New playoff format improves postseason, does not address all issuesBy Jackson Poe | 01/19/2015 10:38pm
The way NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision handles its post-season in the current bowl game format does not make any sense. For a sport that draws so much attention and resources in this country, it is silly to think that it still uses a system that is such a serious misallocation of resources and overall inefficient in multiple aspects.
Here is what the current bowl system looks like: there were 38 bowl games played in cities across the United States and even the Bahamas. Bowl games pit two relatively equal teams against each other for a game that means nothing at the end of the day. Until this year, every bowl game but the national championship has meant nothing. Now, there are two semi-final bowl games that have obvious meaning followed by a national championship. But, the reality is this is a small-step in fixing the postseason. It is certainly better than the way it was for decades when a poll determined the national champion.
One of the biggest deficiencies in the current bowl system is the travel and attendance of the bowls. Bowl games are scattered all across the United States and attendance is becoming more of an issue. Attendance was down across the board for bowl games this year. It is just hard to get a fan base to get up and travel en masse to watch the team compete for nothing more than a bowl game trophy. Even the Rose Bowl had issues filling the stadium. Florida State gave back 2,000 of their 12,500 allocated tickets in a game that meant everything. A trip all the way across the United States, from Florida to California, is hard on fans especially when that is just for the semi-final game.
Another flaw is the timing. There were three weekends between the conference championship games and the playoff semi-final games – three Saturdays in which there was no football except meaningless bowl games. Instead, the games are pushed back so far that by the time the national championship is here most people have shifted focus to the NFL playoffs.
Lastly, bowl games bring in a ton of money to the cities in which they are held. The bowl game executives make huge salaries to run one game out of the year. The cities and bowl game executives reap all the rewards, which is great for them but this money could be better allocated elsewhere, like back to the schools. There are 15 college football stadiums that have a higher capacity than the biggest NFL stadium (MetLife Stadium). But these stadiums only host six or seven home games a year and none in December.
The solution? Eliminate bowl games, expand the play-off and use home-field advantage for the playoffs. This seems like a drastic change but it is much-needed. It can be taken in steps and steps are being taken, but the pace is too slow. The model is already there. NFL, D1 FBS, D2 and D3 have been using this model for decades. This is a win for almost everybody.
Everybody, that is, except the bowl game executives, who have a history of abusing the system and earning unfair compensation for running one game out of the year. There would be even more attention on the sport, which is a win for ESPN. Expanding the playoff and using home field advantage is a win for the teams, universities and fan bases. Imagine a home college football playoff game in Tuscaloosa. The playoff could be expanded to eight or 16 teams and then there could be another consolation tournament – think basketball N.I.T. – that also has eight or 16 teams to keep the total number of games around the same as the bowl-system. This way every team that remotely thinks they should be playing in the postseason is, and every game has meaning. This argument does not even take into account a point that almost everyone can agree on. Settling games on the field is a much fairer way of determining a national champion than polls, formulas or committees. But this just makes too much sense to implement.
Jackson Poe is a junior majoring infinance and accounting. His column runs biweekly.