College Football Gets a Playoff System: Why Are Some Fans Still Complaining?

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The much-hated BCS era is coming to an end. But some want even more changes to the sport.

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) talk about college gridiron's new championship structure.


Hey, guys,

Ding dong, the witch is dead! College football's Bowl Championship Series, the most maligned playoff system in American sports, will be replaced by a four-team playoff beginning in 2014. Instead of an arbitrary system of human and computer polls deciding which two teams play in the title game, a March Madness-style selection committee will determine the top four teams in the country, who will play semifinal games around New Year's Eve, with the winner squaring off in the championship game in early January.

Drinks all around, right? Everyone's happy with college football's new sacred document and a playoff system that allows two more teams a shot at the national title?

Spare me. As critics of George W. Bush used to say of his personnel changes, this is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

This decision does absolutely nothing to deal with the host of intrinsic problems plaguing college sports, particularly college football. A four-team playoff does nothing to combat, among other things: staggeringly low graduation rates, the apparent perpetual dominance of 12 to 14 schools in a 346-school system (that would be the SEC), rampant recruiting violations, synthetic marijuana, and of course the inherent myth of the "student-athlete".

Of course, the new system is only meant to fix college football's postseason problem—but it doesn't even do that! Does anyone believe that a 12-0 Boise State team will be picked by the selection committee over, say, an 11-1 SEC team that had one in-conference loss? Expanding from two to four teams in the relevant college football postseason won't lead to new blood holding the national championship trophy. Expect a steady diet of Alabamas, LSUs, USCs, and Oklahomas to take up three or four spots in the playoffs every season. By 2025, when the new program initial contract expires, people will be just as rabid to install a new system (eight teams! 16 teams! Legends of the Hidden Temple replacing football in the finals!). College football is rotten from the inside out, and the new playoff does nothing to change that.

Please tell me you're not sipping champagne over this, Patrick.

–Patrick

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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