Opinion: Expanded Playoff Benefits Everyone But Players

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Copyright 2017 The Washington Times
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The Washington Times


The winner of Monday night's battle between Alabama and Clemson is the national champion, a simple enough formula. That's much tidier and more efficient than previous processes, which left space for split titlists but left out worthy contenders.

The clamor for a definitive champ grew slowly and steadily until the Bowl Coalition was formed in 1992. But it wasn't good enough and lasted just three seasons.

Up next was the equally maligned Bowl Alliance, also put down after three years. Like the preceding solution, it failed to assuage the masses who demanded a clean verdict.

The Bowl Championship Series enjoyed relatively long life after debuting in 1998, but remained a less-than-ideal substitute for true bracketology. Mid-majors were excluded, too many computers were included and teams were rewarded for running up scores.

Like all the other pretenders, the BC-Mess was terminated. It was replaced in 2014 by the College Football Playoff.

But even before the four-game format was announced, outcries for an eight-game model were prevalent. The drumbeat has grown loud enough to echo in the halls of power. Last month, NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated his desire to double the entrants so that all Power Five champions are represented.

"I'm kind of old school about that, I guess," Emmert reportedly said at the Learfield Sports Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. "It would be really fun to have a model where those five champions all got a crack at moving forward. I don't know what that looks like."

Here's the view from here:

An eight-game playoff looks like another money grab, where everyone except the labor gets a bigger share. It looks like more blatant disregard for players' academic standing and physical welfare. It looks like the so-called amateurs inching closer to the pro ranks, without the bother of annoyances such as player unions and collective bargaining.

Nonetheless, fans want more, especially if their team finished fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth in the CFP selection rankings. Coaches and administrators want more, too, additional opportunities to put a title on their resume and a trophy on the shelf.

Broadcast networks would have more pressurized programming to sell more pricey ads. Sponsors would welcome the extra round of eyeballs while blurring the lines between our wants and needs. Venues would gladly open the gates for quarterfinal action and the accompanying economic boost for hotels, restaurants, etc.

Who wouldn't love an eight-team playoff? Or, better yet, 16 teams!

I don't know, maybe the guys who'd have to slam into each other for another game or two?

"God no, I'd literally die," Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware told USA Today last week when asked about the prospect of an expanded postseason.

Participating in the title game for a second consecutive year means back-to-back seasons of 15 games for Alabama and Clemson. An eight-team field would put those schools' workload on par with the Lions and Bears, who play for game checks on Sundays instead of tuition, room and board each semester.

Before asking about the Football Championship Series, where Youngstown State finished with a 12-4 record in losing the FCS title game against James Madison last week, please don't embarrass yourself by suggesting that the levels are remotely similar.

There's a reason that FBS players, according to Cleveland.com, comprise roughly 87 percent of the NFL. They're bigger, stronger and faster. They face greater stress and magnified pressure. Their games are the epicenter of a multi-billion dollar industry, generating $7.3 billion annually for the playoff alone.

There are tremendous distinctions even within the Football Bowl Series ranks; Power Five conferences produce roughly 67 percent of NFL players compared to 18 percent for Group of Five conferences. Also, according to the USA Today salary database, the wealthiest Group of Five school in 2014-2015 was Connecticut ($72 million in revenue). That put the Huskies at No. 48 nationally, around $120 million less than No. 1 Texas A&M.

Here's the point: Players for Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and other behemoths engage in an endeavor that's business enterprise more than extracurricular activity. They have nothing to gain from an expanded playoff, other than increased risk of injury and poor grades.

Yes, everyone's best interests would be served by an eight-team field ... except the players on the field.

"From a fan perspective, it'd probably be awesome," Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph told Sports Illustrated. "But from a player perspective, we're not feeling it." Said Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher: "To play this football at this high a level for that long, it takes a toll."

But as long as we're entertained and there's money to be made, who cares what they think?

Schools claim to be concerned about players' well-being, about their health and academic success.

Our significant and reasonable doubts will double if the playoff does likewise.



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January 10, 2017


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