Would you vote for a 16-team playoff?

I promised myself I would read the book with an open mind and I did. There is a lot I don’t agree with in the book but Dan Wetzel’s “Death to the BCS” is required reading for college football fans.

Wetzel’s book, which hits the store shelves on Thursday, makes the case through exhaustive interviews and research that many of the accepted truths about the BCS are simply not true and have been perpetuated by the major conferences who want to remain in complete control of post-season football.

Example: That the BCS is “lucrative” because it receives about $125 million per year from ESPN to show the games. Wetzel points out through numerous interviews that the a 16-team playoff would generate well over $750 million per year. So conservatively, he argues, the power structure is willing to leave $500 million on the table per year in order to stay in power.

Another example: If the BCS goes away, then the conferences will go back to the old bowl system: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has suggested that if the BCS is forced out of business, the major conferences will simply go back to the system of conference tie ins (SEC to Sugar, Big 12 to Fiesta, Big Ten to Rose, etc). The Big Ten might be able to afford to do that, but few others could. They could not go back to the pre-1998 bowl system because they don’t have pre-1998 budgets any more. They need more money.

Wetzel says that while the entrenched power structure of the six major conferences and the bowls looks like an immovable object,  the inevitability of a playoff is an irresistible force being created by a new, better-informed, internet savvy, generation of college football fans. These fans have grown up with more information and more exposure to college football than ever before. Wetzel makes the case these fans see every institution around them evolving at warp speed while college football stays in a system that was created before 24-hour news and sports was available on a handheld device. They want more from college football and are empowered to demand it.

Wetzel  proposes a 16-team playoff to determine the national championship with all 11 winners of the Division I-A conferences getting an automatic berth with five at-large teams.

 Here are his first-round pairings if the tournament had been in place in 2009:

No. 16 Troy (Sun Belt) at No. 1 Alabama (SEC)

No. 15 East Carolina (C-USA) at No. 2 Texas (Big 12)

No. 14 Central Michigan (MAC) at No. 3 Cincinnati (Big East)

No. 13 LSU (at-large) at No. 4 TCU (Mountain West)

No. 12 Penn State (at-large) at No. 5 Florida (at-large)

No. 11 Virginia Tech (at-large) at No. 6 Boise State (WAC)

No. 10 Iowa (at-large) at No. 7 Oregon (Pac-10)

No. 9 Georgia Tech (ACC) at No. 8 Ohio State (Big Ten)

A selection committee, not the BCS Standings made up of poll voters and computers, would pick the five at-large teams. And Wetzel makes the point that the competition for and the speculation about those five at-large slots would be riveting in the final month of the season.

The first three rounds of the tournament would be played in the home stadium of the highest seed. The championship would be on a neutral site. So the competition to be one of the top four seeds, and thus be guaranteed at least two home games, would be enormous, Wetzel argues.

Wetzel’s position is that the value of having all of the conference champions included outweighs the exclusion of a third or fourth team from one of the power conferences. It wouldn’t cheapen the regular season, he argues, because seeding would become so important. Having the little guy playing the big guy in his home stadium (Appalachian State at Michigan) would add drama of the first two rounds of the football playoffs similar to the NCAA basketball tournament.

Again, it’s compelling reading. But here is my rebuttal to just a few of these points:

**–I have been involved in college athletics long enough to know that we can’t get from where we are right now (a two team playoff) to a 16-team playoff in just one step. College athletics does not do radical change. The NCAA basketball tournament started with eight teams in 1939 and grew in increments to its current 68. That is why the next step in the evolution of post-season college football in Division I-A will be a four-team playoff.

**–I remain unconvinced that enough presidents want something like this. Georgia president Michael Adams put an eight-team playoff on the table in 2007 and wasn’t able to get a whole lot of support. The presidents I talk to just don’t want to open up this can of worms. Wetzel, however, believes that when the economic reality of a playoff  and its value hits schools that are already strapped for cash, the presidents will change their minds. He also believes that the current power structure keeps the presidents from being completely informed on this issue. I don’t know about that. There are some pretty smart guys and ladies sitting in these president’s offices.

**–Using this 16-team format that includes all 11 conference championships, teams like Troy (No. 69 in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings), East Carolina (No. 51), and Central Michigan (No. 42) would have gotten in the tournament. Teams like No. 14 Nebraska, No. 15 BYU, No. 16 Pittsburgh, and No. 17 Oklahoma would have been left out.

**–College football and basketball are so different. It’s one thing to let the MAC champion into a 65-team basketball tournament. It’s another thing entirely to tell a 10-2 SEC team that it didn’t get into a 16-team playoff because Central Michigan beat Ohio U. on a Friday night in Detroit before 23,714 people. The economic difference between Duke and Butler basketball, who met for the NCAA championship last April, is not that great. The economic difference between Georgia football and football at Central Michigan has to be measured in light years.

If you put the best 16 teams in a playoff, some of the big conferences might listen. But I can’t see them going for a system like this. I could be wrong.

So what do you think? Do you like Wetzel’s 16-team playoff? If you were a college president, would you vote for it?

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387 comments Add your comment

Silent Observer

October 13th, 2010
7:52 am

Will Collier

October 13th, 2010
7:58 am

Hell, I’ve been voting for a playoff for 30 years. The current subjective, beauty-contest system is a complete joke. I’m all for a selection committee with absolutely no input from the polls, which are at best uninformed (Harris, AP) and at worst corrupt (SID-uh, I mean, coaches) or garbage-in, garbage-out computer rankings. I don’t think the Sun Belt, MAC, WAC, CUSA or even the Big Least deserve automatic bids; if they have a team good enough to qualify in a given year, a selection committee would catch them.

Jay

October 13th, 2010
7:59 am

Not a chance.

geaux tigers

October 13th, 2010
8:00 am

No. Of course a playoff is better than polls but this proposal is a fairy tale. It will never happen so why even entertain the idea.in the words of Al Davis “get over it”

Dooley the Vol

October 13th, 2010
8:00 am

bring it, decide it on the field. Then BSU can’t complain they were left out. The power will still be in the big conferences and could improve scheduling.

Hilton Head Island

October 13th, 2010
8:02 am

Dawg_Mike

October 13th, 2010
8:02 am

I’m in favor of a plus 1…that is simple enough.

C-USA fan

October 13th, 2010
8:06 am

Ideally yes, practically no.

Paul

October 13th, 2010
8:06 am

YES. In a heartbeat. Many of your arguments against it are filled with mis-information. There’s no difference in the economics of Duke and Butler basketball? So what a #17 Oklahoma doesn’t get in. You are arguing over the at large bids, not the automatic. Why does a Duke football team deserve a direct path to a possible National Championship while a Boise State can go undefeated year after year and still be left out. Let’s just settle it on the field.

Gary Alabama

October 13th, 2010
8:08 am

A playoff? I don’t really care for one. The reason there will not be one is the NCAA. There is no way that the major conference will turn over that kind of money for the NCAA to run nor would I want them too. Why should division III schools get money from division I playoff. That is what would happen and there is no way the major conference would ever agree to it.

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

October 13th, 2010
8:08 am

The Reporter: Mr. McGarity, will you guys do anything different for the ” dores ” ?

Greg: Yes, Chango will help us. We could not find a Witch Doctor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEoh5fSYl0Q

MURPHY

October 13th, 2010
8:08 am

Im for any kind of playoff.

Bubba

October 13th, 2010
8:09 am

A terrible idea. It would ruin college football.

I still say let the ...

October 13th, 2010
8:10 am

…go back to the 11 game season and let the top 60 teams enter a playoff – it will only add 6 more games to the season for the final 2 teams, which is only 2 more than they now play and is the same # of games all the other divisions (FBS/1AA, D2, D3, and NAIA) now play!

JUST SAYING

October 13th, 2010
8:10 am

wow Tony posting later than usual this morning, guess you had to actually read parts of that book before writing about it..gee you mean the almighty SEC doesn’t get to decide, I thought they ruled the world with Athens and Tuscaloosa being the headquarters according to the bloggers, who knew…..people that live in reality outside the SEC for one

Jimmy Pritchard

October 13th, 2010
8:12 am

Figures that the bammie fans aren’t in favor. They live and die on being media darlings, if the media rankings are exposed as nonsense, their lives would have no meaning at all.

que

October 13th, 2010
8:12 am

hammerhead

October 13th, 2010
8:14 am

If I could answer in something more emphatic than “Hell Yes!”, I would. It amazes me that well-informed, passionate college football fans would not be in favor of a playoff. My son’s 8th grade team just made the playoffs. EVERY LEVEL OF FOOTBALL PLAYED IN AMERICA HAS A PLAYOFF – except NCAA FBS. Makes absolutely no sense whatsovever.

UGASlobberknockerI

October 13th, 2010
8:14 am

Im not for a 16 team playoff for many reasons..the main one being the bowls will not let it happen. That is not a realistic solution. I have a great way to settle it that only adds 5 days to the season and only the finalist would play an extra game.

Simply have a committee like the basketball tourney. After the season’s final w/e and the champ. gamers have been played..seed the S Have themakk61

George P Burdell

October 13th, 2010
8:14 am

No. Football is different from other sports. In most games between top ten teams (top ten at the end of the season), any team could beat another team due to luck, calls by referees, you name it…
A real tournament (like baseball where teams play multiple times) is the only way to establish a true champion. College basketball barely comes close where a team needs to win eight times against different opponents. That type of tournament will never happen in football.

DGator

October 13th, 2010
8:14 am

Enter your comments here

Brad

October 13th, 2010
8:15 am

DGator

October 13th, 2010
8:15 am

YES, of course I would vote for this, how could you not given the current system.

ATL is TigerTown

October 13th, 2010
8:16 am

I didn’t even know it was on the ballot. Is that one of those tea-bag initiatives?

UGASlobberknockerI

October 13th, 2010
8:17 am

to finish that thought..the committee seeds the conference champions, then the Final 4 playoff in two of the BCS games for the right to play in the final exactly one week from last BCS semifinal (prob Jan 4 or so), To make it work one BCS game has to be added to keep the BCS at 10 slots..so add back the Cotton Bowl If this had been in place last yr the final game would have been only 5 days later then it was..and no bowl games are affected.

SimpleDawg

October 13th, 2010
8:17 am

I believe an eight team playoff would suffice.

The bowls could be used in the playoff, and that would reduce the number of bowls needing to take subpar teams to fill slots.

Al

October 13th, 2010
8:18 am

I don’t like the every conf gets a team in. I think you take the top 16 teams in the country. Football is much different than the ncaa hoops. But i do agree a 16 team playoff has to happen and the money from that would be huge. much more than these stupid bcs bowls.

Dave

October 13th, 2010
8:18 am

Playoffs are the only way to go. As you said, the money it would generate would be ENORMOUS. I’m really not for the winners of the conferences, but rather the top 16 teams. The season would still be important because of the jockeying for seedings. 2 or 3 loss teams would still be in the hunt. You could still have conference championships and the playoff. The only monkey wrench in the fray is POWER…..and that’s it. College basketball plays for a lot longer and has many more games than college football and they STILL have march Madness. It has always been and will always be about POWER. That’s why it’s a long way from happening, if it happens at all.

Max Sizemore

October 13th, 2010
8:18 am

No. The regular season is, and should be, sacrosanct.

Terry

October 13th, 2010
8:19 am

100 percent yes. Anyone who understands the business of running a playoff should agree. I’ve read variations of this plan before, it’s as perfect as you are getting.

Tony, your two main arguments against are that college footballs leadership won’t do this. Not that they shouldn’t. Why should we not push for real reform and just accept their limited skills? More money, more excitement. The smaller conference teams and the home field make the regular season bigger and better by rewarding top seed. Then the money changes everything. Who doesn’t want to see Ohio State at Alabama? Or Oregon at Oklahoma? Bowls are a disaster. Open your mind and demand the leaders do too.

CFBplayoff1

October 13th, 2010
8:20 am

I would vote for a playoff in a heartbeat. One thing that I would do differently than the the book, to remove on Tony’s argument “10-2 SEC team that it didn’t get into a 16-team playoff because Central Michigan beat Ohio U.”, is to reduce the number of FBS teams. Otherwise, if Central Michigan is an FBS team, it should be treated the same as any other Div 1 FBS team (e.g. – Alabama). If you don’t agree, then you make my argument for reducing the number of FBS teams. Check out this year-old blog post that I found http://clintstrange.wordpress.com/2009/10/ with some more detail about a play-off.

Dan

October 13th, 2010
8:21 am

I like, not love, Wetzel’s scheme, but also agree with TB that things will have to start with a 4-team playoff (and evolve to 8 teams, which would be a fine stopping point as well). The FCS teams, NCAA Division 2, NCAA Division 3, and NAIA manage just fine with their football playoff systems. A playoff system would more strongly resemble the regular-season weekly grind, and then we could learn if teams such as Boise State (without a month to prepare for a one bigger name opponent) could survive a gauntlet of three or four strong opponents in a row. As for the non-playoff bowls, they could still function, akin to the NIT in basketball; a non-playoff bowl wouldn’t be the “big show,” but nonetheless it would be a minor post-season reward for a good or very good — but not excellent — team.

Dave

October 13th, 2010
8:21 am

You could use the lower level bowls as first round games and then the higher bowls get the Qtrs., Semis and the Championship game. In my mind there is no legitimate argument for the BCS except POWER.

Kyle

October 13th, 2010
8:21 am

Yes, I’ll vote for anything besides what we have. I’m the biggest Oklahoma State fan in the world and I barely watched the Cotton Bowl last year. Bowl games are meaningless, even for fans of the teams playing them. I’m not compelled.

Tom

October 13th, 2010
8:22 am

Would we lose the non conference match ups like a UNC/LSU, Miami/OSU, etc. if we have a 16 team playoff?

CFBplayoff1

October 13th, 2010
8:23 am

Bubba 8:09
Why would a playoff be a “terrible idea. It would ruin college football”?

Dontavius Supremo

October 13th, 2010
8:24 am

Yoiur rebuttals are right on target. While there is force in his argument, there is no logic in his solution.

Tony

October 13th, 2010
8:24 am

To do nothing is not wisdom at this point. Start somewhere with something, even if it’s a few teams, and work from there. It’s a much needed and long overdue change.

hammerhead

October 13th, 2010
8:24 am

In order to get a playoff, though, you’d have to cut the number of schools playing “Division I” football. Schools like Central Michigan and UL-Layfayette shouldn’t be playing big boy football anyway. Cut it down to the major conferences first – then let the playoffs begin. SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Big East, WAC – there’s 8 champions – take the highest remaining ranked teams within these conferences an a possible independent / at large or two and make it happen. The money would be incredible. The matchups could be a dream come true for many fans and playing the first rounds on campus would be a huge draw. Cut the regular season to 11 or even 10 games. Still have a full conference schedule and a rival on your schedule, but eliminate “money grab” games like Idaho State.

RxDawg

October 13th, 2010
8:24 am

Not 16, but 8. The 6 BCS conference champs and 2 at larges. Or just the top 8 in the BCS standings. I’m sure somebody smarter than me knows which one would be better.

That said, if they did move to a playoff it MUST NEVER GO OVER 8! They have to write it like a consitution so it never becomes the watered down garbage of a season like the NFL and NCAA basketball.

If they did this, college ball would keep it’s magical regular season and gain the satisfaction of determining a true champion of the land. We’d gain the best of both worlds.

Mulk

October 13th, 2010
8:24 am

If you can’t win your own conference then you should have no shot at winning a National Championship. A non-conference winner already had their chance. Why give them another? It’s not about finding the best team, hottest team at the end or team from the strongest conference – it’s about that magical season that it takes to become a National Champion. If the 2nd or 3rd place SEC team doesn’t like being 2nd or 3rd in their conference then let them join the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, etc.

No do overs.

Mulk

Rob

October 13th, 2010
8:25 am

No, no, no. A thousand times no. This is an awful idea.

And, like it or not, we already have a two-team playoff in the BCS. expand it by one game, have the two best post BCS teams play in a plus-one championship and be done with it.

Gen Neyland

October 13th, 2010
8:25 am

Mr Mackey to the 4th graders at South Park Elementary : Okay class, we’ll be revisiting this subject of college football playoffs every year until the cows come home, okay..? Hmm, nothing is changing any time soon but we’ll keep at it, okay..? Great topic for disscussion but it’s not happening but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop, okay..? Eric Cartman, I want to see you in my office, okay..?

CFBplayoff1

October 13th, 2010
8:25 am

The playoff should not use any poll. It should be structured so that the participants and the winner are decided on the field, not in some sportswriter’s or coach’s mind.

MURPHY

October 13th, 2010
8:26 am

Tom,

Yes you might lose those games but wouldnt you gain better match ups in this playoff system at the end of the year? Would it not be an acceptable trade off?

Jim

October 13th, 2010
8:26 am

I’m just curious who the #4 vs. #13 matchup would involve in your lineup based on last year? MWC Champion vs. another At-Large?

Otto Strahl

October 13th, 2010
8:26 am

I’d be all for a non seeded plus one. Play 5 BCS bowls around Jan 1 and then vote on the 2 best teams of the 5 winners to play a week later. The issue has always been the 3rd team, not the 9th team. Any playoff that included non BCS champs is a joke.

yes but leave the bowls

October 13th, 2010
8:27 am

16 team playoff and leave the bowls so that the whiny “fairness” crowd is pacified.

Besides, it would allow a Mark Richt coached team to do something in the post season….since winning meaningful games is the only way you would get in and advance in the playoff.

now if there was a playoff for arrests……woah….look out.

maroonseedymon

October 13th, 2010
8:28 am

i continue to smh at why we can have a playoff in ALL other divisions of football, except IA, but this proposal doesnt stand the laff test!

poopdawg

October 13th, 2010
8:28 am

A 16 team playoff with no conference tie ins just a vote for the 16 best teams at the end of the season is the only fair way .