Opinion: UCF Proves Need for Expanded Playoff

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Naples Daily News (Florida)


The regular season is over. The bowl matchups are set. And now we have weeping and gnashing of teeth over which teams have been left out of the College Football Playoff, plus a call to expand the format from four to eight or even 16 teams?

Spare me.

College football needs plenty of overhauls, but this shouldn't be at the top of anyone's list, especially not anyone connected to a Power Five school.

Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State all had their chances. They lost games. End of discussion.

UCF, though, has a gripe that merits consideration.

"The current system is not a fair and reasonable system," Dan Ravicher, an antitrust lawyer, said.

"The experience we've had with it shows it," he said later. "Of the five years we've had it, each of the 20 teams that have been in the College Football Playoff have been from a Power conference."

The exception is Notre Dame, of course, but Ravicher — a professor at the University of Miami Law School who has practiced in various forms for 20 years and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court — said it's effectively an ACC school, since it competes in that conference in other sports.

To him, the current system is a collusion lawsuit waiting to happen.

Plus, he asked, "How exciting would the college football playoffs be this year if we had, in addition to the four current teams, UCF, Buffalo, Fresno and other Cinderella darlings?"

It's an interesting perspective. And if a lawsuit comes, we'll cover it, but in terms of competition, do we really need playoff expansion?

Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association and former commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, doesn't think so.

"Until we get to a point that there are eight teams that are the quality of an Alabama or a Clemson, well, we don't need to dilute it," he said. "We don't need to ask people to play in games that are for a national championship, if we know the winner."

Waters has been involved in college football for decades, and he's had the expansion conversation before.

"That goes back to some of my experience as an FCS commissioner," he said. "I remember a conversation (former SEC commissioner) Roy Kramer and I had years ago, he said, 'Tell me about 16.' And I said, 'We get rid of the pretenders the first two weeks. Not until we get to the third week are we actually dealing with teams that can win it.'"

To Waters, there's a difference between a good team and a good program.

"The thing you have to understand," he said, "perception sometimes gets involved here. And the perception is usually about programs and not teams. If you have good teams, Central Florida was a great team last year, but only now are they starting to pick up program status."

He compares UCF to Boise State.

"Boise had a great team," he said. "They won the Fiesta Bowl. But then they put it together with two or three more years of dominance" — and two more Fiesta Bowl wins. "And then they became a program. And that's what is ultimately the challenge, is to become a program, so the perception is every year you're going to be competing at that highest level."

He said that's what competition is all about, a point of view that's a defense against a collusion claim.

But none of this is where we should be focused. We should be focused on the student-athletes.

Letitia Frye, who calls herself "America's Foremost Auctiontainer," explains this from the perspective of a businesswoman who has worked with Pat Summerall, Peyton Manning, Emmitt Smith and countless others.

She's also close to the issue because her son is seeking a football scholarship.

"The scholarship is a lot of money ... but that is to get an education," she said, noting how hard it can be to balance studies and athletics.

"They put these kids in school, and they don't get the education," she said. "And then they push them, because they're making money on the sport, and they're pushing them further, and 9 out of 10 of them are not going to the NFL."

She's looking for solutions that would benefit players and their families.

"A universal fund, not run by the schools ... you should have some sort of collegiate group to set up a Roth IRA or something that's there for them that they get X amount" when their playing days are over, she said.

Frankly, this is all we should be focused on. If the playoffs expand, the compensation packages for student-athletes should expand, too.

If the playoffs don't expand, the compensation packages for student-athletes should expand anyway.

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December 6, 2018


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