Air Force’s football coach Troy Calhoun really wants to bring Cinderella to the college football playoff prom.
It was the sports fan – and Air Force/Group of Five advocate – in Calhoun who pitched his latest idea for the College Football Playoff.
Calhoun would take the field to eight and break it down like this:
1. ACC champ
2. Big Ten champ
3. Big 12 champ
4. Pac-12 champ
5. SEC champ
6. Wild card
7. Wild card
8. Group of Five playoff winner
That Group of Five playoff would consist of four entrants. He didn’t specify how those four would be determined. Maybe it would be the top-rated champions among the Group of Five. Maybe the top rated regardless of conference.
Point is, as a fan, he wants this process to be open to all involved, and he routinely cites Cinderella stories from other college sports as an example.
“I think it would, really, bring a wholeness that would be splendid for the spirit of college football,” Calhoun said.
That’s an eleven-team playoff, when you get down to it. Why wouldn’t a sixteen-team playoff be even more whole?
The problems with this proposal are pretty apparent.
The most obvious issue is the sheer number of games involved. At a minimum, the team that wins the Group of Five playoff and moves onto the College Football Playoff would have to play three extra games — two G5 playoff games and then a CFP quarterfinal — which is more than what current CFP finalists have to play. At a maximum, that team would play five extra postseason games. Tack that onto a 13-game season and, theoretically, a Group of Five team could play 18 games. That’s more than most NFL teams. We can’t keep asking college football players to play more and more games without paying them a salary.
Secondly, it’s uncertain what type of market demand, if any, there is for more Group of Five teams in a playoff of any kind. For example, the idea of a second playoff involving Group of Five teams has enough legs that. But in the quest for that next media rights pot of gold on the other end of the rainbow, it’s unknown just how full that pot really is. In February, Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier told CBS Sports “the concept he first floated in an ESPN interview may be worth at least $160 million per year to a TV rights-holder.
I suspect that second point is really what’s driving this. The mid majors see the P5 conferences making all that sweet playoff bank and want their own taste of it. As a standalone concept, that $160 million is likely to be little more than a pipe dream, but as part and parcel of an expanded CFP, it might have more legs. Which ought to be a huge comfort to those kids asked to play in their eighteenth game of the season.