College football rankings have always been a bit of a crap-shoot. The process, no matter if it was the BCS rankings or the recently-devised CFP system, have always been polarizing to say the least. Within the last 10 years, college football has become a cottage industry unto itself. The amount of cash flow that pours-in from TV contracts and donations from well-heeled boosters has never been more lucrative.
If you look at the recent matchups that have concluded the college season, you wouldn’t be surprised that it reads like a list of blue-blood programs that tend to have the most influence. Alabama, Ohio State; even a team like Notre Dame that has the historical pedigree and influence of cash from boosters, have reaped serious benefits.
These teams are sometimes very deserving of their place in the playoff; and some teams like Notre Dame end up there on name-cache alone, only to be exposed when presented with superior-opposition. TCU is currently ranked-third in the CFP rankings. Anyone with a brain that sees-through obvious-biases of the officials tasked with ranking these teams knows that not all is right with selecting only four-teams to battle it out for the title.
The time has arrived for an expanded playoff, sooner than later
The move to the CFP from the BCS-system seemed like a no-brainer at the time of its introduction. There were too many instances of BCS-fraud that the majority of the public viewed as dubious. The move to the CFP system was falsely celebrated at the time as a way to put the 2-team BCS system to rest. However, like most things that are done in the college football landscape, it only exacerbated the false-hood that the new system was fair.
There have been teams that snuck into the playoff-four. The aforementioned Notre Dame and even the Cincinnati BearCats, plus the laughable UCF debacle from a few years ago all point to those who control the system being correct in constantly recycling the same 5 or 6 programs year after year to compete in the CFP. This is where the main problem lies, however.
Will expanding the CFP solve the current issues or hurt the sport?
Unfortunately, there is no easy-answer to this question. The four major sports in the U.S. don’t start with a Final Four to determine a champion. Hell, even NASCAR and the PGA Tour have a points system that weeds-down potential title finalists from 16 or more. The NCAA basketball tournament, which is rich in the mystique of a “Cinderella” making-noise; recognizes that more teams involved in the playoff, add to the chance of upsets, publicity and interest from non-followers. They even expanded their field with play-in games etc.
The MLB, which has been slow to do anything to improve their sport to keep-up with modern times, has added more teams to the playoffs. If they are doing that, it’s high-time that the NCAA revisits their position.
Some people rail against this practice, citing that it diminishes the importance of the regular-season if “everyone makes it” to the playoffs. The counter to this, especially in the four major sports that promote a desire for “parity”; it makes more teams viable. If your goal is to set the bar as even as possible, why not include more teams to make it more interesting at the end with more teams able to win?
With the advent of NIL money, which in my opinion is long-overdue; it could further allow blue-blood programs to expand their dominance. It’s tough to argue that players don’t deserve compensation for making their schools astronomical amounts of money. The issue arises that some schools will be able to entice players to commit to their programs, because their NIL money is much more lucrative.
That leads us right back to where we started with the CFP question: How much is the NCAA to blame for their own problems? If you look at the way things are ranked and the money that flows into the NCAA and the CFP system, it’s hard to argue that the system isn’t basically “bought and paid-for”. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen some crazy upsets in college football.
These upsets should be celebrated and promoted with more chances for them to happen. Instead, we are left with the current system that celebrates programs that make more TV money for the NCAA and its media partners, and continues to dilute the potential to make college football more interesting at the same time.