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


Sipping champagne? Do I look like a $592,000-per-year-for-wearing-an-ugly-blazer college football power broker? Did The Atlantic suddenly become a Phoenix strip club? College football is a non-champagne sport beloved by decidedly non-champagne fans—beer, yes; bourbon, yes; Dom Perignon, no, a thousand times no—and those same fans are likely overjoyed, because they're finally a concrete step toward what they've always wanted: a honest-to-goodness, fill-out-your-brackets postseason tournament.

This is a good thing.

Look, I agree that instituting a four-team playoff does nothing to solve the issues you listed. Powerhouse schools and conferences will continue to rule as college football's answer to Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, the sport's too-big-to-fail one percent. Academics will remain a non-priority. Corruption will bloom, the inevitable outgrowth of an equally inevitable underground economy created by amateurism. And speaking of the latter, the whole system will remain indefensibly unfair and un-American, cartel-powered restraint of trade masquerading as a tax-exempt educational endeavor, clad in the bishop's robes of pious (and often sub-textually racist) paternalism.

Only here's the thing: Fans don't care about those problems. Do. Not. Care. If they did care, Taylor Branch would be the new Southeastern Conference commissioner and National Signing Day wouldn't be Christmas 1A for everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Sportswriter Dan Wetzel recently argued that "you have to employ a situational sliding moral scale" to embrace and enjoy college football. I disagree. There is no scale. Fact is, college football fans are basically the same as sports fans everywhere, not to mention people who love reality television or line up outside Apple stores for the latest iPhone. How the sausage gets made is irrelevant. The sweet, sweet eating is all that matters.

From a fan's standpoint, the playoff system figures to be a feast.

Flayoffs are more exciting than the traditional bowl system. See Madness, March. More teams, more games, more drama. Oh, and more gambling. Granted, the four-team format seems rather parsimonious (though it does encourage more BCS-style arguing over which teams should make the postseason, which traditionally has given fans one more way to be entertained). Still, not to worry: Money, ratings, money, enthusiasm, and money will lead the NCAA to expand to eight, 12 or even 16 teams, and sooner rather than later. (No chance the new "10-year" contract is written in anything but the faintest disappearing ink, not when far-less-popular men's basketball brings in billions). From a competitive standpoint, playoffs are more equitable—yes, the big-boy programs figure to dominate, but a bracketed postseason at least gives teams like Boise State a chance to crash the party (and who's to say they won't get hot and win, like the 9-7 New York Giants just did in the NFL?).

Jake, between the ongoing Ed O'Bannon lawsuit that threatens to blow up the entire NCAA plantation economy and the looming white elephant of pigskin-induced brain trauma—schools are first and foremost supposed to be acting in loco parentis and protecting both their juvenile and adult students from harm, right?—college football may indeed be the Titanic. But the new playoff format is one hell of a deck band.

Hampton, I know you love college football's action and unmatched atmosphere, even though you're a Kansas Jayhawk backer. Come 2015, you'll be too busy dancing to care about the iceberg dead ahead, right?


Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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