Conference commissioners and university presidents came together last week to approve a four-team playoff for teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Fans have been clamoring for years to have a playoff system at the biggest level of college football. Every level of football below FBS, and even the biggest football league on the planet, the NFL, has had a playoff for decades.
Simply put, it was all about the money, and really, it still is.
College football makes more money for the NCAA than any other collegiate sport. That’s a given, considering how many teams exist, and how big many of the stadiums across the country are. Six college football stadiums seat more than 100,000 people, and 25 stadiums seat at least 80,000 people. Considering all of those schools have at least six or seven home games each season, that is a large sum of money made from tickets alone. That’s not taking into consideration all of the concession sales and merchandise sales that the NCAA gets a share of from each and every school.
With the current postseason format for FBS college football, only two teams had a chance to play for a title, and the teams were determined based on a computer formula that included overall record, votes in polls, and several other factors. This became known as the infamous BCS. Before that, championships were awarded based on poll voting alone, resulting in split national championships. How could a sport followed by so many have such a lame way of crowning a champion?
Now, enter the four-team playoff. The new system will begin in 2014 and will last through the 2025 season. The new system will have a “selection committee” choose the four most deserving teams to compete for the title. Overall record, strength of schedule, and conference record will be three of the most important factors in what the committee looks at.
For the most part, the rest of the college football landscape will remain unchanged. All of those bowl games that have had no involvement in choosing a national champion will still be played, and all of the big-time bowl games such as the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl will still exist.
The two semifinal games will be played as part of two of the major bowl games, with a national championship game being set for the following week. Cities will start placing their bids to host title games. That brings us full circle. Once again, it is all about the money.
I am happy, as are most fans, to see at least a small step toward a legitimate playoff system in FBS college football. However, a four-team playoff is still not enough for fans that love the game.
When the Football Championship Subdivision—home to teams such as Appalachian State, Western Carolina, and Elon—can hold a 20-team tournament and continue to get fans interested, then there is no reason why the FBS cannot do the same. Recently, proposed changes to the FCS playoff bracket look to increase the number of teams to 24.
That makes the decision to have four teams in the biggest college football league in the country playing for a title look a little weak.
Once 2014 arrives, fans will get a small taste of playoff football for some of the most followed sports teams in the country. Hopefully the playoff bracket will grow in coming years, allowing more than just four teams to play for a championship.