“The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” – Zig Ziglar
College Football Playoffs: The Problem
The Football Bowl Subdivision is desperately in need of reform. It has been so for several decades. The FBS is the only national sports organization in the United States, collegiate or professional, that relies solely on voting to determine who can play for its championship. Nowhere else can a team finish its regular season undefeated and untied yet have no chance to win the organization’s championship. Here is a look at how to get to 16-team college football playoffs.
Opposition to any semblance of a multi-team playoff system has stonewalled a logical format to determine the national championship for decades. Bowl game committees have done everything possible to prevent the establishment of a playoff bracket. University administrators with blind devotion to nostalgia delayed any type of change as much as they could. Media members and fans have raised the concern that an expanded playoff system would diminish the importance of the regular season.
The obsolete and inadequate system of determining the national champions of the highest level of college football should be replaced. The answer lies in what the NCAA does related to the lower divisions of football and to men’s basketball. A combination of aspects of both should be implemented.
Some concessions will have to be made In order to overcome the resistance to a 16-team playoff format. Cities hosting bowl games have enjoyed the economic benefit of having tourists spending a few days there. Therefore, cities that have served as the site of prominent bowl games should be included in the rotation for hosting playoff games. Teams in northern states have claimed a competitive disadvantage by having to travel to the South or West Coast for bowl games. In response, some northern cities could be the venues for post-season games as well. The inclusion of long-standing bowl locations should mollify traditionalists.
Arguably, the regular season would need to be reduced. The two teams advancing to the national championship round would play four opponents on top of the 12 in the regular season and probable conference championship game. The FCS limits its regular season to 11 games. That should be followed if not a reduction to ten. That would mean the elimination of a non-conference game or two for every team. Presumably, the distribution of the enormous profits expected from the expanded playoffs would offset the loss of a home game’s revenue or road game’s paycheck.
Who Will Participate in the 16-team College Football Playoffs?
The NCAA‘s post-season tournaments reward every conference with at least one berth. This playoff system would grant an automatic invitation to the champion of all ten FBS conferences. That would require each conference to have a pre-determined way to crown its champion, either a conference championship game or a list of tie-breakers for teams with identical records. The FBS would no longer face threats of lawsuits or Congressional intervention since every member in a conference would have a way to play for the national title.
The College Football Playoff Committee would continue to have a role. The committee would still rank teams. The group would use their rankings to determine the six at-large berths. Finally, the Almighty 13 would also assign teams to the brackets, giving favorable locations to higher-seeded teams but also trying to place teams as close to their campus as possible. The only limitation would be only one team from a particular conference in each regional, meaning a maximum of four teams from any one conference in the tournament.
Where To Play?
The FBS playoff system would resemble the FCS version involving 16 teams used from 1986 through 2009. Neutral sites would host, similar to what the NCAA basketball tournament does. The teams would be divided into four regions: East, North, South and West. Places with experience hosting neutral site college games should be part of the system. The 15 rotating locations are listed below. Nine of these would host a playoff game per season.
Santa Clara, CA
The current six locations hosting the New Year’s Six bowl games would continue to serve as sites in the 16-team tournament. The following would be the regional final sites:
East Region: Atlanta or Miami
North Region: one of the northern sites that is not hosting a regional semi-final game
South Region: Arlington, TX or New Orleans
West Region: Glendale or Pasadena
If one of the current New Year’s Six locations does not host a regional final, it has two other possibilities. The first is serving as the place where the national championship game would played. Otherwise, a national semi-final would take place there.
How Would This Tournament Look?
Using results of the current season, the final CFP Committee’s rankings and its host sites, this is a hypothetical tournament bracket. The ten conference champions (Appalachian State, Boise State, Clemson, Florida Atlantic, LSU, Memphis, Miami of Ohio, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Oregon) would automatically go to the playoffs. The six highest rated non-champions (Baylor, Florida, Georgia, Penn State, Utah and Wisconsin) would receive at-large bids.
EAST REGIONAL (Winners play in Miami)
- Clemson vs. 4. Appalachian State
- Georgia vs. 3. Penn State
NORTH REGIONAL (Winners play in one of the northern cities in the rotation)
- Ohio State vs. 4. Miami (Ohio)
- Baylor vs. 3. Utah
SOUTH REGIONAL (Winners play in Dallas)
- LSU vs. 4. Florida Atlantic
- Wisconsin vs. 3. Memphis
WEST REGIONAL (Winners play in Pasadena)
- Oklahoma vs. 4. Boise State
- Oregon vs. 3. Florida in
FIRST NATIONAL SEMI-FINAL: winner of South Regional vs. winner of West Regional in Atlanta
SECOND NATIONAL SEMI-FINAL: winner of North Regional vs. winner of East Regional in Glendale
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Winners of both national semi-finals in New Orleans
When To Play?
The tournament could be spread out over a few weeks. The first round would be played on the third Friday and Saturday on December, four games on each day. On the following weekend, the regional finals would take place, one game on that Friday evening and three on that Saturday. The national semi-finals would occur on New Year’s Day in years when there are at least seven days in between the regional finals and January 1. Otherwise, the two national semi-finals would fall on the first Saturday of January. The national championship game would be set for the second Friday evening of January.
Scheduling might have to be adjusted in some years. The dates should be designed to avoid overlapping NFL games. Additionally, scheduling games on Christmas Eve/Day should be avoided. The regional semi-finals and finals might be moved to the second and third weekends of December to ensure that the national finals could be played on New Year’s Day.
So who is ready for December Delirium?