Today’s NCAA College Football Playoff is one of the most exciting changes to the sports landscape in years and has the potential to be the largest source of income for the NCAA. Seen by most as a vast improvement over the outdated BCS system, the playoff can finally bring a sense of parity to the college football landscape. However, the viewership in 2016 decreased by 36 percent, so there is always room for improvement. I believe the following changes would maximize revenue for the NCAA, while also bringing a sense of parity among the Power 5 Conferences.
Bringing change to the College Football Playoff system has to start with scheduling differences among the conferences. Within the Power 5 conferences, there are several different formats that the conferences have to adhere to. For example, the Big 12 plays every school within the conference without divisions, SEC schools throw in “cupcake” games against FCS opponents, and the Big Ten has recently changed to a nine game conference schedule without FCS opponents. Within my newly proposed system, the Power 5 programs would be required to play only other Power 5 schools… including Independent FBS schools like Notre Dame. It would completely separate the FBS schools from the FCS schools and would increase competition within all five conferences in hopes of achieving more parity in college football. An example of a Big Ten Schedule would be nine conference games plus an SEC, Pac 12 and ACC opponent.
The ultimate motivating factor within the NCAA is the same as any other organization—money. In order to maximize the potential earning by increasing interest and national viewership, I propose increasing the CFP to eight teams. These eight teams would be decided as follows: seeds 1-5 are the conference champions ranked according to the AP poll with three “wild card” bids going to the next highest ranked teams that didn’t win their conference. (I know what you’re thinking… YES, Notre Dame would have to join a conference). With the conferences having similar schedules, the College Football Playoff would be able to reward teams based on record, as opposed to the current system of the committee picking the teams to enter the College Football Playoff. Having a guaranteed playoff contender from each conference would solidify the viewership from every region of the country and ultimately drive up ratings nationwide.
The final step in increasing and maintaining the viewership of the College Football Playoff would be to give the Playoffs its own separate entity, separate from the College Bowl Season. This change would increase the presence of the CFP, while also maintaining the integrity of the crumbling bowl season. In the 2015-16 bowl season, there were 41 bowls played but only 77 bowl eligible teams (6-6 record or better), so the NCAA had to invite teams with a 5-7 record to fill the empty slots in the remaining bowl games. While the increase in the number of bowls would theoretically increase overall revenue, I propose increasing the bowls for the elite schools at the top… not the bottom. This would involve adding an entire College Football Playoff system, similar to the NFL Playoffs, and have the rest of the teams play in the other bowls. It would maintain the lure of getting into a larger bowl for the teams that may have lost a conference championship game and would also keep “traditional” bowl games with their respective conferences.
For example, the Rose Bowl would be the loser of the Big Ten Championship against the loser of the Pac 12 Championship. Overall, I believe this would increase revenue and competition at the top of the rankings and would remove many of the bowls at the bottom that may need a 5-7 team.
Overall, the CFP has changed NCAA football for the better. It just needs a few more tweaks before reaching its full financial and entertainment potential. With time will come improvement, and I believe it should happen sooner rather than later.
Avid sports fan specializing in NFL and NCAA football. University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. Living in Madison, WI. Go Badgers!