by Derrick Brazier
As we enter another season of college football, we prepare ourselves for the annual end of season argument concerning which two teams deserve to play in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 85% of college football fans support changing to a playoff system of some sort. I submit that the best chance to see a postseason playoff system in college football is through the creation of “super-conferences”.
College football drives the financial bus of college athletics. While basketball is self-sufficient due to the revenue created by their 64-team March tournament (they actually have a playoff to determine a champion), football still brings in more money. The revenue potential that exists from a possible realignment is staggering.
How would it work? Four super-conferences consisting of sixteen teams each could be pulled from the best of college football. Of course, some schools, for example, Notre Dame, would likely remain independent. The conference schools could start planning now and when their current agreement with the BCS expires after the 2014 season, they could begin the process of creating their own playoff system. After the initial hurdles, the conferences can start with an eight team playoff structure based on two eight-team divisions. Divisional winners would play for a conference title, and the winners of the four super-conference title games would comprise four of the eight teams in a national quarter-finals (note that this does not add any new games to the current schedule of games.)
The other four national quarter-finalists could be determined through a ranking system similar to the current BCS system. The four open slots would go to the four most highly ranked teams that did not win a super-conference championship game, and once the eight teams were identified, the same ranking system would be used to seed them for play.
The national quarter-finals could occur at the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Orange Bowl. All four games could be on New Year’s Day. College football fans would LOVE this. It would transform the current boring bowl season into an explosion of games that actually matter. Then we hold the final three games (national semi-finals and final) before January fifteenth to avoid overlap with the NFL playoffs and the beginning of the spring semester for the student-athletes (remember they are student-athletes, wink-wink.)
Some will still argue that the playoff system puts student-athletes at physical risk or impedes their academic progress because of increased play time, this plan only adds one more game for four teams and two more games for the national finalists. There are 126 teams in major college football, this plan would add games for only four of them. Because the games would conclude before most spring semesters begin, academic impact should be minimized.
The proliferation of conference cable networks (SEC, Big 10, PAC 12), team cable networks (Texas), and Web-based networks (Missouri) is changing the landscape of college athletics and has already created big disparities in revenue streams among teams. As popular as college football is now, just imagine how explosively popular it would become with a super-conference and playoff model. Popularity brings TV viewers, more eyeballs on the TV screen results in higher ratings, higher ratings generate more and more revenue for all teams. The sad part is that history has shown that college athletics is mired down by traditionalists who lack the vision and creativity to allow a plan like this to work. Fans must hope that a vocal set of visionaries can break through and implement changes. If they start now, they could get a plan in place for the 2015 season.
And, in addition to generating more revenue, they would give college football fans, players, and coaches something they’ve desired for years, something very novel, something every other sport has… a chance to settle their national championship ON THE FIELD.