I really don’t have to spend any time on why college football doesn’t need the equivalent of a seven-loss Super Bowl champ, do I?
Instead, spend a little time reading Year2’s thoughts and concerns on the matter. Money graf:
I think ultimately though, this all boils down to a fairly fundamental argument. Is college football its own sport that should only be concerned about its own competitively purity, or is it a fundraiser that subsidizes nearly every other sport that schools sponsor? While in practice it is both, I fear that more and more, the powers that be see it solely as the latter.
I know that many of us like to romanticize the whole “settle it on the field” as justification for an expanded playoff, but that’s not why playoffs expand. They expand for one inevitable reason – the stewards of the sport sense an opportunity to wring more money out of the marketplace.
And that’s why I find it easy to dismiss many of the factors Year2 cites as sort of natural brakes on the expansion process. Sure, the NFL playoffs are oversized. Obviously, nobody wants to see a team with a winning percentage on the short side of 60% grab a national title. No doubt there’s a noticeable dropoff in quality once you get down to college football’s eighth and ninth ranked teams.
To all of that I say, “so what?” College athletics’ grand poobahs have already traveled down that road and taken comfort in the journey. These are the people who looked hard at a 96-team basketball tourney and ultimately pulled up only because they couldn’t find a broadcast partner ready to stroke a check of sufficient size. Closer to home, as many of you like to remind me, there’s a college football playoff out there already. They’ve even named the division after it!
And the FCS tourney has grown to twenty teams with an eye towards expanding to 24. So don’t tell me it can’t happen. If they think the money’s there, it will.
Therein lies the rub. The big boys have it going their way right now. What’s holding things in right now is control of the football revenue spigot. Regular season money isn’t shared and dwarfs the postseason money that is shared. What they’re trying to do – what they’re always trying to do – is make sure that whatever steps they take don’t upset that apple cart.
It’s not about playoffs. It’s about how the revenue pie is cut. That’s why Jim Delany’s cautious toe in the water approach to the plus-one is really the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The issue isn’t whether there’s going to be a plus-one playoff of some sort (the panic over the recent ratings and attendance drops has made that a virtual lock). It’s where things go after the plus-one is put in place.
And that’s why the real development to watch isn’t the Big Ten’s playoff discussion, as much attention as that will get. It’s what NCAA president Mark Emmert is up to with his twin proposals to pay a $2000 player stipend and to allow student-athletes to receive multi-year scholarships. If both pass, they’ll be the death knell to D-1 football as we know it today. The have-nots simply won’t be able to keep up with the haves anymore. The end result will be a split of the division. And once that happens, Jim Delany won’t have to share with Karl Benson anymore.
It’ll be off to the races from there, playoff-wise. The only limit we’ll see as to expanded playoffs will be the regular season money. Delany, Slive and Scott will walk the number of postseason rounds right up to the edge as to where it would affect the value of their conferences’ broadcast rights and calibrate that back just so.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will turn out that our desire to see things settled on the field and their desire to settle their bank accounts will line up in agreement when it comes down to a final format. But it will be nothing more than a happy coincidence if that happens.