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EDITORIAL: Player safety, unpaid labor, and school be damned — College ADs want an expanded playoff

Show me the money...and the terrible games to follow.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">NCAA Football: Pac-12 Conference Championship-Oregon vs Utah

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since its inaugural season, we have been warning of playoff creep. And it began in 2014 immediately by season’s end, as the Big 12 began lobbying for its 5th and 6th place teams to get a spot at the table.

But, every year, despite the fact that there are barely three teams that are title worthy, much less four, we hear from the conferences that have been left out; their familiar, whiny refrain to turn the playoffs into a regional affair, with guaranteed spots, feel-goods for the conferences, participation trophies for fans, and more money for everyone else. And it is said particularly the loudest by conferences with sometimes one decent team, and with absolutely no regard to the quality of the product already on the field.

Hell, it’s not just that the preliminary rounds have been crap, though they usually have.

Here are the double-digit wins by year:

  • 2020: 2/3rds — OSU was robbed
  • 2019: 3/3— every game was a blowout.
  • 2018: 1/3rd — Georgia loved close games that season.
  • 2017: 2/3rds — The season of what-ifs
  • 2016: 2/3rds — Alabama-Clemson I
  • 2015: 2/3rds — RTDB LMFK

Got that? 12 of 18 games total games have been decided by double digits. Of those 12, a full 10 of them were beatings by 17 or more points.

And, in its six years, 50% of the championship games have been decided by 17 points or more. If not for some classics with Alabama-Clemson and Alabama-Georgia, the finale would be a stinker more often than not.

“Everyone has the same feeling; expansion is inevitable,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told The Athletic. “When you can do it, and I think we need to serve more people. I think four was the right way to get started. In my opinion, we need to take a look of adding more teams into the playoff, giving more opportunities.”

Alvarez, who sat on the CFP’s selection committee from 2014 to ’16, expressed his concern that the SEC is getting a regular spot in the playoff while other leagues spend multiple years on the outside looking in.

”I don’t know whether we’re serving all of our people now, when you have some leagues—our league (the Big Ten) as an example,” Alvarez said. “Two years in a row, we don’t have anyone represented. The Big 12’s been the same way. The Pac-12’s been the same way.”

Despite an inferior product already on display, featuring a field where it is oft’ difficult to find four quality opponents, a recent poll by Brett Murphy at Stadium Sports found an insane 88% of college athletic directors who want to see an expanded playoff.

“More and more fans are only concerned with the playoffs,” an anonymous AD told McMurphy. “That’s sad, but true, so we should expand the playoffs when possible. Even if that impacts the bowl system. We have to figure out a way.”

Athletic directors were also surveyed on the potential location of expanded bowl games. 53% of athletic directors would like to see quarterfinal games played on the campus of the higher seed. That number jumps slightly to 55% for Power Five athletic directors.

And why, pray tell, is this being bandied about?

Money. Pure and simple.

Those schools with the ability to field a quality team prosper, those without do not. Or, at least that’s the way the sport is supposed to work. But teams in objectively shitty conferences — like the PAC12; those in conferences that are just one phallic stumble away from being excluded altogether — like the ACC; and those that play a JUCO schedule with a handful of contests against marginal Top 25 teams — like the AAC, want to dip their toes into the sweet waters of guaranteed loot.

It’s a cash grab, pure and simple.

Do most of these teams in an expanded 6- or 8-team playoff have a shot at winning? That’s not the concern. The guaranteed revenue is the issue; the promise of lucre for nothing. Having USF travel to Oklahoma, raising the profile of a commuter school who did not earn their way on the field, is the prerogative. Not having to spend on coaches and facilities to actually become competitive, so a team like Utah can travel to Georgia, is the point.

More money, more growth, more games.

That also means more snaps, more injuries and more opportunities for injuries. It also means less time spent with loved ones or partners or on studies...or, you know, just being a college kid going pro in something other than football. Remember when that was the whole mission of the NCAA?

But, hey, ADs don’t give a diddly damn about any of that.

And perhaps, given the real-life consequences of more snaps, the balance of the equities here, and the optics of their highly lucrative unpaid labor market, the member institutions of the NCAA may just want to do the right and decent thing here — even if for entirely selfish reasons. Don’t expand the playoffs.

The sport doesn’t need more games. And, I would wager that even 15 games are too many.

After all, they’ve got class the next day.


Expand the Playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Yes, and below I explain how ____.
    (40 votes)
  • 56%
    No, leave it at four teams.
    (216 votes)
  • 27%
    There was nothing wrong with the BCS and/or a BCS-type system can be modified to produce better results.
    (103 votes)
  • 4%
    The entire championship era has been a folly. Go back to polls.
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    (4 votes)
381 votes total Vote Now