The 2014-2015 season of NCAA football will be a pioneering one, as the College Football Playoff era begins.
If you have watched college football avidly in the past, you are probably aware of the frustrating Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system, in which two teams were selected (through a series of weekly polls) to play in a singular national championship game. The now-ousted system was long criticized because of the many instances in which there were controversial rulings for who was crowned as the best team in college football.
But this year, NCAA football will take a step in the right direction. A 13-person committee has been rounded up to select the four teams that will compete in a bracket-style playoff to see which team is the best in the country. The semi-final games will be rotated between six host sites every three years. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl host the debut semi-finals this year, the Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl next year, and then the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl will close out the cycle in 2017.
Meanwhile, as the two semi-final bowl games lead to the championship, the other four premier bowl games will still be played. What is being called “The New Year’s Six” will consist of three bowl games being played New Year’s Eve and three bowl games played New Year’s Day in which one of the semi-finals will take place on each of the two days.
Even though this new system will make for a wonderfully exciting turn-of-the-year for college football fans, and a more deserving champion, there are still a few issues. The most obvious flaw is the number of teams that make the playoffs. There are five major conferences in the NCAA, and all of them produce elite football teams. Even if the SEC doesn’t dominate the four spots and each semi-final team was from a different conference, one fan base will still feel the same frustration they did during the BCS era. One conference champion could potentially have the same record as another and still not have an opportunity at a title.
There are too many quality FBS programs to only give four teams a shot. This is only 3 percent of all 128 FBS teams that can compete in the four-team playoff, the lowest percentage opportunity of any major sports playoff. Have you ever heard the expression, “any given Sunday?” Granted, college football is played mostly on Saturdays, but you get the idea. If the playoff consisted of eight teams, there would surely be a power gap large enough to distinguish who deserves to be there. No controversy, no what-ifs, just good old-fashioned “may the best man win.”
But the NCAA wants to protect its players from being overused, commercially abused, etc. and wants to avoid an 8-team playoff because of the extra games those teams would have to play. With the four-team system, there is only one extra game being played. But ask the players and coaches if they would mind the extra hours of practice and a few extra games for a title shot.
Ask the universities and conferences if they would mind the incredible revenue that would be generated from playoff ticket sales.
Ask the student bodies if they would protest an extra week or two of watching their peers battle it out on the gridiron.
Another issue that could bring back that frustration from the BCS era is the selection committee. The 13 members are for the most part very qualified; with five current athletic directors from each major conference, former superintendents, coaches and vice presidents, sports reporters and commissioners, as well as quarterback legend and football ambassador, Archie Manning. But every vote will count, and former Secretary of the State Condoleezza Rice is the 13 member of the committee. If it comes down to a tie-breaking vote for that fourth spot in the playoff, I doubt that the former Secretary of State is the person that coaches and players will want to decide who gets it. Although admittedly the College Football Playoff is innovative in comparison to the BCS system, college football fans are still hoping for some major changes to come in the near future.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Zac Koch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @zactkoch