Playoff is here--but I still want more

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In some ways, it’s still hard to believe that big-time college football finally will have a playoff. More evidence of that was revealed Wednesday at SEC media days by Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff who discussed some specifics on the event.

Is the system perfect? No. For one thing, the playoff should be more than just four teams. How difficult is it going to be for the committee to draw the line between Team No. 4 and Team No. 5? If you think teams that get left out of the 68-team NCAA men’s basketball tourney are mad, how steamed will football Team No. 5 be?

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I have doubts about any of the rhetoric or reasons given by various administrators as to why the playoff couldn’t have been more than four teams. Remember: For YEARS we were told a playoff wasn’t possible, as the powers-that-be continued to defend the BCS for a sport that was the only one on the globe without a season-ending playoff or tournament to crown a champion. Well, the once-embraced and fiercely-defended BCS is now in a landfill.

Eight teams would have been more desirable for a playoff. Yes, there still would have been consternation and some hurt feelings between Team No. 8 and Team No. 9, but it wouldn’t have been as angst-filled as a four-team playoff figures to be. And in most years, I think there would be more than four teams with a legit beef for inclusion in the playoff.

But, given the tenor of the times and the sensitivity toward the health and welfare of student-athletes, I don’t think we will see administrators enact a playoff that could require players to take part in upwards of 16 or more games. Adding games would be contrary to some of the safety measures being discussed now by college governors.

But those are subjects for discussion and debate for another day. Some playoff details revealed by Hancock:

No doubt, this new playoff will be very lucrative. USAToday notes that the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC each will draw a baseline amount of approximately $50 million in the first year of a 12-year contract. The other five FBS-level leagues will split $75 million – but that’s more than five times greater than their combined payday in 2013.

In the final year of the BCS, the baseline distribution to the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and American was $27.897 million. Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt split $13.168 million. In 2014-15, the base share for the Power Five is $50 million. The so-called Group of Five (including the American) will divide $75 million.

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“It’s good for everybody,” Hancock said. “There’s more money for everybody.”

Indeed. Again, it makes you wonder why it took so long to get to this playoff. It’s more lucrative and something the fans have wanted. (And if a four-team playoff is this lucrative, think of how much loot an eight-team playoff would reap. Exactly.)

Still, the BCS was perpetuated since 1998, even though for years the sport had multi-team playoffs at the FCS, Division II and Division III levels.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, the FCS expanded its playoff system from 20 to 24 teams in 2013, giving automatic bids to all FCS leagues that want one, seeding the top eight teams and giving them first-round byes and home games in the following round. It all makes so much sense. Now THAT’s a playoff. And check out this quote after it was announced in 2012 that the FCS would expand its playoff field:

“The concern has been we haven’t had a full tournament with automatic qualifiers for all the existing conferences. That’s a big part of making sure everybody has an opportunity for their champion to participate,” said Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the new chairman of the Division I Football Championship Committee. “The sentiment is that by seeding the top eight, it keeps more to a truer sense of what a national tournament is about, and I think that’s the beauty of what we have.”

Last year’s FCS playoff included a first round, second round, quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game. North Dakota State won the title, finishing 15-0. As it stands now, the FBS four-team playoff could see schools play as many as 15 games—12 regular season games, a league championship game, two playoff games.

In order to keep the max number of games at 15, FBS schools probably would have to trim a game from their regular-season schedule. The financial hit likely would be absorbed by all FBS schools getting a bigger check from a larger playoff, right?

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I still think America would enjoy a similar FCS playoff for FBS schools more than a four-team playoff and a glut of bowl games that are little more than exhibitions of no consequence on the grand landscape.

Conversely, every FCS playoff game does have a consequence on the grand landscape.

Oh, well. I’ll stop complaining and be happy with this forthcoming four-team playoff.

It’s a start.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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5 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (5 Comments)
maryam on 7/17/2014 @ 4:32pm EST Said:

Division 1 football only worries about the money they can make and keeping top programs relevant to milk them.
Get rid of all the bowl games period and pick the 16 best teams from four regions to have a national playoff system like D2 and D3 do so well year in and year out.
This way the PAC 12 (Rose Bowl and Arizona) and the SEC and Florida teams (New Orleans, Atlanta and bowl games in Florida) don’t have unfair advantages over eastern teams, Big 10 and Big 12 teams who have to always travel to the west or south to play bowl games.
Football was meant to be played in all sorts of weather and make western teams and southern teams play up north in the winter for a change.
In the NFL players play in cold and warm weather based on advantages they earn with their records.
Rotate annually the national site for the semifinals and title games in each region to allow those regions to make money annually unlike the monopoly they’ve held for too long.
Example: 2016 in west region (Rose Bowl, Arizona or Washington or Oregon), 2017 in midwest region (Kansas City, Sl. Louis, Indianapolis, Detroit, Minneapolis or Cleveland), 2018 in southern region (Florida, Atlanta, New Orleans or Dallas) and 2019 in eastern region (New York, Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia).
Please don’t use the EXCUSE how nobody will travel to cold weather places because the NFL cold weather teams do quite well in home playoff games (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, Green Bay and Washington).
This way PERCEPTION won’t hand SEC teams title games appearances based on their recent history and lovefest.
This way like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the bigtime programs will have to earn their titles unlike D1 football where a bunch of bias writers convince others to vote their way.
The Big 10 has been screwed so many years for national titles (1973, 1985, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2006) when voters failed to reward Big 10 teams while other leagues got advantages the Big 10 didn’t.
1973-Michigan and Ohio State both won unclaimed national titles but not the AP.
1985-Michigan had the nation’s best defense, toughest schedule and wasn’t ranked starting that year but Oklahoma won the AP vote (Michigan had a unclaimed title that year) despite getting blown out by Miami.
1994-Penn State should have shared the title that year with Nebraska.
1997-Nebraska was supposely such a powerhouse team yet they struggled with two Big 12 teams Michigan easily beat (Baylor and Colorado) and they needed an illegal play to beat a average Missouri team. The writers proved their bias as the players begged for a retirement gift for their coach.
1998-Ohio State regardless of one loss was the best team that year and they, NOT Florida State should have played Tennessee for the national title but FSU’s coach did his usual begging in the media for the title game shot.
2006-Michigan and Ohio State should have played for the national title but a bias vote decided not to reward two Big 10 programs DESPITE giving the 1996 Florida team a rematch against FSU or the 2011 Alabama team a rematch with LSU after they played a horrible FG fest earlier that season.
As usual, the bias vote against Michigan rewarded a SEC team (Florida) to play for the national title.
Michigan has learned that in 1973, 1985, 1997 and 2006 that they came out on the short end each time despite records of 10-0-1, 10-1-1, 12-0 and 11-1 when votes were taken into account and a double standard applied each time.
In the two losses in those four seasons, Michigan lost by 2 at Iowa on a last second FG when Iowa was ranked No.1 and Michigan was ranked No.2 and Michigan lost by 3 at Ohio State when the Buckeyes were ranked No.1 and Michigan was ranked No.2.
Michigan had to endure Ohio State going to the 1974 Rose Bowl despite the ruling about going to consecutive Rose Bowls when teams are tied. In 1985 Michigan wasn’t rewarded for the nation’s toughest schedule and best defense, things that SEC teams get rewarded for today.
In 1997 Michigan wasn’t rewarded for the nation’s best defense, toughest schedule and only team without a bye week while also beating common opponents better and not needing a miracle play to beat a lesser team_things Ohio State was getting criticized for in 2013.
In 2006, the two Big 10 teams should have had the same advantages the two SEC teams would get 5 years later in 2011.
This is why a 16 team playoff is the solution, not this joke of a four team SEC lovefest.

Dave Dorn on 7/17/2014 @ 4:38pm EST Said:

4 Teams is going to cause more chaos than the old system, imo. 8 Teams, each conference champion of the big 5, and than 3 at large. Now the SEC believes it should have two teams automatically included, well if you won your conference, than all 5 should be included, which conference is gonna be told NO, and possibly be passed over by a non champion of another conference. Fit it next year by making it 8 teams, and it will produce unlimited cash flow. Use the Bowl Game sites for the first round games, and 2nd round if need be, and a national site for the Championship. May have to Play the First 4 Games on New Years Eve and New Years Day, 2nd Round Games on Sat Sun of the following week, and than the Championship game Played the following week on Monday Night after the NFL playoffs played the weekend. Just my Thoughts

maryam on 7/18/2014 @ 12:58am EST Said:

I disagree with conference champions automatically getting berths due to unbalanced schedules some teams are faced with.
There are the situations when some teams in conferences have easier schedules due to the fact that the tougher teams are not on their schedule that year while other teams get all the tough opponents and one team might have 1 loss playing a tougher schedule while a undefeated team played the softer schedule.
Pick the 16 best teams nationally and decide the true champion like the lower levels of college football do so well.
In the Big 10 alone, count how many seasons where certain schools have not faced each other when they have strong teams.
Michigan State has had seasons where they didn’t play Ohio State or Penn State.
Michigan had seasons where they didn’t play Wisconsin or Penn State.
Ohio State had seasons where they didn’t play MSU.
Wisconsin has had seasons where they didn’t play Michigan.
That scenario hurt MSU in 2010 when they lost by 31 at unranked Iowa, beat ranked Wisconsin by 10 but did not play Ohio State.
That same year Wisconsin beat top ranked Ohio State and lost at MSU who was ranked at the time.
When the bowl games came out, Wisconsin got the Rose Bowl, Ohio State got to play in the other BCS bowl game and MSU had to play Alabama in the third tier bowl and MSU was hurt because both Ohio State and Wisconsin had losses to ranked teams and MSU’s loss was to a unranked team and by not playing Ohio State that weakened their schedule.

Martin on 7/18/2014 @ 12:09pm EST Said:

Why are people so eager to make college football as boring as every other sport???

Gurndogg on 7/18/2014 @ 12:15pm EST Said:

I agree with out a doubt Maryam & Dave I also believe strongly that the LOVE fest that ESPN
has with the SEC (that ever happen like this 10 yrs ago) & with their T.V rights will MAKE SURE they get their beloved SEC teams in the Playoff’s, Hell it would not surprise me if they tried to get 3 teams in which is the way they rank them early in the top 25. Back a few years other Conf. had many title teams & did not get THIS type of hype like the B-8 back in the day with Neb., Okl., & Colo. winning their Titles so why should the SEC get this pass.
Trust me when I say that in the times to come other Conf. will catch the SEC & maybe more will I know there are those who think the Pac-12 has caught them.