Here’s a plan the NCAA leaders are sure to reject
Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2021
When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.
The NCAA proposed expansion of the postseason football playoffs would expand the current four-team field to 12.
The top five power conferences would get an automatic bid to their conference champion. The remaining spots would be filled with the remaining teams in the rankings.
The top four seeds would earn a first-round bye and the top next top six seeds would get a home game. The playoffs would utilize the bowl games from the second round to the title game.
Now, all of this is to create more games for television and there would be a financial boost in the TV contract with the next networks.
But this format is wrong to me when you consider what should be fair to all the teams. What seems to be forgotten is that NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association and that the NCAA consists of 130 Division 1 football programs.
No matter what one conference might think, this is not the SEC Invitational.
The NCAA is comprised of 10 conferences: Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, American Athletic Conference, Big 12 Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, Pacific-12 Conference, Southeastern Conference, Sun Belt Conference plus independents Notre Dame, Army, UMass, UConn, New Mexico State, BYU and Liberty.
There is a lot of excitement with the NCAA basketball tournament which invites 68 teams with ALL conference champions getting an automatic bid. And instead of the big conference continuing to get all the money, the other conference will at least get a piece of the pie and help their teams who, as state before, are also members of the NCAA.
Sure, the No. 16 seed have virtually no chance against the No. 1 seed, but it’s exciting for all the programs to know they have an opportunity to make the Big Dance.
Why not do the same thing with the football playoffs?
Sure, football isn’t like basketball. One outstanding player on a team can make his team competitive even against one of the traditional powers. But why can’t football players have the opportunity to play in the playoffs regardless of the team or conference where they play?
Most players go to college to play football as a means to get their education paid or some type of financial assistance. The other two key reasons are to make the playoffs with a chance to win the national title and to go to the NFL.
If you’re good enough, the NFL will find you regardless of the school. However, right now if you want to make the playoffs it’s basically Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and maybe another SEC team or even Notre Dame.
If every conference got an automatic bid, every player could have the dream of making the playoffs much like college basketball players and the NCAA Tournament. This could in theory help all schools get some quality players and not have the elite all sign with three or four schools.
My plan would be to take 16 teams. It would have all 10 conference champions and six at-large bids which would give the independent teams an opportunity as well. Instead of home games, the NCAA could use 15 bowl games for the playoffs which would create more interest in the Alamo Bowl as a first-round site. The five major bowls — Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta — would still rotate and hand a couple of quarterfinal games, the semifinals and championship games.
And, teams could be assigned to bowls that would attempt to be fair to the fans in terms of travel distance even though seeding in the first round might make that difficult.
One concern is the extra amount of games causes more punishment physically to the players. Money was the driving force behind expanding the schedule from 10 games to 11 and now the current 12-game schedule.
The NCAA could have teams get their league games completed over 11 games and make game 12 the conference championship game. The other teams would be permitted to schedule a 12th game which was proven to be possible during last year’s rescheduling of game during the COVID-19 positive tests that forced teams to cancel games.
The teams not making the playoffs could still play in the lesser bowl games and air during the week for television purposes and the playoff games would be on Saturdays.
If 16 teams might seem like too many, talk to the FBS, NCAA Division 2 and Division 3 as well as the NAIA playoffs which have 24 teams. The top eight teams get a bye.
However, those divisions only play 10 regular season games. If you cut back one week with the conference championships game participants to 11 games, teams will play between 13 and 16 games depending how far they advance in the playoffs.
Naturally, having a possible first-round game matchup between Charleston Southern and Alabama would be very attractive for TV, but the other games would be good games.
And let’s not get upset at that kind of a matchup. Over the past 10 seasons, Alabama has included on its regular season schedule North Texas State, Kent State, Western Kentucky, The Citadel, UT-Chattanooga, Mercer, Southern Mississippi, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe, Fresno State, Arkansas State and — wait for it — Charleston Southern.
That’s just an idea from someone who wants to be fair to all the schools.
But being fair is another way of saying “It’s NOT about the money” and that isn’t something the NCAA wants as its new format.
Jim Walker is sports editor emeritus of The Ironton Tribune.