I have been a vocal critic of the college playoff in the past. I still am. Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending the BCS in any of its incarnations nor am I suggesting that we can’t do better than the current system. I am simply saying that I have little confidence that the powers controlling college football have any intention of making the game better. Playoff discussions are not about the fans, the schools or even the “f word” — fairness.
I am not against the idea of a four team playoff. In fact, I have long considered it inevitable and I think it will be an improvement if done properly. However, the playoff is not something that will ultimately benefit fans of the game. Of course, I will be happy to see two more games, but the playoff will become a media spectacle engineered for TV ratings and advertising dollars. Ticket prices will escalate, and fans who previously saved money all season to attend a one game finale will find tickets and travel to multiple post-season games to be out of reach.
In the NFL, it is not uncommon for a team with a secured spot in the playoffs to rest the starters in the last weeks of the season. A couple of seasons ago, the Indianapolis Colts famously benched the starters in an insignificant game (to them) and lost to the Jets — sacrificing a run at a perfect season and becoming the first 14-1 team to get booed at home. It’s not about the fans, it’s about the payday. What if Alabama had done the same thing in 2009 and sacrificed the Iron Bowl (which they nearly did anyway) to save themselves for the SEC championship and a secure playoff berth? Fans who bought tickets to cheer for their favorite players would suffer at the hands of corporate greed.
Make no mistake about the playoff discussions. Many fans have been led by the media to believe that we need a playoff to pick a true champion. Why? The real winner is not the number three team that might get a shot at the crystal ball. The real winner is the sports media, which will sell more corporate sponsorships, more overpriced ads, and hype every ridiculous side story along the way for ratings.
On the bright side, we get to see a couple of extra games at the end of the season and that is a good thing for Alabama fans who expect to contend for the title annually. Ultimately, the four team scenario will be challenged as the media targets more of your dollars and they will propose an 8-team, or more, bad idea. Meanwhile, the small schools they pretend to defend could suffer the most as small bowls die — taking revenues with them — and small schools shut down programs or move to lower divisions. Hopefully, someone will be wise enough to limit the new system to four teams and draw a line in the sand around further expansion.
Feel free to chime in. I welcome your debate and your questions. I’ll respond to the best ones in a future article.
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