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Debate: College football playoffs

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Should there be a college football playoffs?

Background and context

College football is the only major sport, collegiate and professional, that does not have a standard playoff at the end of the season to determine a champion. The creation of the Bowl Championship Series in 1999 was intended to cure some of these problems, by offering up a tiered system of bowl-games that matched equivalently seeded teams against each other, and which matched up - supposedly - the
two best teams in the country against one another in the national championship.
Yet, this system has been met with significant criticism over the years, particularly from the supporters of teams that have gone undefeated, and yet who have not received an invitation to play in the BCS championship. An undefeated Auburn was denied such a chance in 2004, Boise State’s undefeated 2006 season - which included a win over heavily-favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl - was not worthy rewarded with a shot at the National Championship, and Utah's undefeated team in 2009 was also denied a chance. Supporters of these teams and others have argued that a playoff - which would likely take the form of 16 or 8 teams - would give a fairer chance to such teams to demonstrate that they are the rightful national champions. The idea has gained so much support over the years that a bill was drafted in the Senate in 2009 called the College Football Playoffs Act of 2009. President-elect Barack Obama gave support to the idea of an 8-team playoff shortly after his election, saying, "I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit," Obama said at the time. "I think it’s the right thing to do." With such support, the idea of a college football playoffs continues to gain momentum with debate becoming increasingly intense. The major arguments and quotations on both side are documented below.

Contents

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National title: Does a playoff help determine a champion?

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Pro

  • Playoffs, not computers, should determine college football champs Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute: "College football fans are not in love with the current system in which two teams that play for the national championship are picked by computers, sportswriters and coaches. Settle the question on the field, voters say more than two-to-one."[1]


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Con

  • A national champion through a playoff is not important Chuck Klosterman. "No college football playoff, please." ESPN. January 2, 2007: "I like college football as an entity more than I like knowing who is (supposedly) 'the best' amateur football team in the United States. People used to bemoan the thought of a mythical national champion, but it all seems mythical to me. It still does, and it always will. I don't need to pretend that I know the unknowable. If you want a playoff system, it might just mean you want to feel as though football has a clear sense of order. You probably enjoy feeling as though you know who is No. 1, because that's what really matters to you. But maybe you like college football as an experience a little less than you think."


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Fairness: Is a college football playoffs fair?

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Pro

  • BCS is unfair to smaller teams and conferences Michael Shull. "BCS No More: College Football Needs Playoffs to eliminate the BS." College Sports Fans.: "I have chosen the 16-team format for one reason and one reason alone. FAIRNESS, something that has long been neglected by the NCAA for Division I-A Football Bowl Subdivision football. You see, the whole idea of the BCS basically limits any real chance at any kind of a fair chance for 45 of the 120 Division I-A college football programs in 2009. With 65 teams in BCS Conferences and over 90% of the BCS Bowl Game bids (and the $17 million payout for playing in those games, win or lose), the deck is stacked against the non-BCS teams in the WAC, Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA & Sun Belt. Add in the whole Notre Dame special name recognition and money clause and the deal is even more corrupt."
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Con

  • More teams "win" and finish season happy in BCS Sam Herrell, a Texas high school coach, said to the New York Times in December of 2008: "You know, I coach high school football in Texas, and every year there’s only one team that ends up happy in your classification. You go the playoffs, the first round, the second round, the quarterfinals — oh how exciting for everyone. But you look at it, as soon as one of those teams gets beat, they’re just forgotten. Now I know people say how much it works for basketball, but I think football is different. Is it really better for the kids to have a playoff or for at least half of them to go to a bowl game and say, ‘We won the Gator Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, whatever bowl.'"[3]
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4-team playoff: Is this the best way to determine a champ?

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Pro


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Con

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Exposure: Would a playoff offer greater exposure?

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Pro

  • College football playoffs benefit more schools Matthew Sanderson. "The conservative case for college football reform." The Hill. January 6th, 2010: "College football’s considerable institutional benefits discussed above — improved funding, publicity, alumni networks, and admissions applications — are not awarded through merit- or market-based methods. They’re largely distributed on the basis of legacy entitlements and backroom deals. By reforming college football, government would not play Robin Hood and give disadvantaged parties a 'fair share' of the trophy or the revenues. Reform’s only aim is for schools to have a 'fair shake' at earning these benefits through competition. Conservatives should favor this modest effort to eliminate stacked decks and instill competition."


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Con


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Suspense: Would playoffs add to overall suspense/drama?

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Pro

  • Playoffs maintain importance of regular season "Wetzel's playoff plan." Yahoo Sports. December 7, 2009: "college football’s roller-coaster regular season needs to be protected. [...] That’s accomplished by two things. The first is playing on the home field of the higher-seeded team until the title game (more on this later). [...] The second is by giving the chance for an easier first-round opponent – in this case No. 1 seed Alabama would play No. 16 Troy. Earning a top two or three seed most years would present a school a de facto bye into the second round. [...] The season still matters this way. By winning the SEC championship game Saturday, Alabama gets Troy and enjoys home-field advantage in Tuscaloosa until the title game. By losing it, Florida gets Penn State and has to hit the road if it can beat the Nittany Lions."


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Con


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Fans: Would a college football playoffs make fans happy?

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Pro

  • Most college football fans want a playoff "Fans want football playoff." New York Times. December 29, 2009: "Most college football fans want a playoff system like the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament to replace the Bowl Championship Series, according to a recent nationwide Quinnipiac University poll. Fans are evenly divided over the Bowl Championship Series, the current method for determining the college football national champion: 43 percent have a favorable opinion of the B.C.S. and 45 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Nearly two-thirds of fans, 63 percent, said the B.C.S. should be replaced by playoffs similar to that used in college basketball."
  • Fan turnout would be equally strong for college football playoffs Harvey Starin. "There is nothing wrong with college football playoffs." Sun Sentinel. January 7, 2010: "Oeters suggests one of the "major problems" with a playoff system is that fans will only come to the game one day instead of several, as they do now for the Orange Bowl festivities. Huh? Would anyone really expect that rabid college fans would spend more time in South Florida at a meaningless Orange Bowl game than they would if the game actually had real national championship implications? Of course not. [...] A smart Orange Bowl Committee could still have all the pomp and pageantry that Oeters cherishes and offer fans a real reason to travel here in the winter, instead of a made-up, meaningless bowl game that means nothing except to the alumni of the playing teams."
  • Fans equally willing to travel to playoffs as BCS Harvey Starin. "There is nothing wrong with college football playoffs." Sun Sentinel. January 7, 2010: "Her second point, that South Florida will suffer a negative economic impact, is equally specious. As for fans' unwillingness to travel for playoff games, they travel now for meaningless bowl games, to be part of the pageantry and camaraderie they feel as boosters. [...] And after the first round, half the eight teams will be out anyway. So there are only two more games to attend before the legitimate championship. And I guarantee that rabid fans from contending teams will attend the two extra games. They do it now for college basketball, which has 60 extra games and doesn't even come during a time when people are off from work and their kids are home for the Christmas-to-New Year break."
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Con

  • College football fans can't afford playoff tickets/travel Mark Purdy: "College football playoff sounds great but is a bad idea." Mercury News. January 8th, 2010: "I attended the Rose Bowl as a fan. My wife and I had a swell time. We also paid $300 for our two tickets, face value. [...] That's a lot of money. But we enjoyed the day. We tailgated with old friends from Ohio. We watched. Yet as I looked around the stadium at all the fans from Ohio State and Oregon, this thought crossed my mind: "What if this were a college playoff quarterfinal game? How many of these fans, if their team won, would then be willing to pay $150 or $200 or $275 more per seat the next week, plus hundreds more for travel to another neutral location — say, Miami, for the next playoff round against maybe Boise State? [...] My unofficial conclusion: There are a lot of crazy fans in Ohio, Oregon and Idaho. But not enough who are both that crazy and that rich. [...] In other words, for that next hypothetical playoff game — between Ohio State and Boise State — you would be relying largely on the fans of Miami and South Florida to buy tickets. Good luck with that."
  • Football playoffs would not make traveling fans happy Mark Purdy: "College football playoff sounds great but is a bad idea." Mercury News. January 8th, 2010: "I attended the Rose Bowl as a fan. [...] as I looked around the stadium at all the fans from Ohio State and Oregon, this thought crossed my mind: 'What if this were a college playoff quarterfinal game? How many of these fans, if their team won, would then be willing to pay $150 or $200 or $275 more per seat the next week, plus hundreds more for travel to another neutral location — say, Miami, for the next playoff round against maybe Boise State?' [...] In other words, for that next hypothetical playoff game — between Ohio State and Boise State — you would be relying largely on the fans of Miami and South Florida to buy tickets. Good luck with that. [...] That's why I claim that the most ardent Boise State fans are making out OK under the current setup. How frustrating would it be for them to face the difficult choice of either (A) maxing out on credit cards and going deep in debt to attend another game far away or (B) staying home and watching on television as their team tries to win a game in the blah atmosphere of a half-empty stadium?"


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Co-opting bowls: Could bowls be co-opted into playoffs?

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Pro

  • A playoff would still maintain and co-opt bowls Michael Shull. "BCS No More: College Football Needs Playoffs to eliminate the BS." College Sports Fans.: "So what do we do with the bowls? I love bowl games as much as anyone, and I do not want them to go away nor do they need to be eliminated. A 16-game tournament means 15 games will be played, 15 games that can be hosted by the Top 7 bowls, matched up regionally as best as possible, with the four big-money (current) BCS bowl games, the Rose, Orange, Fiesta & Sugar hosting the College Football Final Eight through the National Championship. [...] The 16-team format eliminates the need for 8 traditional bowl games because those 16 teams are now in the playoffs. Thus, the current 34 bowl games will be reduced to 26 bowls. Some overlap will likely be needed with the 3 non-BCS bowls involved in the first round of our playoff format, but this could allow some cities to double-dip and actually get two bowl-caliber games (one bowl, one playoff game)."


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Con


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Economics: Would a playoff be as economical?

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Pro

  • Schools lose too much money to BCS businessmen "Wetzel's playoff plan." Yahoo Sports. December 7, 2009: "BCS bowl games are the single worst business arrangement in American sports. College football’s continued willingness to be fleeced by outside businessmen, who gleefully cut themselves in on millions in profits, makes even conference commissioners blush when confronted with the raw facts. [...] What other business outsources its most profitable and easily sold product – in this case postseason football? [...] The bowls were needed back in the 1950s. These days they are nothing but leeches on the system. [...] It’ll never make sense to allow businesses outside college football to determine how college football does its business."


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Con

  • Lower-tier college football playoffs are poorly attended Mark Purdy. "College football playoff sounds great but is a bad idea." Mercury News. January 8, 2010: "There are playoff tournaments in the lower levels of college football — including the second tier Championship Subdivision. Those games are played on home fields, instead of neutral sites. So maybe that would be the way to go at the top level of college football, too. [...] But have you noticed something about those lower-level playoff games? One, many are played in horrible December weather at the Northern sites. Two, the stands are hardly packed. [...] The new BCS executive director, Bill Hancock, was talking about that Thursday in a session with the media in Southern California. 'If you look at attendance for those games, only Montana had decent attendance,' said Hancock, a longtime NCAA executive. 'Many teams didn't draw as well as they did in the regular season.'"


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Tradition: Is breaking tradition with a playoff justified?

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Pro


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Con

  • Bowls are a tradition that should be continued. The college football bowls have been around for decades. While this system has evolved, with the Bowl Championship Series being created in 1999 to better organize the system, never has college football broken from this system to include a playoff. To add a playoff would be to break with the tradition of these bowls, which many fans have come to love and expect to occur every year. Families have enjoyed these traditions for years, and to break from them would do unfortunate harm to this important human sense of continuity.


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Players: Is playoff in interests of player health/academics?

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Pro

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Con

  • Playoffs are hard on football players' bodies In other sports, the toll of each game on the athlete's body is much smaller than it is in football. For that reason, a college football playoff presents risks to the players' health. This is particularly true when considering that a playoff might be pact into a relatively short period of time. The championship game, therefore, may be between two injury-ridden teams. This kind of a risky, unhealthy playoffs should not be forced on our student-athlete football players.
  • Football playoffs take players away from academics. A playoffs will take players away from their classes for longer than the existing bowl series. For the team that would make it to the championship of the BCS, they would miss a significant number of classes. This just makes it hard for them to complete their Winter semester or quarter.
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Pro/con sources

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See also

External links and resources

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