Doc's Modest Proposal - A College Playoff System

In a multi-part article, Doc Ryan outlines his proposal for a College Football Playoff system that would work and meet the needs of everyone involved...

A Modest Proposal: College Football Playoff System

To build enthusiasm, increase fan interest, involve the maximum number of teams and fans in the quest for "the impossible dream of a national championship", this proposed playoff system will defy conventional wisdom by playing a 32 team tournament.

Success comes when one finds the right model and uses that to build the perfect system. Look to the basketball tournament to see how its popularity exploded when it went to 64 teams. By involving such a large number of teams, fully one quarter of all teams playing D1 basketball, the NCAA broadened its popularity and involved virtually every state in the country in the excitement of the tournament.

In the 32 team play-off, the first round of 16 games will be played during the Christmas Holiday week, at regional venues close to the hotbeds of college football. Atlanta's Georgia Dome, New Orleans Super Dome, Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium, the Dallas Cowboy's Stadium, Charlotte's Ericsson Stadium., Detroit's Silverdome and the Minneapolis Metrodome all fit the bill.

The key will be to find venues close to the most probable play-off teams, to ensure that fans will travel to the games. By utilizing as many professional stadiums as possible, the NCAA can capitalize on the presence of luxury suites and the corporate sales of those suites that increase income, as well as club seats that appeal to the corporate culture. Using domed stadiums means that the NCAA can locate play-off games near participant fan bases in cold weather areas such as Big Ten country and still assure good fan turnout.

Too Many Games For a Team to Play?
For the next two years, the NCAA will allow teams to play 12 games, a practice scheduled to be repeated whenever the calendar provides an extra Saturday for the season. The income from this extra game the next two years will doubtlessly raise the pressure on the NCAA to move to a permanent 12 game schedule for all teams because of the financial needs of athletic programs. Operating on that assumption, some teams playing in the national championship game could possibly play as many as 18 games, which may seem like an awful lot of games at first glance

But, only the SEC and Big 12 would have a 13th (conference championship) game, therefore in most years, the two teams going to the national championship will play 17 games, only two more will play 16 games, only 4 teams will play 15 games, only 8 teams will play 14. Only 16 teams will play 13 games, the same number of games that 50 teams will play under the current 25 Bowl schedule, once college football goes to the probable 12 game schedule.

If the major objection to a play-off was too many games, it would make more financial sense for the majority of colleges to forego the new twelfth game, eliminate the conference championships, and eliminate the pre-season games, and then only 32 teams would play 12 games, 16 teams would play 13, 8 would play 14, 4 would play 15 and 2 would play 15, and two would play 16. Right now, more than 50 teams are playing 12 games with the current proliferation of meaningless bowl games, and the four teams who play in the two preseason games generally play 13 games. This would mean very little real change to the current demands on ball players.

Not as Many Games As First Appears
Look at the large number of games played by college basketball players. Schools that appear in the Hawaii or Alaska Tournaments and go one to the NCAA Tournament play nearly 40 games in a season. Their season stretches from October until the first week of April. College Baseball World Series participants end up playing 50-60 games for the season.

The five game playoff system would add little additional burden to the vast majority of Div IA teams, while proving enormous exposure and excitement for the game of football.

The very nature of a playoff system makes it highly unlikely there will be repeat champions or championship game participants very often. So, teams will rarely play 16 games in two consecutive seasons.

Reactionaries will argue that a play-off system still takes too much time, too many plays, and too much likelihood of injury over such a long run. Well, there will always be the wimps, the weak kneed and hand wringers who claim that change is always too stressful.

But reality is this. Teams and players will survive and thrive in the system. It will increase interest and enthusiasm for college football, improving attendance at stadiums across the country and improve the television ratings throughout the season.

Finally, the huge infusion of cash from the playoff system back into all the football programs across the country, may even make it possible to increase the scholarship limit back to 90 to 95 players to improve injury protection. This would benefit thousands of players across the country that are currently shut out of major college football by the 85 scholarship limit.

A Solution to The Time Issue
An effective way to address the issue of time and physical stress of a play-off season, will be to eliminate Spring practice for all the teams that advance beyond the first round of the play-offs. Therefore, the total time spent by athletes in practicing the sport would be very similar as under the current setup. It would also address the issue of the have-nots in football who would get the advantage of Spring practice as a potential means of catching up to the elite playoff teams.

Overall it is manageable, very manageable.

Stay tuned to for Part II of Doc's Modest Proposal. Part II discusses what would happen to the current bowl system, playoff site criteria and much more!

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