Playoff expansion and duck walking

I have to admit my favorite part of the ongoing debate here about the inevitable growth of the college football playoff — inevitable to me, at least — is the insistence by some that there is some unique natural barrier that exists to limit the size of the postseason field because… well, because college football.

Never mind the history of organized sports in this country, which clearly demonstrates that it is in their nature to grow their postseasons because it’s a money making choice.  Never mind that the NFL above and the FCS below have both expanded their playoffs on several occasions, despite playing with smaller rosters.

And never mind the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, even though the same movers and shakers who have steadily pushed to enlarge it also direct the future of the CFP, because that’s basketball, and who in their right mind could possibly think that the one sport could be taken seriously as a template for the other?

Who, I ask you?

Yet the shelf life of the championship game barely lasts much longer than basketball conference tournament title games leading into the NCAA Tournament pairings. For many people in the public, the football championship game is viewed now as another data point for playoff consideration, though CFP Selection Committee protocol does say conference championships should be considered when comparing similar teams.

“There’s no question football is becoming like basketball,” [Ohio State AD Gene] Smith said. “We’re all talking about who’s in the playoffs, and the kids have done this magnificent thing of running through the regular season and the championship, and we don’t put that on the pedestal.”

If you doubt the truth of that, all you have to do is circulate on the Internet today looking at reports about Washington’s win over Colorado last night and note how many more of the takes from that are about Washington clinching a spot in the national semi-finals than about winning the conference, which, historically speaking, was a big deal for the Huskies.  That’s of a piece with the reaction to Auburn’s loss to Georgia, which ended the Tigers’ shot at the playoffs and somehow diminished the Iron Bowl in the eyes of many.

But it’s Smith’s conference that’s the real canary in the coal mine now.  As I mentioned the other day, Jim Delany’s evolution on the playoff has been something to watch.  As Big Ten Commissioner, he’s gone from vehemently opposing a college football playoff in any form, to opposing one that didn’t strictly exclude non-conference champions, to being reduced to a walking shrug on the issue.

And why not?  Neither of the two schools playing for the Big Ten title today will make the CFP field, regardless of which wins.  Meanwhile, Ohio State, which isn’t playing in it, is widely considered a shoo-in to make the national playoff and Michigan, which also isn’t in the championship game, still has a chance for the semis, too.  So the logical question to ask after today is how much does a championship game matter, anyway?  And you don’t have to look any farther than college basketball to answer that.

Thus, the follow up isn’t whether the national playoffs will expand to eight — the inevitable bickering that will result from whatever comes of today, along with the extra money from another round of games make that a when not if matter — but how long it takes for the people running the game to take the postseason field past eight.

That’s why you should read the rest of Solomon’s article.  It seems likely that the eight-team playoff itself will have repercussions on how the conferences decide to manage their regular seasons in its wake and that the changes to come will further serve to weaken the regional bonds on college football that are the real source of its unique appeal.  The more the game’s focus shifts to a national one, the easier it is to sell a larger postseason.

Again, don’t take my word on that.  Just listen to what Gene Smith is saying and what every other postseason field has done.  If you can.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

21 responses to “Playoff expansion and duck walking

  1. I’ll say it again. Show me a calendar with an 8-team playoff format and I’ll believe it. I don’t see the regular season starting in mid-August and that’s what it would take to get done. And you have to move the Heisman ceremony to February and you have to get the army/navy game moved back a week. I know that they’ll do whatever for cash. It’s not their greed I question. It’s just not very practical to expand to 8. I’d also surmise that if LSU/Alabama rematch doesn’t happen we’d still be at 2. Which was more than enough btw.

    Another thing that has to worry these guys is the first time 8 plays 5 in a championship game that no one watches and no one shows up for it. There are a lot of college football teams who could make it in there who have very little fan support. Just look at some of the ACC championship crowds.


    • Did you even bother to read the linked article? There are plenty of moves they could make, starting with eliminating conference championship games. There would be a need for less bowls, which frees up more of December for playoff games.

      It’s all about where the money takes them. And that’s all it’s about.


      • junkyardawg41

        I wholeheartedly agree about following the money. Which is what makes the article interesting. If the genesis behind conference championships is to make money, then I would say it is a success which led to an expanded playoff field. I think where the pushback will begin is if the CFB playoffs lead to second and third order effects where conferences and teams start to lose money due to irrelevance of regular season games, it might put a damper on expansion. If I am not mistaken, the championship games for conferences puts money into the conference payout. I don’t think there is a similar mechanism for the playoffs outside of payouts to individual teams. I think expanding the playoffs and removing a championship game would be a hard sell to commissioners looking to maintain revenue — whether or not a championship game is compelling. Although the article provides ample reasoning why the Big 10 conference championship game is irrelevant for the playoffs (which really burns me since UGA was left out of the conversation in 2007 because they didn’t even win their division), I think expansion will really start heading down a direction of coming up with methods to make money that are detrimental to the apparatus— leading to the old “kill the goose that laid the golden egg”.


      • I hadn’t. I now I wish you hadn’t insisted that I do. Sure. We’ll all be content without establishing conference championships in 14 team leagues where the contending teams don’t even play each other. As I’ve said, it ain’t happening.

        The bowls are irrelevant to an expanded playoff and I don’t doubt that there are proposals. Stupid ones. I don’t have to read the article to know that the end of the regular season goes into December, finals, Christmas, that the holidays show up on different days of the week every year, and the NFL make it very hard to actually schedule an expanded playoff of 8 teams. 4 teams have been a bitch to schedule because of New Years and the NFL.

        Take this year and tell me the dates and times and places of the three rounds of playoffs if they existed now and show me how that will work again the next year and years moving forward. We know the top 8 teams right now. Map it out. Anybody. I guarantee you it won’t work in any real world sense either this year or next or the next. You need wholesale changes to accommodate that arrangement permanently.

        We call talk about creep and greed and everything else theoretical until we’re blue in the face. It’s fucking hard to put it on paper and make it make any damn sense. I don’t say it because I trust the people in high places or because I oppose expansion. It’s simple reality that stands in the way.

        The end of conference championship games is less likely then seeing the opener at Sanford on 8/15. Neither is happening though.


  2. Billy Mumphrey

    The more college football looks like the NFL the more time I spend on the creek fishing on fall weekends. College football is the ONLY sport left that I place above all my other hobbies/interests. That won’t last forever if they continue to dilute the regular season with an expanded playoff.


  3. AusDawg85

    Just wonderful to hear the Gameday numnuts pronounce that it’s this year’s tOSU team that establishes the new “rule” that conference championships don’t matter in the eyes of the committee. I firmly believe the Sabanization of CFB extends to Bristol to do whatever they can to limit the dynasty Nicky has built. Competition and controversy attracts more eyeballs even if manufactured.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. SouthGaDawg

    I like the idea of picking the top 6. The top 2 get a bye and the others have a play-in week at a home site. This allows for the Power 5 conference champs to get in plus one at large. The at large could be someone from the power 5 who isn’t a conference champ like OSU or Michigan this year or it could potentially be a group of 5 team. This rewards the conference champs but allows for one wild card.

    It also kills me that the 4 Letter continually puts down bowls but sponsors them at the same time. My simplistic view of bowl games is this – They are exhibition games played for two weeks in December so that teams get 14 more days of practice – no more no less. Why do people overcomplicate the bowls? Really,, who cares if a 5-7 team goes to a bowl? It’s football on a weeknight when in two weeks there will be no more college football for 8 months. That’s really all I care about.


    • David Moore

      That’s the only expansion idea I would agree with. There will always be someone who feels left out, even if it were 20 teams. But really if you loose 2 games or more, just shut up and play better.


  5. Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. The powers that be who run college football are going to learn that lesson in blood.


  6. DoubleDawg1318

    Sometimes I just want to stick my head in the sand and pretend the powers that be aren’t about to ruin college football. I (hopefully) have a lot of football seasons left in me and it would kill me to see them ruin the regular season and all its great rivalries and traditions for the sake of some extra cash.


  7. Sh3rl0ck

    A part of me wishes that this weekend had played out like the following:
    – Colorado upsets Washington
    – Florida upsets Alabama
    – Virginia Tech upsets Clemson

    Playoff Committee sets the following playoff involving ZERO conference champions and two teams that didn’t even win their division.

    #1 THE ohio state university
    #2 Alabama
    #3 Meeeeechigan
    #4 Clemson

    Then the WWL and the rest of the media spend an entire month talking about a possible OSU vs UM rematch for the MNC. I would not watch a single second of it and swear never to watch another college football game that did not involve UGA or wasn’t an SEC vs SEC game.

    They are letting money and the casual viewer ruin the game. When did college football reach its zenith?


  8. Will Trane

    Congrats Bama
    Sheer perfextion
    Solid defense coutesy of Coaches Pruitt and former DC Smart.
    Player of game from defnse.
    Bamak backs hit the holes and gaps on a mission
    Be nice to see a UGA back have that kind of manhood.
    Rather than worrying about their draft syatus.


  9. 92 grad

    In my mind, it’s simple logic. Conference championships are the only trophies won by play on the field. Win-loss record, period. Conference champions are then invited to a playoff. The fifth one gets left out and deciding who number 5 is can be done simply by looking at strength of schedule and national ranking of their team, lowest ranked team doesn’t get in. If they bring in Ohio state and leave out penn state then they have lost me completely. It’s all stupid.

    And expansion? It’s also stupid. They’re convincing weak minded mass population that a national title is more important than everything else and in college football it is not. Win your conference, or region, on the field and you’ve accomplished something real and worth celebrating. The rest is exhibition and entertainment.


    • Gaskilldawg

      Agree, 92, that the focus on simply who is in the ersatz playoff diminishes the enjoyment of college football for folks such as me.

      Take UGA as an example. My alma mater fielded a football team for over 100 years without its division (then, afterwards, subdivision) having a artificial method for determining “Whose Numer One??!!!”

      During that time Sanford Stadium got built, double decked, and expanded. The Hartman Fund got fat. Campus swelled on game day and networks paid a lot of money to broadcast the games over the radio and television.

      Why? Certainly it had nothing to do with “settling it on the field” between Michigan and Oklahoma as to which had the better team geting a tacky throphy.

      It had to do with the neighborhood. In our case the neighborhood was our State and our conference. We played Tech, Auburn and Florida yearly and the frequency made those games matter, despite the teams’ records. Likewise our conference opponents that we did not play yearly. We did not worry about any hill west of the Rockies, we worried about being the King of OUR Neighborhood Hill.

      The occasional intersectional game was fun. California coming to Sanford with that Joe Roth guy who throws it all over the place? Gosh, they play a different style out there, let’s see how SEC stacks up and see how they like the Georgia heat and humidity!

      Now, we might as well be in the NCAA Southeast Division of the NFL Lite League. Beating Auburn doesn’t matter any more. We are told instead that Iowa beating Michigan that day should be far more important to us.

      Will Condi Rice change her standards to put OSU in and leave our OSU’s conference champion because ESPN has willed it? I don’t give a shit.