Why We Won't See the College Football Playoff Expand Anytime Soon

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Why We Won't See the College Football Playoff Expand Anytime Soon
USA Today

HOOVER, Ala. — The College Football Playoff hasn't even begun, and people are already calling for it to expand.

That's not going to happen. Not anytime soon, anyway.

LSU head coach Les Miles took the opportunity to state his preference for the amount of teams allowed in the playoff during his trek through the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey as part of SEC Media Days on Wednesday.

"I think the playoff at some point will expand," he said. The playoff will be equally kind to the SEC [as the old BCS was]."

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, whose boss Jeff Long is the chairman of the selection committee, is happy where the playoff is but thinks it's more of a rough draft than the final destination.

"It's a good starting point," he said. "Rome wasn't built in a day and it takes a while to get to where you want to be."

Butch Dill/Associated Press
LSU head coach Les Miles

Several other coaches have gone on record hoping for an expanded playoff format, including current Washington head coach Chris Petersen—who lobbied for an eight-team playoff last year when he was the head coach at Boise State—and Washington State head coach Mike Leach, who wants it to be somewhere between 16 and 64 teams.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp is on the other side of the fence.

"I like the four-team playoff," he said. "As long as they keep the bowl system, I'm all for it. I don't want to get past four and get to eight or 16. I don't think that's great for college football."

College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock took a spin around the Wynfrey on Wednesday, and he did his best to put to rest any push to expand the playoff beyond four teams.

"Our goal with the BCS going into this was to maintain the best regular season in sports," Hancock said. "We've done that with the playoff. Four teams is not too many, and it's not too far. It goes just far enough."

USA TODAY Sports
College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock

The playoff contract is for 12 years, and there's no chance it will expand during that time.

Why?

The goal of the selection committee is to select the best four teams in the country, regardless of conference affiliation. If the conferences are going to sign off on an expanded playoff, they'd almost certainly demand automatic bids for their champions.

You shouldn't want that.

Hancock doesn't want that.

College football doesn't want that, because it goes against the stated goal.

"The committee will select the best four teams, period, no strings attached," Hancock said.

If there's controversy, that's a good thing. That's the point, as Russ Mitchell of CFN and CampusInsiders.com notes.

Debate and controversy are two of the aspects of college football that make it great, and that won't and shouldn't change in the new postseason format. 

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With 128 FBS teams and a 12-week regular season, subjectivity will never be achieved. It's a myth. It's fiction. Trying to tie something subjective like a conference title into something that is inherently objective defeats the purpose.

It is fitting a square peg in a round hole.

The moment granting access through automatic bids for conference champions takes precedent over rewarding excellence is the moment the sport has lost its way. Expanding the playoff would tip the scales and favor access over excellence.

Fans may want things to be neat and tidy, but this sport is messy by design.

That's what makes it great.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com.


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