College football wrote a new chapter in its history Monday night in Arlington, Texas.
We now have a national champion that earned that title through head-to-head competition on the field of play. We had a Sugar Bowl champion battling a Rose Bowl winner. In short, we had an actual playoff.
Now the debate will continue. Was a four-game playoff enough? Should it grow to eight teams? If it goes to eight, should there be a bye involved for the top selection, or should it just be a duke-it-out affair?
The argument will certainly be on the front burner and anything is possible.
But for now, as per agreement with the chieftains of the college game, this is a four-team playoff for the next 12 years. They tell us this is the best option of many, which included discussions of eight teams and even 16 teams. The factors that whittled it down to four teams were travel, protection of the regular season, and the impact more games would have on championship games in conferences.
“We know there is a tipping point beyond which the size of the postseason bracket will begin to erode the regular season,” according to Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff.
Hancock made these remarks while talking to reporters in Dallas over the weekend. “No one knows what that tipping point is. We know it’s not four. We were able to keep the regular season and keep the bowls. This worked out really, really well.”
The 12-year contract will yield an estimated $5.5 billion or $500 million per year to NCAA members. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News believes it will increase Pac-12 postseason payouts by 44 percent.
Independents like BYU, Navy and Army will divvy up $923,000 this year, in what should be a slight bump from the BCS days. Notre Dame, however, will get about $2.3 million. This means more coin for everyone.
What remains is the dilemma of the Big 12, the only Power-5 conference that did not have a championship game in its 10-team league.
There are plenty of pundits who wonder if that factor will make it tougher for the Big 12 to qualify playoff teams.
This seemed to be a no-brainer argument right after the selection of the four teams this season when Baylor and TCU were left out. But since then, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who was a member of the selection committee, calmed down Big 12 authorities who were meeting in New York right after the picks. Luck told the league’s brain trust that not only was the Big 12 close to getting a team in, but it almost got two teams in the playoff.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has fielded an almost never-ending barrage of questions about this since the end of November: Would the Big 12 expand? He’s gone from saying the league would have to look into expansion to now saying it isn't in any rush to do so.
Of course, that’s not what Big 12 expansionists want to hear, especially many BYU fans and administrators.
What about the Big 12 expansion debate? Taking membership from 10 to 12 or 14 will ensure equal pressure, exposure to injuries and risk through a league championship game. But if the Big 12 stays the same, will other Power-5 folks gripe?
Said Hancock: “I haven’t talked to (Bowlsby) specifically about that. That’s not our call. That’s the conference’s call.
“As it turned out, not having a championship game cost them only in the fact that Ohio State got another game against a quality opponent (Wisconsin). What has been lost in some of this championship game debate is the risk-reward nature of championship games. If two games come out differently, the Big 12 would come out looking like geniuses.”
As a reminder, TCU was No. 3 in the second-to-last playoff rankings and won by 52 over Iowa State but finished No. 6 the next week.
As it turned out, Ohio State’s massive whipping of Wisconsin caused a furor in the selection room — more than TCU’s big win and strong finish created.
Hancock said it was all part of a learning curve for the system; that college football has never taken on anything like this before. He said it became clear that this new system is more than about just wins and losses. "With this system the committee could dig deeper when creating their rankings," he said. "That’s what we wanted and we got it.”
The local interest in Utah continues in possible Big 12 expansion. But that hunger is not getting fed right now.
I believe Big 12 athletic directors enter this year with an unsettled feeling about what will happen.
Expansion is a decision that will be made on the presidential level and the ADs are foot soldiers who only advise and counsel their presidents. A bloc of presidents in the Big 12 could change things in an instant.
In the meantime, we have a playoff.
And that is light years ahead of the BCS.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.