I don’t think it comes as any surprise to someone who’s read this blog for any length of time that I’m not exactly enthused by the notion of college football postseason expansion. Not that my attitude matters one whit — the powers that be are going to take expansion and run with it as soon as they see how many zeroes ESPN or whomever is willing to put on that check for the broadcast rights. But I digress.
I was in a fairly robust debate this weekend about CFP expansion on Twitter, and I think it’s something that can be boiled down to a couple of tweets.
It’s DawgStats first point that I want to address in this post. Quite simply, if your concern is that the way college football is currently structured severely restricts the number of teams that have a legitimate shot to play for a national title, expanding the playoffs is an ineffective way to address that. Sure, you’ll have some fresh faces — at least at the beginning — who will be able to slap that shiny new “PLAYOFF BOUND” label on themselves. But the idea that an eighth seed is going to run the table and beat those same two or three powerhouses after playing an extra game is wishful thinking at best.
Here’s why. (And thanks to reader Henry for supplying the chart.)
Look at that carefully. There is a gap that emerges after, say, the top five or six and grows enormously after 12-14. Not so coincidentally, those are the schools that have dominated in populating the CFP fields to date.
As I said in the header, if college football has a problem, it’s a parity problem. And playoff expansion won’t do a damned thing to address that. (It will do wonders for ESPN viewership and fans with a Cinderella fetish, though. And brackets!)
If college football really wants to do something about parity, that means dealing with the lack of balance on rosters throughout the sport. The NCAA is about to do something in that regard in the very near future in terms of allowing a free, one-time transfer for football players, but it’s only a one-shot deal and even with that limitation in mind, schools pretty much had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to allow it.
The bigger and more dramatic move to level the playing field would be to reduce the number of scholarship players allowed on an FBS school’s football roster from the current level of 85. Such a proposal, of course, would lead to an outright rebellion on the part of the haves to keep what they perceive as their rightful status. (Would that change if schools suddenly had to pay those players directly? Beats me.)
That P5 schools are on board with more playoffs — of course they are, don’t kid yourselves — but are anywhere from reluctant to downright opposed to roster modifications should tell you everything you need to know about their parity concerns. Namely, as long as it doesn’t affect the pocketbook, parity isn’t a problem for them.
Nor is it, apparently, for fans of expansion.