I am saying is that the examples given when playoff people talk about a D1 CFB playoff are mostly epic failures that hurt everyone involved.

                  The standard argument is “EVERY OTHER SPORT” from the playoff people…That argument has very little weight considering that nearly all examples of playoffs are epic failures hurting everyone involved.

                  I mean you are using a sieve to collect water…it doesnt work well, I can show you countless examples of where it doesnt work and actually hurts the folks involved in collecting the water and yet the pro-sieve crowd is screaming about making the sieve bigger.

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                  • I guess if the goal of sport is to produce money, you may be correct.

                    I will always contend amateur sport is about athletic competition. Athletic championships should be decided via competition unless the very sport is subjective in nature, such as gymnastics.

                    As far as I know, Georgia athletes were not awarded rings the year Georgia was the most profitable athletic department in the country.

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                    • DawgPhan

                      The national champion is decided via competition…they actually do play that game next year…2 teams will actually settle it on the field. We already have that. And in the SEC we already have a play in game. and then we have the regular season where you need to beat most everyone in your conference…oh wait and Texas did the same thing…so the idea that it isnt being played out on the field or awarded through competition is just silly.

                      So you aren’t contending that amateur sports(sic) should be settled via competition, what you are contending is that amateur sports should be settled in a competition whose rules most suits you.

                      Make no mistake about it, the whole playoff debate is not around fair or money or the sake of competition, but about the whims of fans who just want their every whim and want satisfied…they complain when UGA plays cupcakes, they complain when we travel to take on a top 10 team, they complain about playing in jacksonville, not because of fairness or equality, but because they want to be satisfied. And while I will not argue against the primal need to be satisfied, don’t mistake that feeling with some sort of moral superiority because you think it is for the sake of competitions, because it isn’t.

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                    • DawgPhan, i’m confused. What is your argument? Why do you like the BCS? I admit that next year is even better than it is now b/c of the addition of a plus-one game, but this year there are FIVE undefeated teams in college football. Now maybe three of them will lose which would end up working next year, but if we have three undefeated teams in a situation like this next year, who plays in the plus one? My desire for a playoff system has everything to do with satisfaction, I will be satisfied when there is ONE team and ONLY one team who has either won every game it has played that year, or beaten every team they played in a playoff. I am not upset with our current system when the only undefeated team in the nation wins the BSC championship game. .that’s fair. They proved they were the best in my opinion. What irks me is when a two-loss team gets to play the only undefeated team in the nation, beats them and is crowned the National Champion when there are other two-loss teams and some one-loss teams who don’t get a shot to do the same. Something about that just doesn’t sound fair or equitable. So step down off the high horse and please explain why you like the BSC instead of trying to play psychologist to those of us that want a playoff.

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          • I think we need to redefine success and failure here. The concept of a playoff permeates through every sport there is. Even NASCAR and the PGA Tour have adopted a “playoff” system which gives the teams who have performed the best throughout the course of the year an opportunity “play” each other on the field, course, court, etc. .

            I am not opposed to the BSC when compared to the way things USED to be. It is much better. But it doesn’t give us a clear cut national champion, who withstood the rigors of a regular season in-conference schedule, a conference championship game and then a 3-4 game playoff against teams that had done the same but in different conferences. Instead, we have the same tired argument each year about which conference is the best and how we’ll never know if TCU or Boise State could hang with an undefeated Alabama or Texas, or even a one-loss Florida. There is not doubt in my mind that’s why TCU is playing Boise State, which by the way will be a great game, but will prove nothing! However, if both of those teams had run the gauntlet in a playoff and were playing each other for an ACTUAL national championship, i’m all in man!

            My point is, i’m gonna watch the games no matter what b/c i love college football. But how much more intriguing would these games be if they were leading to something that mattered? How much “better” for college football would it be if the game they play in January meant they might end up No. 2 in the country instead of giving them a shot to be No. 1? Asinine argument in my opinion to say it wouldn’t work.

            As for the regular season argument. . don’t get me started. It’s a travesty that every team is not playing EVERY week to win that game! What kind of crap are we teaching our kids if we don’t try our hardest and give our best effort each time we go on the field? I think it makes no sense in the NFL and even less sense in college. But that can be fixed by simply suggesting that the top 8 ranked conference champions get the automatic bids into the playoffs with four at-large picks. The first week the four highest ranked teams would get byes. And every conference is required to have a conference championship game to determine the conference champion. There. Problem solved. Anything else?

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            • Hackerdog

              I think your proposal to “fix” college football would absolutely ruin college football.

              You’ve said it’s not fair to leave out an undefeated team, and it wouldn’t be fair to include some 1-loss teams and 2-loss teams and not include others.

              This year, there are 13 teams in the AP top 25 with 0, 1, or 2 losses. That 13th team would be left out of a playoff, unless you want to vary the size of the playoff every year.

              And a large playoff would put a premium on wins over strength of schedule. If a 12, 16, or larger playoff were ever instituted, I’m sure we would stop playing GA Tech and every other tough, out of conference team. That’s why Boise State (with the 83rd toughest schedule) is in the mix this year.

              If we had played Boise State’s schedule, I’m sure we would have less than 2 losses.

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      • wheaton4prez

        The statement “every other division has playoffs…” doesn’t imply that every play-off can be any size.

        Those play-off proponents could be referring to the many other aspects and merits of having a play-off post-season that other divisions enjoy (regardless of their efficient or excessive sizes).

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