I keep saying it’s inevitable that a college football playoff will have an impact on how the college football season is perceived. If you won’t take my word for it, take Nick Saban’s.
“All the attention, all the interest would be about the four teams in the playoffs, which is exactly what happened, which was great to be a part of.
“But what I was most fearful of is college football is unique. A lot of young men get a lot of positive self gratification from being able to go to a bowl game and that’s always been a special thing. That by having a playoff we would minimize the interest in other bowl games, which I think is sort of what happened and I hate to see that for college football.”
Or Jimbo Fisher’s.
“I’m worried winning the Orange Bowl doesn’t mean anything. When I was a kid … we still had a national champion but [the other bowls] still mattered. Now if you go 12-2 and win an Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl or Cotton Bowl or Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and you say that’s not enough? There’s something wrong with that now,” Fisher said. “When you’re 12-2 there’s not much better you can do. You might get over the hump [to the playoffs] but how many times?”
And think about how this mindset is manifesting itself in ways like the Big 12’s agonized struggle to crown a conference champ.
Which is why this Saban observation should give you pause for thought.
“The issue for me in all of this stuff is the culture of college football is changed,” he said before the Regions Tradition pro-am at Shoal Creek. “It’s no longer just about the SEC getting in the BCS bowl game. This is about a playoff. This is about a final four.”
In that spirit, he said all the major conferences should play with the same rules.
“So I think we need to be a little more global in our thinking in terms of making the rules in the Big 5 conferences kind of congruent with each other,” Saban said. “So if one group is going to be able to do it, the other group needs to be able to do it.”
That, folks, is a sweeping comment. And it’s the logical destination to the course that college football has set for itself in its chase for more money. Look at the CFP as the Transportation Department, coming in to widen the road, so the schools can get where they’re headed more quickly.
It’s how you convert a sport based strongly on regional appeal – SEC!SEC!SEC! – to a national focus. ESPN will love it. Me? Not so much.
But, again, don’t take my word for it.