Alabama head coach Nick Saban says he supports the planned expansion of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams given the decreased player participation in bowl games.
Saban discussed the topic on HBO's Back on the Record with Bob Costas (via Brett McMurphy of Action Network) in an episode that will air Friday night.
"Bowl games are not something players want to play in. ... Now players opt out of that if it's not part of the playoff," he said. "Therefore, I'm for expanding the playoffs."
A trend has emerged in recent years where players, most of whom are getting ready to make the NFL jump, opt out of bowl games, usually to focus on the draft process.
Saban isn't the first coach to discuss the lack of participation from key contributors. In December, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach called the idea that players couldn't take part in one more college game "ridiculous."
"You've got an obligation to the place that helped build and develop you and finish it out in the bowl," Leach told reporters. "That's part of it. You owe it to your team, you owe it to your fans, you owe it to your coaches, and it's the most bizarre thing in the world to me."
On the flip side, players who may be selected in the early rounds of the NFL draft risk suffering an injury that could greatly affect their status by playing in a game of little consequence.
Kyle Hamilton, a Notre Dame safety taken No. 14 overall in the 2022 draft by the Baltimore Ravens, skipped the Fighting Irish's bowl game last season.
"It's not that I don't want to play," Hamilton said. "If we're in the playoff right now—I've told you guys, I've told all the coaches—if we're in the playoff, I'm going to go. I want to go win a national championship. I'm going to suit up. I'm going to play."
His comments lend to Saban's point about giving more programs a shot at the national title, which should ensure greater player involvement for the final games.
Expanding the playoff only helps to an extent, though. A lot of standard bowl games will remain, and players will opt to sit out if they feel there's too much risk, and rightfully so.