School Soccer Playoff 12-Crew Growth: SEC, Group of 5 Winners; Rose Bowl outperforms losers
From now on, nobody can blame the College Football Playoff for being on the slow lane. A CFP working group on Thursday recommended expanding the teams of four to 12 teams and advocated triple the playoff field less than two months after saying it was only considering such a move.
Seven years after a 12-year contract that was supposed to relieve the system, the bracket is already growing.
What do we do now?
The CFP Management Committee will discuss the matter at its regular meeting on June 17-18. They are expected to provide a formal recommendation to the CFP Board of Directors. Based on what happened on Thursday, that should be a stamp (more on the process here).
We were told that an extended group would not arrive until the 2023 season at the earliest. In fact, it would be hugely complicated to reconfigure the current CFP contract with ESPN before it expires after the 2025 season.
But here we are. The championship representation ranges from 3% (four out of 130) to 9%. Maybe not ideal when almost a fifth of the FCS’s 125 teams make it to the playoffs (24), but it’s a start – and it’s better.
Let’s take a look at who will be hardest hit by this planned expansion of the CFP.
Group of five: AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco, who has worked so long and hard to get his conference started, was out for dinner with his wife Thursday night. He was jokingly asked if he was drinking his second bottle of champagne. “I can drink it straight from the bottle,” said Aresco.
It’s time to celebrate for the Group of Five conferences. The AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt got what they had always wanted: a seat at the table. Perhaps more than one, as the recommendation calls for the six highest-ranking conference champions (not listed to include the Power Five) plus six large teams in the field. In other words, the group of five is guaranteed at least one chance to play the national championship for the first time.
In fact, the group of five could get several berths. That would have happened last year when No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 12 Coastal Carolina fielded as Conference Champions ahead of No. 25 Oregon.
The commissioners needed to know what they were doing. This possibility makes the model a slam dunk if the presidents consider it. The access “problem” that has existed in the BCS and CFP for nearly a quarter of a century has been addressed. Major college football has never done Cinderellas any good. I can’t wait to see who will fit the glass slipper first.
SEK: More chances for the Strength Everywhere Conference to increase the stranglehold on sport. In an eight-team field, the SEC would likely have seen at least two teams each year. In a 12-team bracket, the possibilities are almost limitless. If you add up the berths for the past two seasons, the SEC would have seven of the 24 berths – 3.5 per year.
Cash registers: They will be full – or full at FBS schools. Industry sources have estimated that an expanded area is worth two or three times more than the current $ 600 million a year. The question is whether ESPN is ready to tear up the current deal at five years of age to go ahead and renegotiate for a 12-team field.
On the plus side, ESPN currently has exclusive bargaining rights. In five years time, it could roll the dice with other network streaming services that are driving up the price. As mentioned earlier, CFP CEO Bill Hancock said an expanded group won’t be launched until at least 2023.
Campus in December: They can be some of the most desolate places in the academic world. Everyone takes either the final or the vacation home. Now try imagining the first round playoff games in the snow at Camp Randall Stadium or running to the gills on the High Street in Columbus, Ohio in the second week of December.
There will be money for sports directors and companies. Ticket receipts they never budgeted for. Hotels that suddenly fill up. We hope Arizona State hits the charts. We’d love to have a first round match in Tempe over the Christmas season.
Jerry Palm (and clipologists everywhere): That makes your job more fun and complicated. It reinforces a conversation that sometimes falls silent late in the season when it becomes clear that certain teams are going to block places. The field would create more intrigue as we see in the projection of the NCAA tournament. Grin, that’s what the bracket would have looked like in 2019, the last full season to be played.
No. 12 Memphis at No. 5 Georgia (Winner vs. No. 4 Oklahoma)
No. 11 Utah to No. 6 Oregon (Winner vs. No. 3 Clemson)
No. 10 Penn State at No. 7 Baylor (Winner vs. No. 2 Ohio State)
No. 9 Florida to No. 8 Wisconsin (Winner vs. No. 1 LSU)
Conference championship games: You are now as close as possible to the first round playoff games. Automatic seats go to the six best conference champions, four of whom receive a bye in the first round. The field is now big enough to catch the losers of these games in the event that monsters overturned it. Think 8-4 Northwestern upset the 11-1 Ohio State in 2018. It didn’t happen, but if it did, the Wildcats would likely have received one of these six commandments. The Buckeyes would have been relegated to a large place in the bottom six. Large picture: The sanctity of a conference championship is increased.
Pac-12: A bigger bracket, a better chance for the low flying Pac-12 to participate. That’s missing on the Left Coast, which missed five of the first seven playoffs. Some of the first words from the mouth of the new commissioner George Kliavkoff called for an extended playoff. He granted his wish, even if it means adding the Pac-12 to the playoff instead of bringing the improvement of the Pac-12 into the top four.
But it’s not guaranteed. Again, conference champion Oregon would have missed the field instead of Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina if you’d widened the bracket to 12 in 2020.
“The Autonomy Five Conferences deserve the opportunity to participate in the CFP each year,” said outgoing Commissioner Larry Scott. On the way to the door, his wish is granted.
Rose bowl: All’s grandfather had to be kicked and screamed into the BCS era that passed into the CFP. The Rose basically had to give up its traditional Big Ten Pac-12 match during the years when the BCS / CFP was played in Pasadena, California. That was 23 years ago when the BCS was founded.
In a 12-team field that will play the quarter-finals on or about January 1st, the Rose is almost certain to lose more of that tradition. Think of a Rose Bowl quarter-finals with Notre Dame and Coastal Carolina. That could have happened last season if the extended bracket had been in place. (As mentioned earlier, Pac-12 Champion Oregon would not have made the field.)
It also takes the bowl itself out of competition to host a semifinal, unless the Rose pulls back on her longstanding refusal to move her date. The semifinals will be played later in January. The Rose already lost its ability to hold a national championship when the CFP began in 2014.
Sources are already suggesting that the rose will be forced to give up its exclusivity due to the increased bracket size. I’m sorry, Rose, but it’s unlikely that the January 1st at 2:00 p.m. PT time slot is not guaranteed either. (Along the sunset over the San Gabriel Mountains.) And if it is part of a rotation of bowls, it is very likely that the rose will be a third choice from the Pac-12 and / in the years when there is no CFP game. or get the Big Ten. Grandfather has never looked so fragile.
Our lady: As basically, Notre Dame also has better chances in the playoffs. So it’s definitely not all bad for the Fighting Irish. However, since they act independently, they can never finish in the top four (guaranteed for conference masters) and avoid the play-in game. That said, Notre Dame qualifies every year and must win four games in a row (16 total) to become national champions. And you thought the Fighting Irish had problems in the CFP lately (61:17 in their last two appearances)?
Will that caveat be enough to push Notre Dame into the ACC? His media rights contract is structured so that if he chooses to attend a conference at any time before 2036, it has to be the ACC.
While Notre Dame has more access in a field of 12 teams, the road to a national championship became even more difficult. Even though Sporting Director Jack Swarbrick admits the Irish are playing that extra play is fairer since it isn’t forced to play a conference championship game and win it, it penalizes his program if it otherwise earns enough to be on the leaderboard the first four to be listed.
“I’m looking forward to never hearing again that we’ve played one game less or never played a conference championship,” said Swarbrick, whose program only plays 12 regular season games before the postseason.
The bowl experience: The bowl system was already on shaky ground after COVID-19 forced several bowls to be canceled last season. Now the CFP will accept eight teams that would have played in bowls outside of the playoffs. Will this force some bowls to close permanently? The pecking order will drop a notch for multiple high level bowls. Bowls that team # 2 got from a conference will suddenly get # 3 or # 4. There was already speculation that 42 bowls was too many. And if you used to think opt-outs were a problem, they will be a bigger problem.
The bowl experience will also suffer. Sources suggest that in a new 12-team playoff, the teams will arrive in town a few days before the game. No trips to Disneyland, no playing on the beach, no steak feeds. Strictly speaking, a business trip. Think of staying overnight in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In and out. Your season is over. Sad.
Player safety: With teams that may play 16 or even 17 games, something needs to be worked out. That’s basically an NFL game plan for one-third of the field played by college athletes. The look is already bad, with Congress sitting behind the big college sports.
Yes, yes, the FCS has a 24-team playoff, but the quality of the athletes, the pressures on future NFL careers, and health concerns are only compounded in the FBS.
At first glance, the liability is enormous. More games, more risk of injury. More risk of injury, more risk of injury. By expanding the field, the CFP managers seem to be playing with fire.
When asked about security on Thursday, Swarbrick – the chair of the working group – said that it is unlikely that any of the conference champions, seeded 5-12 in the first round, would win (and play a total of 17 games would). That speaks more for access than for excellence.
What is likely: The CFP will either start up or put into some sort of medical aid fund that supports college athletes.