College Football's Death To the BCS: Why a Playoff Would Be Good for the Game

Lee W.Correspondent IApril 6, 2011

Playoff! Playoff!

If this is the chant you cry, you need to read Yahoo National Columnist Dan Wetzel’s new book named Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case against the Bowl Championship Series.

The book outlines a simple 16-team playoff, and introduces “The Cartel” which is the group that supports the BCS, the six BCS conference commissioners, the executive directors of bowl games and a few-high powered school presidents and Athletic Directors, who practically run the sport’s postseason.

According to the Introduction of Wetzel’s book “Formally, the Cartel doesn’t exist. Neither, for that matter, does the BCS. It’s not a legal construct, just a series of contracts among various entities, which makes it hard for opponents to trace it, sue it, or pin it down.”

Wetzel’s alternative for the current system is to put in place a 16-team playoff, with 11 automatic bids (the conference champions) and wild card bids to the five most deserving teams in America. (Notre Dame can earn a playoff bid only as a wild card.) 

Many experts estimate the tournament would produce up to $700 million in cash.

According to the book, the tournament race would make the regular season extremely exciting, with multiple teams fighting for the right for at-large bids. Conference championship games would all become more important. It’s hard to argue with the book.

The playoff would stage the first three rounds at the higher seed’s home field before the championship game, perhaps annually played at the Rose Bowl.

"The College Bowl," I would call it.

The tournament would have taken place from the Saturday before Christmas to Jan 10—the date of last year’s BCS title game.

This allows for the playoff to feed off of the excitement of legendary campus stadiums, such as Ohio State’s Horseshoe, LSU’s Death Valley and Oregon’s Zoo.

Hosting playoff games would be a "boon" to schools, as Wetzel puts it. Universities keep the millions of dollars in revenue on campus, and locals could drop their spending money at home. On a national scale, the “economic impact” theory bowls use is displaced spending.

“On a national scale, money spent at the Glendale Applebee’s is no different than money spent at the Norman Applebee’s,” Wetzel says in his 2010 playoff column.

Despite the many pluses to a college football playoff, the BCS ignores doubters and makes excuses and arguments.

The 10 percent of America that supports the BCS, according to an SI poll, may have these three problems with a playoff: academic concerns, scheduling problems and the survival of bowl games.

These three problems may be merely false.

Can’t college football players deal with the academics later? Many more student-athletes miss class time in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Tiny Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, whose  highest average SAT score of 1,350 is fifty larger than it's enrollment, participated in both the FCS Division 1 Football Tournament and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Did anyone complain about missed class time?

The schedule? This is Wetzel says...

“While the season would be lengthened for some teams, many high school state champions play 16-game seasons. The NFL plays longer years with just 53-man rosters,” Wetzel says in his article about his PLAYOFF model in December 2010.

In my opinion, the college football regular season could take place over 13 weeks, with each team getting a bye week during the time period. The first round of the tournament could be played two weeks after conference championship games, to keep things fair.

Teams need time to recover. For instance, it is not fair for a Virginia Tech team that just played it's conference championship to be facing an Ohio State team that likely had three weeks of rest.

After another break at Christmas, New Year's Day would be filled with on- campus college football bonanza. All in all, the champion would be crowned on January 17.

Could the bowls co-exist with the playoffs?

One word: Yes.

Schedule wise, Bowls would be played during the week, with the tournament taking place over the weekend.

For example, the Sugar Bowl could take place on Friday, December, 31, and the Ohio State Buckeyes can visit TCU in Fort Worth, Texas on New Year's Day.

Wetzel's solution: Ignore the bowls. He does not think they should fall over dead, however. The bowls are great experiences for players and fans, but only serve as a fun exhibition games. “A playoff that includes bowls is a poor idea,” Wetzel writes.

This is not as same as eliminating them, he says. Bowls make money, and one reason is because the small bowls are subsidized.

According to

Sub·si·dize- to secure the cooperation of by bribery; buy over.

This means the Rose Bowl funds the Insight Bowl with its millions of dollars. As Ohio State may sell all of its tickets to the Rose Bowl, and the ticket money may be paying for Minnesota’s 10,000 unsold tickets to the Insight Bowl.

A smart college football fan would notice that the playoff’s 700 million dollars could fund the bowl games, and they could wind up wealthier than before. Also, most of the BCS bowls would have better attendance.


BCS Bowl

2010 Hypothetical Matchup

Projected Attendance

Rose Bowl (91,878)

#10 Boise State (11-1) vs. #18 Nebraska (10-2)


Sugar Bowl (69,247)

#16 Alabama (9-3) vs. #18 Texas A&M (9-3)


Orange Bowl (76,109)

#20 South Carolina (9-4)  vs. #23 Florida State (9-4)


Fiesta Bowl (73,000)

#12 Missouri (10-2) vs. #23 West Virginia (9-3)



Most likely, the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls would sell out. All bowls except the Fiesta would sell out, and the Fiesta would have had better attendance compared to the UConn vs. Oklahoma debacle.

Boise State and Nebraska fans would be treated to a New Year’s Day afternoon thriller in front of 100,000 fans. Pasadena would not get two conference champions, but two highly ranked second place finishers. Does it matter? The Rose Bowl and Tournament of Roses would rake in close to the same amount of money.

The Sugar Bowl, featuring Alabama and Texas A&M would sell out within seconds, and would provide a great game. The fantasy land matchup could compare to the real Sugar Bowl, which was between Ohio State and Arkansas.

New Orleans would be alive just as if it was when the Sugar Bowl had higher ranked teams. Does it matter?

Also, the Orange Bowl would be excited to host the Florida State Seminoles and the South Carolina Gamecocks, both division champions with big name players.

Florida State fans would pack slightly over 50 percent of the stadium, and the Gamecock fans are also loyal. A sellout or near capacity crowd would be a guarantee.


Minor Bowl/ Stadium Capacity

2010 Hypothetical Matchup

Estimated Attendance

Cotton Bowl (88,175)

#14 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. #21 Mississippi State (8-4)


Capital One Bowl (65,438)

Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)


Outback Bowl (65,500)  

Peach Bowl (71,228)

Michigan (7-5) vs. UT Vols (6-6)

NC State (8-4) vs. Georgia (6-6)




Gator Bowl (67,164)

Kentucky (6-6) vs. Iowa (7-5)


Champs Sports Bowl (65,438)

Maryland (8-4) vs. Syracuse (7-5)


Sun Bowl (51,500)

Notre Dame (7-5) vs. Miami (FL) (7-5)


Alamo Bowl (65,000)

Texas Tech (7-5) vs. Arizona (7-5)


Holiday Bowl (66,000)

Washington (6-6) vs. Kansas State (7-5)


Insight Bowl (73,000)

Baylor (7-5) vs. Northwestern (7-5)


Texas Bowl (70,000)

Illinois (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5)*


Car Bowl (73,778)

USF (7-5) vs. Clemson (6-6)


Pinstripe Bowl (50,285)

Pitt (7-5) vs. NIU (10-3)*


Liberty Bowl (62,508)

Louisville (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (8-4)


Music City Bowl  (68,000)

North Carolina (7-5) vs. East Carolina (6-6)*


Independence Bowl (49,147)

Georgia Tech (6-6) vs. Air Force (8-4)


Military Bowl (45,862)

Boston College (7-5) vs. Temple (8-4)*


Las Vegas Bowl (40,000)

#19 Utah (10-2) vs. Tulsa (8-4)*


San Francisco Bowl  (40,184)

Fresno State (8-4) vs. Toledo (8-4)


Hawaii Bowl  (50,000)

Hawaii (9-3) vs. BYU (6-6)


Poinsettia Bowl (66,000)

San Diego State (8-4) vs. Navy (9-4)


Armed Forces Bowl (32,000)

UTEP( 6-6) vs. Army (6-6)


New Orleans Bowl (69,247)

Ohio (8-4) vs. Troy (8-4)


Little Caesars Bowl (65,000)

WMU (6-6) vs. MTSU (6-6)


*=at large bid

In conclusion, a 16-team playoff would richen the sport of college football with a $700 million dollar income, and the bowls would easily survive and bathe in wealth due to the subsidy system. 

It would increase the value and importance of the regular season and reward the best teams in college football.

Before this tournament can take place, college football must begin with a plus-one system, and many other systems could be workable.

I recommend that you read the book Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series by Dan Wetzel so you can decide your point of view on this issue.


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