Other Playoff Plans

For decades various sportswriters, pundits, coaches, players, and now bloggers have proposed an array of different plans for a college football playoff.  Here are some of the more popular alternatives, and why PLAYitOFF.org opposes them, or at least finds them inferior to the PLAYitOFF.org plan.

“The Obama Plan” – Top 8 Teams

Although President Obama is certainly not the first to float this idea, he’s certainly the highest profile person to do so.  This plan proposes a simple 3-week playoff of the top 8 ranked teams at the end of the season.

PLAYitOFF.org’s Position: Taking the top 8 teams merely widens the scope for bias, as it would remain reliant on the polls, and thus does little to introduce a fuller measure of control by the players.  It would also be politically and economically unacceptable to the six major conferences as it would not guarantee them commensurate access to the big money games at the end of the year as they currently enjoy.

16-team field

Among bloggers and web-based proponents this actually seems to be the most popular playoff alternative.  Most such proposals advocate taking the champions of the 11 FBS conferences, plus 5 at-large teams.

PLAYitOFF.org’s Position: This is far too many teams to be included given the competitive landscape of college football today.  Such a broad net would water down an elite system far too much, rendering nearly meaningless the non-conference games for the mid-major schools, and allowing non-conference champions with as many as 3 or 4 losses to compete for a national championship.  The Sun Belt conference, for example, is barely competitive against the major conferences, and its champion has rarely ever cracked the Top 25 at the end of the season.  Is their automatic inclusion really warranted?  This plan would also never be accepted by the BCS presidents, as it would detract too much from the regular season and redistribute revenue far more widely than they will allow.  This plan may be right for college football in 20-30 years, but not today.

“Plus One”

Many journalists, pundits, talking heads, and even some university presidents and conference administrators have expressed support for a “plus-one” model for a quasi-playoff.  The most common iteration of this model has the two competitors for the national championship game being selected after the bowl games for a single championship game a week later.  Another iteration proposes to select the top 4 teams prior to the bowl games, pair them in two bowl games as semi-final games, and then hold the national championship game a week later.

PLAYitOFF.org’s Position: PLAYitOFF.org opposes this model for two reasons.  First, it completely skews the timing for the coaches and competitors.  What sense does it make to have 4-6 weeks to prepare for a semifinal game and then one week to prepare for a championship game?!?  Second, this model remains fraught with too many selection problems.  Who gets to decide the top 2 or top 4?  In 2008, how would this have played out?  Undefeated Utah and one-loss USC & Texas all would’ve had strong arguments to play against Florida.  In 2007, two-loss USC & Georgia both had equally strong arguments to take on two-loss LSU.  No, a “plus-one” would be just as bad, if not worse, than the current system.

BCS + 2 - 6 major conferences champions, plus 2 at-large

PLAYitOFF.org’s Position: This plan is, of course, nearly the same as the PLAYitOFF.org plan, but trimmed down to only 2 at-large teams from 4.  While not outright opposed to this plan, PLAYitOFF.org believes it:

  1. Is too limited given the increasing parity in major college football;
  2. Would ultimately still not provide sufficient opportunity for the “mid-major” conferences;
  3. Would be politically (aka economically) unacceptable to the leading major conferences currently accustomed to sending two teams to the BCS every year (especially the SEC and Big 12) given that it would effectively redistribute their revenues further among the other conferences.

The “Suellentrop Plan” - 6 major conferences champions, plus 2 “mid-major” (or Notre Dame) at-large

This idea was first found by PLAYitOFF.org at http://www.slate.com/id/91886/ and is authored by Chris Suellentrop.  In this plan, the 6 major conference champions and the top two teams not from one of the six major conferences would comprise the 8 playoff teams.

PLAYitOFF.org’s Position:  This plan would almost certainly be politically (i.e. economically) unacceptable to the six major conferences who would stand to lose a hefty chunk of revenue to the five other conferences (and Notre Dame).  Much worse, however, is that this plan would effectively render meaningless regular season non-conference games, except for the games of the mid-major schools.  And does anyone really stand behind a plan that would cripple the meaning of such major rivalries as USC vs. Notre Dame, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Michigan vs. Notre Dame, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida vs. Florida State, Iowa vs. Iowa State, etc.!?!?!