Why a D-1 Playoff Will Work—One Possible Scenario

PaulCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 03:  Running back Keiland Williams #5 of the LSU Tigers carries the ball for an 11-yard gain first down in the fourth quarter of the 2007 Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on January 3, 2007 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I propose that all D-1 NCAA teams have an opportunity to play for a true national championship.

Before this can happen some fundamental changes must be made in the structure of D-1.

1.  The NCAA will implement a playoff.

2.  Any school wishing its team be considered for the playoff must belong to a conference. No team will be given special consideration. Hear me, Notre Dame?

3.  All conferences must either have at least 10 members and have a championship game or not less than 8 members with a round-robin conference schedule. Either configuration puts all conferences on an even footing.

4.  All conference champions will receive an automatic bid. At large bids will be given based on an RPI similar to what is used for basketball. Strength of schedule MATTERS. Are you listening SEC?

The two major arguments against a playoff are:

1.  It would make the regular season meaningless and attendance would drop significantly.

This argument is completely bogus. For one thing, I know of no evidence that playoffs in the lower divisions affect attendance at regular season games. Fans would lose interest in their team when they realized they had no chance of making the playoff.

Using this reasoning at least 100 or the 117(+ or -) teams would see a fall off in interest/attendance by mid October.

Fan interest is directly related to how the team performs on the field. I'm not referring to the die hards but to the vast majority of sport fans. If the team is winning tickets are at a premium, donations are up, fans travel to watch the team at away games, and sales of licensed gear goes through the roof.  

The truth is, a playoff would increase the importance of the regular season. Because teams play only 12 regular season games, each football game is significant.

Unlike basketball and baseball, in which a team can lose several games and still make the playoffs, one or two losses can knock a team out.

2.  It would wreck a very profitable bowl system.

Another specious argument. A 16-team playoff would fit the current bowl system just fine.

Many have remarked and most agree that there are too many bowl games under the current system. I suspect that only fans of the teams, some football fanatics, and the media covering the game actually watch most minor bowl games. These minor bowls can continue and draw the same audience, playoff or no playoff.

The 16-team playoff would add to the importance of the regular season because at seasons end there are still 16 teams with a chance at the national championship instead of just two.

The four current BCS bowls could host the finals, semifinals, and one of the quarter final games on a rotating basis. Whichever bowl hosts the championship game gets the quarter final the next year. The top-paying secondary bowls such as the Cotton, Chick-Fil-A, and Cap One would host the remaining quarter final and first round games on a rotating basis.  

The TV audience, and thus sponsorship money, for these games would far exceed what the bowls draw now. People, who would normally watch only the bowl game their team is in and maybe the BCSCG would watch all, or most of the playoff games because the outcome of other games would have an effect on their their team.

There are at least two possible drawbacks with a playoff:

1.  The logistical problems fans would have trying to arrange travel, lodging, etc. week-to-week as their team advances. Once again, one only needs look at the model followed in the lower divisions playoffs to see how these problems are dealt with.

2. Because of the requirement that all teams belong to a conference and the limit on the number of members a conference can handle and function normally, some realignment will be necessary. For example: Where would Notre Dame and Navy go?  Probably most realignment could be accomplished with a minimum disruption in membership in current conferences.