by Ryan McCoy
The college playoff system is a real tragedy for fans and schools alike. The idea of a playoff system is not uncommon in the sports world, and it is a good idea, but the reality of what we got is just terrible. The current system seems designed for the Power Five schools (those in the ACC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12 and SEC) to dominate no matter what the other teams do.
The best example of the tragic consequences for non-Power Five schools came this season when UCF went undefeated. They are the first team to do so since Florida State in 2013. They beat Auburn in their bowl game. Auburn was the only team to beat Alabama and Georgia.
In response, the school declared itself the national champion. They are putting up a banner in their stadium. Camping World Stadium even offered its services if UCF wanted to challenge Alabama. UCF also paid its coaches their bonuses for winning a national championship. If they needed more recognition, Governor Rick Scott of Florida proclaimed UCF as the national champions. State Representative Mike Miller even called for President Trump to recognize UCF for its achievement.
Before trying to fix the system, we need to know how the current one works.
After nine weeks of football, the selection committee releases its top 25 teams. The teams are determined by factors such as strength of schedule, record, conference championships and the results of the games against common opponents. Each member of the committee assembles his or her list of who they think should be in the top 25 and, the lists are compared. Teams that are listed by three or more members are considered. The committee votes on the top six teams, and whichever teams have the most votes become the pool for the first seeding ballot.
Then, the teams are seeded. Each member of the committee ranks the six teams using a scale. The three teams with the fewest points become the top three. This process is repeated until 25 teams have been seeded.
This system has been in effect for four years, and nine different schools have appeared in the playoffs. All of the schools that have participated are in the Power Five conferences. The SEC has had five appearances, the ACC has had four, the Big 10 has had three and PAC 12 and the Big 12 have had two. This year, despite going undefeated, UCF was only ranked 12 in the playoff standings, running them far out of the playoffs.
This season made it clear that the playoff system must be fixed, and there are a couple solutions.
One possible solution is to increase the number of playoff games. A simple increase from four to eight would do the trick. This would allow for a better representation of the top teams to at least have a chance of making it to the playoffs through their efforts on the field rather than be ruled out by a committee. This could even increase it so that the top 10 make the playoffs and go from there. That would lead to more games, fairer results and more money for the schools and the NCAA.
Another possible solution is to completely redo the playoff system. Cut out the committee, and let teams earn their way to the playoffs on the field. Have a bigger 8-10 game playoff, and base the participants off of points like in hockey.
For a point system, every conference win is worth two points, non-conference wins are worth one, a non-conference win against a top 25 school is also worth two points. Losses are worth zero, overtime is worth one for the loser and worth two for the winner. At the end of the regular season, the teams with the most points make it to the playoffs. If there is a tie for the last spot, then that tie can be settled based on strength of schedule or on the field.
Obviously, the easier fix is to just keep the current system and increase the number of playoff games. Either way, something has to change.
Another possible solution is two playoffs. The Power Five teams keep the current one, and a system is set up for the Group of Five conferences (the American Athletic, C-USA, Middle American, Mountain West and the Sun Belt.) That way, each group of conferences could have its own champion, and if the NCAA wanted to, they could put the two champions against each other.
Whatever the NCAA does to fix the current system, it probably won’t be happening anytime soon. So, the best we can do is just hang in there and root for our favorite Power Five school.
*The views expressed by the author of this article are not the opinions held by the Chronicle.