Expand college football playoffs
It’s going to happen, definitely not this year or the next, or perhaps not until the middle of the next decade. But the college football playoff field will expand. And when it does, an increase from four teams to eight will definitely be enough.
If you are a college football fanatic like me, college football is year-round. From January until February, it’s recruiting season. Then it’s time for schools all over the country to hold their spring games. Summer is the anticipation season when fans can digest the recruiting process, critique the returning players and jam the phone lines of sports talk radio stations to hope out loud and predict their team’s fate. Hope springs eternal as fans count down the days until the season opener. Memorial Day weekend is when I start counting the days. It’s around this time the countdown to kickoff is about 100 days.
And then, there’s the season itself. It runs from September to the end of November. We digest the Thanksgiving turkey and then stuff ourselves with conference championships the first week of December. And then it’s time to go bowling.
So, what is one more week of football? One extra round that begins with eight teams instead of the current four? Oh, I hear the arguments: The season is already too long. There’s too much travel involved. And it preserves the integrity of the bowls.
Yeah, right. How many players grew up dreaming of playing in the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl? Or the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl? Get the picture?
Players want to play in the national championship, and that’s where the traditional bowls such as the Rose, Orange and Sugar Bowls fit in. The traditional bowls are currently used in the playoff process.
OK, I hear there’s too much travel involved and that fans won’t travel for one more game. Here’s my solution. Play the first round at the home field of the top four seeds.
Last year, that would have meant the following first-round games: Southern Cal at Clemson, Auburn at Oklahoma, Wisconsin at Georgia and Ohio State at Alabama. That sure has much more drama than any of the Kardashian or Real Housewives of Anywhere episodes.
That’s college football at its best: intersectional games in a real college stadium. Cheerleaders, tailgate parties and, of course, great college football games are definitely worth one more weekend in December.
But this is probably why it happens, albeit, not now. It makes sense, or should we say dollars and cents.
ESPN coughs up a reported $470 million a year to broadcast three playoff games. One more round means more games, more tickets, more souvenirs, more intrigue and even more interest -- and more money for the schools. Add another layer to the playoffs and all teams win.
ESPN’s current contract to broadcast runs through 2025, but that can change. Businesses change direction all the time and college football is big business.
Just how big a business? The Wall Street Journal published a study ranking the highest valued college football programs in the country. Ohio State’s program was valued at $1.5 billion, while Texas and Oklahoma also topped a billion. Nike paid Ohio State $252 million just to put that swoosh on the Buckeyes’ uniforms.
Champ change? Only time will tell. But it’s definitely not chump change.