Facebook Twitter

College football state of the union: It’s a mess

Expanding the College Football Playoff is only one of the issues the game faces moving forward

SHARE College football state of the union: It’s a mess
Fans stand by statues at Playoff Fan Central, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Fans stand by statues at Playoff Fan Central, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Indianapolis.

Darron Cummings, Associated Press

As the 2021-22 college football season fades in the rearview mirror, it’s probably a good time for a state of the union report. If we were to characterize the nature of that report, it would include terms such as “hot mess,” “confusing,” “complex,” “rudderless,” “slow acting,” and many other unflattering terms.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Let’s put it this way: Jim Phillips, the commissioner of the ACC, says his league’s coaches are unanimously opposed to the expansion of the college football playoff from four to 12 teams — something that has been on the table since June. The reason? The state of college football is so screwed up that they don’t have time to deal with expansion; there are too many other problems that need to be addressed.

Well, as noted here previously, this is the sport that took decades to discover the playoff system and then its overseers acted like they invented it. If they had been in charge when the car was invented, we’d be driving over dirt fields and cowpies while they tabled the idea of those whatchamacallits — roads. If they were Congress, nothing would get … wait, they are just like Congress.

“There are legitimate concerns about student-athlete welfare, the impact on academics and the length of the season,” Phillips continued.

Uh-oh. These are the same arguments they used to fight the creation of a playoff in the first place and it took decades to get past it.

Last week the Pac-12 — which, like the ACC, didn’t qualify a team for the CFP this year — released a statement fully endorsing any of six plans to expand the playoff.

And that’s college football in a nutshell: A collection of fiefdoms unable to agree on much. The NCAA is considering a new constitution that would decentralize control of college sports. What are they talking about? College football hasn’t had a centralized governing body since the NCAA ceded its powers to conferences and the various forms of postseason football formats (the CFP being the latest). Meanwhile, it’s every conference for itself and there’s no one to oversee the greater good of the game.

The ACC is correct in its assessment of college football — it is a mess and there are many problems to solve (but can’t they multitask and fix up the CFP at the same time?).

The turnover caused by the pandemic, graduation, injuries, opt-outs and the transfer portal have created an untenable situation. Dave Clawson, chairman of the ACC football coaches, told CBS that some ACC schools are uncertain if they will even be able to hold spring football practice because rosters have been gutted by all of the above.

During the 2020 “COVID-19” season, athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility to compensate for losing all or much of that season. But it’s not as simple as it sounds and the NCAA should have realized this. The NCAA limits schools to 25 new signees each year and a total of 85 players on scholarship. How do coaches make all that work with all those players returning for the COVID make-up season?

Coaches have been given some leeway on the 85-scholarship limit in 2022, but before the 2023 season they’ve got to return to 85 again. Add to that the challenges of the transfer portal — according to CBS, ACC schools have lost an average of 10.4 players to the portal since the beginning of the 2020 season — and its chaos.

Clawson summed up the situation perfectly when he told CBS, “Our rosters are getting thinner and thinner. We have less control over them, and the NCAA isn’t giving us any relief. What they’ve done is done a great job of opening up the outflow valve. And they haven’t helped us at all with the inflow valve.”

Meanwhile, there’s the ongoing argument for CFP expansion. The game has been trying to find a way to fairly decide a national champion for about a century and still can’t get it right, while every other sport in the world has provided workable models to emulate.

Three of the Power Five conferences — Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — support CFP expansion, although the SEC has indicated it would be fine with the current four-team format through the end of the current contract in 2024 (and why wouldn’t the SEC be happy with it since that league has qualified a conference-high 10 teams and won five of the eight championships?)

College football has a long way to go to get things right.