The Playoff Problem

After a long and complicated battle, it appears that a real national collegiate football playoff will finally be happening. The American college football postseason now consists of various bowl games, with no definite, national winner.

On Tuesday this week college administrators agreed to a real playoff system with a final winner. According to an article by Heather Dinich at ESPN:

A four-team playoff for college football has been formally approved by a presidential oversight committee, a dramatic change for the sport that will begin in 2014 and continue through the 2025 season. The four teams will be chosen by a selection committee, the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites and the national championship game will be awarded to the highest bidder.

Colleges still have to work out details, such as how to distribute playoff revenues. The National Collegiate Athletic Association board of directors also still has to agree to part of the deal, too.

Some people are apparently very pleased by this change (Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford apparently said it was “a milestone” for the sport. Others are less impressed. John Spina at Bleacher Report points out the obvious problem with the new system: “there are five major conferences and only four spots in the new playoff system.”

Collegiate football in recent years has started to resemble professional football, with lucrative TV contracts and gigantic merchandise tie-ins.

The playoffs should have addressed this, Spina explains, because, in theory, every Division I team could compete. But the trend is actually worse. Since there are now five conferences, each with their own playoffs, no greater competition matters. This change to a final championship reflects general negative trends it the sport itself, Spina writes:

Are all of these recent developments good for college football and college sports in general? It diminishes the ability of small schools to make an impact in the college football landscape, kills traditional rivalries that are based close-knit conference ties in all sports and bases all college sports on the making money when none of the players are getting paid.

But at least there will be one big game in the end, with plenty of advertising potential.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer