Mark Clark: College football playoffs should expand

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In this sports world where participation seems to mean just as much as winning, the NCAA really should consider – seriously consider – expanding the college football playoffs to more than four teams. Little Johnny gets a trophy for participating on a losing team – a trophy much larger than most teams that actually win championships. So, why shouldn’t Eastern Bugspray University get to participate in the college football playoffs?

Most of you reading this column certainly feel the same way I do about this subject. Why does college football – Division I college football – limit its playoffs to only four teams? It is because college presidents think it will take too much time away from academics. Yeah, they are really worried about academics when it comes to athletics. The only thing these guys are worried about is money.

Well, there is a lot more money to be made by including more teams in the playoffs. In fact, all of the teams in college football should be included in the playoffs – or at least half of them like in basketball. Incidentally, I do not hear the same grumbling about there being too many teams in the basketball playoffs each year and what are there? 64, 66, 68 teams? It increases each year as more colleges complain that their teams did not make the playoffs, and they have to go play in the other basketball tournament that no one cares about. Still, those teams in the NIT are making more money.

So, back to my starting question…why can’t more teams be included in the college football playoffs?

Quick, name another sport that waits four weeks to begin its playoffs. There are nine. There are four weeks that could be used for playoffs. Make it five weeks if you drop the conference championship games. So, with those five weeks and the two more for the playoffs as they are now, you could have six rounds of playoff games. That would allow for 64 college football teams to participate. If you cut one week off the current regular season schedules, you would double the number to 128 teams – and I am sure that would include every Division I team in the country. No, I am sorry. I think the number is 129 plus one in transition which means 130 teams. So, two teams out of 130 would be out of the playoffs at the end of the regular season.4No longer would bowl games be meaningless as every one of them could be used in the playoffs. Use the smaller venues twice to help the local economies. With every team – or just about every team in the playoffs – bowls would likely not lose their luster because too many college players who are not playing for a National Championship are opting not to play. I bet if a chance to play for a National Championship were a possibility, players would not opt out so easily. Who really wants to watch teams without their best players play in bowl games that are relegated to being worthless by the absence of those players? I certainly do not.

Think about this as well, there would be a lot more cities fighting for the opportunity to host a National Championship game. Yeah, we need to allow 128 teams into the playoffs, That would be 128 down to 64, down to 32, down to 16, down to 8, down to 4 and finally down to 2 – count them, just seven weeks and the season ends at the same time it does right now.

Yes, I am being facetious. But, I am being truthful as well. The college football playoffs could easily be expanded to allow more teams to participate. Maybe then there would be fewer arguments over the teams left out – deserving teams that were left out. This year, Georgia was one of the teams that should have been selected for the playoffs and, perhaps, Ohio State as well. In a six-team format, Alabama and Clemson would have received byes in the first round. Georgia could have played Notre Dame and Oklahoma could have played Ohio State.

The winners get Alabama and Clemson. Would it have really hurt the system to add one more week to the playoffs. The playoffs really would not have added a week. They could have started a week earlier. And if you are worried about Alabama and Clemson getting the extra week of rest, well, then make it eight teams and everybody plays the same number of games to win the title.

In a recent story in The News Tribune that I saw online, the writer – Andrew Hammond – suggested five options for the college football playoffs. The first option was to leave it as it is with four teams selected by the college football playoff committee. The second option was to expand it to six teams – the minimum expansion.

The third option was make it eight-team playoffs which is what most people want. The fourth option was to have aggressive expansion to 16 teams. The fifth and final option was to expand to a 24-team playoff model that is currently used by the FCS schools. As Hammond stated in his article, “If the little guys can do it? Why can’t the big boys?”

I like the last one, because it allows for more teams. You would have all 10 conference champions and 14 at-large bids. The Top 8 teams would receive a bye in the first round. Sounds simple enough to me and it only takes five weeks to determine the champion. You would not have to change the schedules for the regular season.

You would not have to eliminate any conference title games. All you would have to do is collect more money – and that is the reason for the playoffs in the first place.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.