OPINION: Twelve-team playoff proposal is beneficial to FBS football
The College Football Playoff (CFP) was introduced to the NCAA in the 2014-15 season and has since added a way for four teams to compete for a national championship.
In the seven seasons since the playoff’s inception, a group of 13 members known as the CFP Selection Committee has decided what four teams will participate in the playoff. But the number of teams included may soon change with college and conference officials expressing interest in a 12-team playoff instead, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports in a June 8 article.
The four-team CFP currently in place should be expanded due to the potential monetary benefits for small teams as well as the move adding parity and unpredictability to the sport.
In a tweet posted two days after the article, Thamel outlined potential rules for the new playoff format. The teams participating in the proposed playoff would be the six highest-ranked conference champions by the CFP Selection committee, as well as the other highest-ranked six teams.
If the proposed playoff format was in effect for the 2020 season, Alabama would’ve been the No. 1 seed followed by Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Florida, Cincinnati, Georgia, Iowa State, Indiana and Coastal Carolina, in that order.
The proposed playoff format will help smaller programs pull in revenue they would’ve virtually never been able to receive before.
Since the beginning of the four-team CFP, the semifinal games have rotated between six of some of college football’s most well-known bowl games. In the 2018-19 season, these games in addition to the national championship game paid out almost $550 million to conferences and schools involved, according to a USA Today article from January 2020.
Playing in one of those bowl games, let alone in the national championship, could be massive for programs that have never been there before or don’t get there often.
Vice President of USF Athletics Michael Kelly talked about what a CFP berth could mean financially for a program like USF in a June 24 press conference.
“Right now guys, for us to [fund facilities and operations], it clearly has to come from private funds as much as possible [currently],” Kelly said.
“[The proposed playoff format] is a great revenue generator possibility.”
In addition to the financial impact, the proposed playoff format puts a realistic path in front of every FBS program to secure a spot in the CFP, something that was always technically possible but a long shot for the majority of FBS teams.
In the seven CFPs that have occurred since the 2014-15 season, Clemson and Alabama have won two and three times, respectively. The other two winners include Ohio State in the playoff’s inaugural season and LSU in 2019-20.
Alabama and Clemson have played in the championship game against one another in three of the seven CFPs, and at least one of the two programs has been involved in the past six straight championship matchups.
“Was it technically true that [football] coach [Jeff] Scott could sit in front of his guys and say ‘You could make the College Football Playoff’? Yes, it was technically true, [but] it was an extremely tough putt before,” Kelly said.
“Now can you look at them in the eyes and say ‘Guys, for the schedule that we’ve got set for the next 10 years, we would put ourselves in position to win the American [Conference] and there’s a very good chance that we’re going to the College Football Playoff,’ and that’s big time.”
Clearly, the CFP lacks parity among the teams that make it and win it. The 12-team playoff would add some much needed diversity, while still allowing the big-time conferences and program powerhouses to flex their proverbial muscles.
Opponents to the idea of CFP expansion, like Bleacher Report columnist Joel Reuter, have argued opening the door to 12 teams is a slippery slope to further expansion in the future, and have expressed concerns over where expansion stops.
However, sports must adapt to the times. From 1998 to 2013, the Bowl Championship Series was used, but it was replaced by the CFP in 2014 because many deemed it unfair for a committee to simply select two teams to play in a national championship game.
Thus, the CFP was born, allowing four of the “best” teams in the country to actually play for a spot in the title game rather than just being appointed into it. The 12-team playoff proposal will allow more programs to earn a shot at winning a national championship after continuous wins by top-tier universities have proved this system isn’t working anymore.
Per ESPN senior writer Heather Dinich, the CFP’s board of managers “authorized the 10 FBS commissioners to ‘begin a summer review phase’ to determine the feasibility of an expanded field and work on the details of how and when it might be implemented,” on June 22.
As Dinich puts it, the CFP’s board of managers’ support for the expansion was crucial, “as the playoff couldn’t expand without the support of the presidents and chancellors who make up the CFP’s board of managers … It seems to be a matter of when — not if — the postseason will grow again.”
Dinich also added that “Those within the room continue to caution that this is a long, unpredictable process. The board of managers and management committee aren’t expected to meet again until Sept. 28.”
The 10 FBS commissioners should approve the 12-team playoff format and look to quickly implement it as soon as possible for the betterment of FBS football.
A No. 12 seed going on a run and winning the national championship is unlikely and may never happen, but the possibility of it occurring encapsulates the beauty of sports. The proposal doesn’t hinder the best programs from achieving success but will merely allow smaller teams to have a chance to topple the big dogs.