Marshall: Why A Football Playoff Won't Happen

Columnist Phillip Marshall takes a look at the college football scene's big question.

As I tuned my car radio to the Auburn based SportsCall talk show on Friday afternoon, the topic was one that is a favorite of college football fans from coast to coast.

Why, fans wonder, is there not a national championship playoff in Division I-A football? Friday, callers chimed in with their ideas of what would work and what wouldn't work.

There is no doubt that a Division I-A football playoff would be a huge event and would draw terrific television ratings. There is no doubt it would make a lot of money. It sounds so simple and like such a great idea.

Forget it.

It's not going to happen, at least not any time in the near future. The best college football fans can hope to get is the so-called plus-one system, a championship game after what are now the BCS bowl games.

The reasons you'll hear from college football administrators are that a playoff would interfere with finals, that it would put too much stress on players, etc. A playoff certainly would mean there couldn't be a 12-game or probably even an 11-game regular season, and that would be a financial issue.

Those reasons are valid, believe it or not. But they aren't the real reasons there won't be a playoff. The real reason there won't be a playoff is because the six Bowl Championship Series conferences aren't about to share too much of their loot with the great unwashed.

A national championship playoff would have to be under the umbrella of the NCAA, which the BCS is not. That would mean the money would go first to the NCAA, where the learned men in charge would surely decide that everybody should get a cut, especially themselves.

That's why it's not going to happen. Would it be good for college football as a whole? Yes and no. More than 100 Division I-A teams would be watching from the sideline. It wouldn't be all that good for them. The revenue from one or two games being cut from the schedule would have to be replaced.

That's a big difference between Division I-A and I-AA. For teams in the BCS conferences, regular-season games are money-makers. For the vast majority of I-AA teams, they are money-losers.

Certainly a playoff would be popular among the fans, but it wouldn't eliminate controversy. Though it certainly is not without its warts, the system we have now comes closer to crowning a true national champion than any in the past.

What needs to happen and can happen is adding another game. In that format, Southern Cal would have played Texas or California and Auburn would have played Oklahoma in 2004. The winners would have played for the big prize.

I believe that will and should happen at some point, but it'll probably take several years.

A full-blown playoff isn't going to happen – not now, not 10 years from now.

Moving on...

Today is a big day for Auburn track coach emeritus Mel Rosen and his family. Auburn's new track facility will be named the Hutsell-Rosen track after legendary coach Wilbur Hutsell and Rosen.

Anyone who knows Rosen is happy for him. He was a terrific coach, good enough to be head Olympic coach in 1992 and to be inducted into six halls of fame. He still helps coach the Auburn track team. But more than anything, he is good and caring human being...

You won't hear him talk about it, because it's not his way, but Auburn's 9-6 win at Florida had to be a big one for second-year coach Tom Slater.

Slater was an assistant to Pat McMahon at Florida before moving to Auburn in 2004. He holds McMahon in the highest regard. Friday was his first trip to Gainesville as Auburn's head coach. The Gators swept three in Auburn last season.

Speaking of the Gators, they have to qualify as the biggest disappointment in the SEC this baseball season. They are 23-19 overall and 5-11 in the SEC, dead last going into today's game. And they returned the nucleus of the team that played in the national championship game last season...

Somebody passed along an email asking who is the best Auburn quarterback I've seen. That's a tough question. It would be between Pat Sullivan and Dameyune Craig, with Jason Campbell not far behind. It's difficult to pick one or the other, because they were very different players playing in very different eras.

There were particular traits that were similar in all three of them--leadership and courage. Their teammates believed they could and would do whatever it took to win, no matter how dire the circumstances.

Brandon Cox, with two seasons left, might well be right there with them in the end...

Until next time...


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