This is so bad for college football. Fans are really gonna see thru the farce we call “playoffs” and realize it’s a rigged system designed to benefit the elites. — Danny Kanell on Twitter.
Now that another college football season is completed and another champion has been crowned, ask yourself this question:
Is college football’s method of choosing a national champion any better than it was, say, 30 years ago?
But there’s a national playoff, you’re saying; isn’t that progress?
Not the way it is currently structured.
Not when 69 of 129 teams are eliminated from consideration for the playoffs before the season begins.
Not when an unbeaten, untied team doesn’t get invited to the playoff.
Not when the third-place finisher of a conference is one of the four teams in the national playoff — and the eventual national champion.
Not when one conference gets half of the playoff berths, and one region of the country gets three.
Here’s the test: Could you explain the current system to a 12-year-old and have it make any sense?
Alabama won another national title Monday night in an All-SEC final with Georgia. Alabama didn’t even win the regular-season SEC championship. Alabama didn’t even win its division of the SEC. But Alabama, the third-place finisher of the SEC, is the national champion.
Central Florida never lost a game and never came close to being considered for the playoff. The Knights were ranked no better than 10th in the final rankings. Their schedule was considered too weak, but then they beat seventh-ranked (four-loss) Auburn — which beat Alabama in November — in the Peach Bowl. The four teams that went to the playoff all had one loss.
So is the system any better than it was 30 years ago? No. At least then there was a path — however remote — to the national championship for teams that went unbeaten. In 1984, 13-0 BYU, from the football hinterlands of the Western Athletic Conference, won the national title when everything fell the Cougars’ way (everybody else lost). That could never happen today.
That hasn’t been possible for years. Utah was unbeaten in 2004 and 2008 and looked like the best team in the country, especially after crushing Pitt and Alabama in bowl games. The Utes were never able to compete for the national championship. Ditto for Boise State, which was unbeaten in 2006 and 2009.
There is no perfect solution, but doubling the size of the playoff field and opening it up to all conferences would be fairly foolproof. There are rarely, if ever, going to be more than eight legitimate contenders. The trouble is, college football is like Mexican food — they just repackage what is essentially the same ingredients and call it another name — CFP (2013-), BCS 1998-2013) Bowl Alliance (‘95-‘97) Bowl Coalition (‘92-‘94).
They’re all designed to determine the top Power 5 teams and did nothing to give the middle classes a way into the competition. The Group of Five conferences — those not in the Power 5 (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 12) — are on the outside.
LA Times writer John Cherwa aptly called it the “glass ceiling of college football.” Lee Corso, the former coach, went one better when he told the LA Times, "It's not a glass ceiling, it's cement. They are not going to break into it in their lifetime. It's the money. The people who have it don't want to share it with the people who don't."
It’s a self-perpetuating system. The rich have created a postseason playoff and a few major bowl games that pay big bucks and only 60 teams have access to them. So the rich get richer every year and put more distance between them and football’s peasant class, with more money for recruiting, facilities, coaches, etc.
It’s a monopoly. Rockefeller and Carnegie couldn’t do it any better. This is to say nothing of the rich regular-season TV contracts that favor the P5 schools.
And if the P5 schools can’t beat you, they get you to join them. In a move that occurs frequently in the coaching ranks, Nebraska gave UCF coach Scott Frost a seven-year, $35 million contract to coach the Cornhuskers and hired seven of his assistants, too. Power 5 schools can afford to do that. It’s just one more way the elite schools put distance between them and college football’s working class.