Part II- A Modest Proposal - FBall Playoff System

In Part II of his multi-part article, Doc Ryan discusses what would happen with the current bowl games and where the playoffs would be held...

Part I – A Modest Proposal Posted – 12/12/01 at

Part II

What Will Happen to The Current Bowl System?


For the play-off system to build the maximum enthusiasm and ticket sales, and therefore, generate the maximum revenue, everything must be re-thought and re-engineered to achieve peak efficiency in fan support, media excitement and revenue generation. That means scrapping the entire bowl system and starting over, without sentiment, without traditions, without pre-conceptions that the system must fit within old models of what postseason football games should look like.


The current bowl system produces a tiny fraction of the income that a playoff would produce. For the majority of bowls, they barely raise enough revenue to pay the travel expenses of the teams involved. The reduction of postseason opportunities from the current 50 teams (soon to be 54 teams) to 32 teams will cause some resistance from those marginal team coaches and ADs. However, the large amount of money that will be generated by the playoffs will be very persuasive to all the other coaches and ADs with whom much of it will be shared.


Those former bowls that are flexible and adaptable will have organizational committees, which will adapt to the new model and flourish within the system by organizing to secure and run playoff venues on a guaranteed annual basis. Those that are not agile and aggressive in embracing the playoff system will disappear like the dinosaurs they are. The goal of this project is not to preserve the Bowls within the new system, but to create a system that first and foremost benefits the members of the NCAA, and subsequently will benefit all those venues, which are adept at meeting those needs and profiting from it in the process. There is no reason for loyalty to outmoded bowls that play to quarter filled stadiums, with no television audience and which generate payouts that fail to cover travel expenses. Given their performance, it is purely an illusion that many such bowls benefit their communities because they do not generate enough financial impact or media attention to do so.


The Play-Off Site Criteria


The primary criteria for selection of a Playoff site are:


1.      65-80,000 minimum seating to maximize income

2.      Club seating and luxury boxes to maximize income

3.      Historic data as a strong college market venue

4.      Good weather or domed stadium venues to draw well in December


There are 15 pro football facilities suitable for playoff selection because of mild January weather locations, domed stadiums and their proximity to regions of strong college football interest. Venues like the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan or the Metrodome in Minneapolis would be annual sell outs for first round games with Big 10 representatives.


Among open air professional stadiums, locations like Charlotte's Ericson Stadium would sell out for UNC, NC State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Virginia, West Virginia and a host of other schools in the region. The Dallas Cowboy Stadium could handle any of the Texas schools and the Rams stadium in St. Louis could service most of the northern Big 12 schools.


The main problem that the traditional bowl venues will have is in competing with professional football facilities in the availability of the club seating and luxury boxes, which have become critical to their revenue generation. This allows revenue optimization for those luxury seats that is not possible in stadiums without them. It also means an opportunity to merchandise bowl seating through corporate channels, since they can use the luxury boxes to secure corporate sponsorship and promotion, which could generate millions. The road to maximizing income leads through the Board Room. Like it or not, this is the future of college football.


The farther the playoffs advance, the more important these amenities will be in the facilities selected for those more glamorous games. As the playoffs advance, the number of games drop, the number of seats available drop and the demand for scarce resources will drive the prices up for the most exclusive, most luxurious seating.


Multiple Playoff Games in Key Cities


Most cities are not capable of staging more than one game per year. But the strongest locations, those cities with proven markets for college football, like New Orleans, Orlando and Atlanta, are likely capable of hosting both a first round and late round game. The football final four games and the championship game are an easy sell in this system, regardless of who is playing in them. Like the Super Bowl, a block of tickets will be held for the participant teams' fans. All other tickets are certain to sell out a year in advance, just as the basketball championships do. The NCAA uses a lottery to decide who gets tickets to them. Most tickets will be bought on the secondary market from the original ticket lottery winners .


But whipping up enthusiasm for the first round games in a playoff system is a very different situation. It will be more of a challenge to fill an 85,000 seat stadium for a first round game featuring the number two and number 31 seeded team. The key is to stage the first round games at a site where local support of regional college teams has traditionally been strong and in a location where both participating schools' fans can reach the stadium easily.  And, it would be important to have the matchups selected to be attractive to the fans, rather than chosen by the chance of the seedings.


Playoff games can also be staged in college stadiums as well as professional stadiums, but just as under the rules in the NCAA basketball tournament, the host team could not play in its own stadium. Sanford Stadium at Georgia, with a capacity of 86,000 for example, would be an ideal site for a matchup between Clemson and Alabama because of its large capacity and location at a reasonable travel distance between the two schools. There are 26 college stadiums with a capacity of 72,000 or more, which will maximize income. About two-thirds of those are in warm weather sites.


There are also many of the current bowl facilities that would be ideal locations, especially the Florida facilities. The Orlando stadium would always be given a first round game, because of its draw as a tourist destination over the Christmas holiday week. Its 70,000 capacity could probably be increased significantly by signing a long term contract to guarantee several playoff games each year among the five rounds. Stadiums in Miami, San Diego, Detroit and Jacksonville would also likely end up with first round games for the same reason. The thing that is most likely to guarantee sell outs for first round games is that fans have a month to plan and make arrangements for travel and the games occur during the Christmas week when so many people can get off from work easily.


Between the group of 15 suitable pro stadiums, 5-8 current bowl facilities and a number of college stadiums, there would be an ample stock from which to draw the 31 stadiums for the entire playoff cycle scheduled over the full five weeks.



Stay tuned to for Part III of Doc's proposal. In Part III, Doc discusses revenue from the playoff system...

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