Will the New Playoff Format Make College Football Better?

In June 2012, 12 college presidents met and changed the college football system for the national championship. Now a committee will decide the top four teams in the country and put them in a playoff-style format.  In the past, end-of-year rankings, determined by a combination of votes and computer analysis, pitted the number 1 vs. the number 2 seed — picks which were almost always controversial.

The new playoff kicks off in 2014 and will continue through the 2025 season.  We think it’s a step in the right direction, but with some reservations.  Here’s our take…

1. Hooray for removing the AQ distinction!  In 2014, the Automatic Qualifier distinction will disappear.  Now all schools in all conferences will have a shot at the “big” bowls.  That’s a huge win for football fans around the country.

2.  Is a 4-team playoff enough?  While the new playoff format is certainly better than what we had before, it’s more a mini-playoff than a true playoff.  Selection by committee is never as powerful as proof on the field. No matter what happens, committee selection of just 4 teams will likely be rife with controversy as football fans argue about the committee members’ biases.  We’d prefer an 8-team playoff: there’s less room for argument and the winner gets it fair and square.

3. What will happen with the money? The board members haven’t concluded exactly what will happen financially, but they did decide that the system will follow the general principles of: “(1) reward conferences for success on the field, (2) accommodate teams’ expenses, (3) acknowledge marketplace factors, (4) reward academic performance of student athletes.” The support of scholarship is admirable and awarding winners is a common sense principle. Since the details are being worked out, it remains to be seen how well these intentions will be implemented.

Taken as a whole, the new college playoff format seems to be a more fair approach to the national championship title. What are your thoughts?

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