By ALEX MULHALL – STAFF WRITER
2014 marks the first year of the college football playoff system. The playoff will replace the much-maligned Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which had been utilized since 1998. Gone are the fan bases claiming they didn’t get a fair shot at the title.
Gone are the arbitrary rankings and selections that don’t agree with the majority consensus. Finally, college football will be a perfectly harmonious system with no controversy.
The playoff teams will be selected by a 13-person committee, who will issue a set of rankings seven times each year based on their own criteria. The committee is not bound by any of the major polls that dictated BCS rankings in the past.
One would think that reasonable people, all of whom are knowledgeable about the game and the progression of the season, would be most suited for selecting the top four teams in the country. But this is unprecedented territory for college football.
Proponents of the College Football Playoff will point to the NCAA Basketball Tournament, a tournament that is selected by committee and has run successfully for decades. However, that doesn’t mean March Madness has been free from controversy. Just last year, the selection committee was torn apart by fans and media members alike for underseeding teams such as last year’s national champion, the University of Connecticut Huskies, which was a seven seed.
The NCAA selection committee also placed several of the best teams in the country in one section of the bracket. Last season, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, the national runner-up, the University of Louisville Cardinals, and Wichita State Shockers, both legitimate title contenders, were all in the Midwest region. Because only four teams will make the playoffs every year, the committee’s margin for error is non-existent.
If this playoff does not go over well in its first year, it could very well be over before it even begins.
If the playoff does succeed, however, it will not survive in this format for long. Four teams are far too few to maintain the level of hubbub the NCAA wants.
In my opinion, it should expand to eight teams within the next five years, but it could easily go to 16 or 24, mirroring the FCS playoffs (a level of competition one step lower than Division I).
A tournament expansion would open up spots for advertisers who would gladly pay millions of dollars for primetime slots. Playoffs could be held in NFL stadiums, which would equal even more millions of dollars in ticket and merchandise revenue.
Why wouldn’t the playoff expand? Despite their official stance of promoting scholarship among their athletes, basically every decision made by the NCAA is made on the basis of maximizing profits … excuse me, “funds.” It would look really bad if a nonprofit organization was making billions of dollars a year …
And yet, despite all the obvious speed bumps just waiting to ruin the playoff system, I could not be more excited. Tournaments make every sport more interesting and exciting. Tournaments give more closure to everyone involved.
To be a playoff Champion, you must prove yourself against more than one opponent in an incredibly high pressure environment.
Playoffs also help establish equality between conferences. For the past eight to ten years, it’s been a virtual guarantee that there would be at least one Southeastern Conference (SEC) team in the championship. Now, they’ll have to prove they belong in the championship game by winning the first round of their playoff. That being said, the SEC will most likely have at least one representative in the playoff this year. I believe it will be the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, a perennial juggernaut, with the addition of possibly Auburn University Tigers or maybe the University of Georgia Bulldogs. I think the other two spots will go to a combination of the Florida State Seminoles, Oregon Ducks, or the University of Oklahoma Sooners. My personal pick for the title is Alabama, but I’ll probably change my mind about that in ten minutes.