Perhaps there is no time of year that is filled with as much tradition as the winter season. Seeing your family, shoveling snow, doing your holiday shopping and since 1998, criticizing the BCS.
Currently, the NCAA uses the controversial Bowl Championship Series, or BCS, system to decide who gets the chance to play in the championship game. The system uses a combination of computer rankings and human rankings to establish the two best teams. Every year the BCS receives its fair share of criticism for snubbing a team or two from the opportunity at the title. This, according to detractors of the BCS, is an opportunity that a playoff would provide.
Division I college football is the only collegiate sport that does not use a playoff system, and if implemented could hurt the already thriving business of the entire bowl system. According to Sports Business Journal, the 32 bowls currently in place generate more than $400 million in combined revenues. In fact, bowl games dominate TicketNews’ current ranking of top sports events.
That multi-million dollar industry is just part of the money making machine that is big time college football. Unlike any other collegiate sport, football has a regular season in which every game is important. One off night can cost a school the opportunity to be national champions.
According to Forbes, the most valuable college team in 2006 was the University of Notre Dame with an overall value of $101 million, and a profit of $45.8 million. School’s like this fear that the potential revenue of the regular season could be lost if its importance is diminished.
“I think college football has the most exciting regular season of any sport because there is not a playoff system. The whole season is a playoff system” University of Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt said on the Football Bowl Association website. Richt’s Bulldogs were valued at $90 million by Forbes, tops among Southeastern Conference schools.
Sean Pate, a spokesperson for StubHub!, told TicketNews that while excitement among fans for a playoff could be immense, creating a tournament to rival the popularity of college basketball’s could be difficult. Pate points out that a basketball arena seats usually around 15,000-20,000, in comparison football stadiums seating upwards of 80,000.
“Would there be enough local or casual football interest to fill those venues in lieu of a traveling fan base?” Pate said. “This isn’t as much of a problem for teams like Ohio State or Notre Dame who have legions of fans nationwide but imagine if Hawaii was in an eight team playoff this season and advanced? How many people from the islands would realistically be able to get to those games?”
Many different formats have been proposed for a playoff, including one that would have 16 teams. The most popular and most probable is a game coined a ‘plus one’ game in which the two best teams remaining, after the BCS bowls are played, advance to play in a championship game. In 2005, Congress held hearings to discuss the BCS, and while not passing any legislation, recommended the use of the ‘plus one’ model.
The model may only add one additional game, but it does not have everyone convinced.
“We’ve never seen a playoff devised in any sport that did not expand over time,” Scott Ramsey, president of the Music City Bowl and chairman of the Football Bowl Association, told CNN.