We ended up with Coastal Carolina and Arizona as the final two teams as a result of the format that is used for determining the national champion in baseball. It is not based on who the best team is early in the season or midway through the season, or even late in the schedule, it is based on who the best team is when postseason play begins.
Even though they are a surprise team in the finals with a new head coach, Arizona is from a major conference with a tradition of success in baseball, but who would have ever thought that Coastal Carolina would be playing in the national championship series. Coastal Carolina is such a fun team for me to watch because they play so hard and perform well together as a team more than as a group of very talented individuals.
You can’t tell me that Coastal Carolina has better talent than Florida or many other teams in the SEC, but it is not the team with the best players that wins the championships, it is the players with the best team combined with the right coaching that it takes to make it happen.
The same thing is true in football, and I played on teams like that. One of those was in high school when we won a state championship and another was at Georgia in 1959 when we won the Southeastern Conference Championship. That team at Georgia was picked eighth or ninth in the SEC that year. We had a great player, Dave Lloyd, who was a center and linebacker. We played both ways then and he was an All-American.
He left the team after his junior year and signed to play pro football. After that everybody said we couldn’t win because we lost our best player, but we went undefeated in the SEC. We had a good team with a great quarterback, Francis Tarkenton. He made the most critical play of the year on fourth down and 13, or whatever it was, and threw the winning touchdown pass vs. Auburn with 30 seconds or so left in the game.
If you look at last year’s four college football playoff teams, Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan State and Clemson are all big names in the sport. There were teams that got left out of the playoff like Ohio State, which I believe was as good as anyone in the country at the end of the year.
There were no programs represented in that four-team playoff that would be the equivalent of a Coastal Carolina, which in the college football world would be a team like a Boise State or a Memphis, or somebody else playing in a lesser conference. I believe giving hope to teams from those leagues of having a legitimate chance to compete for a national title as part of one of their special seasons would do wonders for college football.
That is one of the reasons why I really hope major college football will expand its playoff series from four to eight teams because it will give teams outside the power five conferences a real shot to compete for a national title if they have a special season that deserves a chance to compete on the biggest stage.
I realize some people believe college football teams are already playing too many games and it could cause complications like having players miss more class time, but football players miss a lot less of their classes than athletes do in a lot of other sports so I don’t think that is a valid reason why you shouldn’t do it. It’s not about academics--they can’t use that as an excuse.
I really believe the national championship series would be enhanced from an excitement level by moving from four to eight teams and it would help prevent situations like the one from two seasons ago when TCU and Baylor both deserved to be in the playoff, but did not get the opportunity to compete. An eight-team playoff, being worked into the bowl system, can be done and I?would like to see it happen sooner rather than later.