College football will unveil its new playoff system this season, and already conference commissioners and athletic directors are on pins and needles wondering what their schools need to do to be selected for the four-team playoff.
“When we set up the playoffs, we created four broad criteria to separate teams that otherwise look equal,” College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said on The MoJo Show. “It was strength of schedule, head-to-head result, how you did against common opponents and whether you won your (conference) championship. I think right now in (the) preseason, there’s always a lot of talk about, ‘What do we have to do?’ We get that. But the bottom line is, play a good schedule, win your games and you’re going to be in the hunt.”
If only it were that simple. Some conferences, like the SEC and Big Ten, have conference championship games, while other conferences, like the Big 12, do not. Without uniformity, won’t some schools already be – depending on your perspective – at an advantage or disadvantage before the season even starts?
“We’re going to be looking at 12 games,” Hancock said. “From the committee’s perspective, whether a team has a championship game or not is not going to be consequential. Obviously those teams that have championship games will have maybe a slightly better strength of schedule because they’re going to get another game against a quality opponent. But from a committee’s perspective, we’re just on the sidelines waiting to get the results from the 12 or 13 games and then we’ll evaluate based on that.”
But why now? Throughout the BCS era, college football fans were told that there wasn’t a playoff because the NCAA didn’t want to take athletes away from their studies. Why is it okay to do that now? Isn’t that hypocritical?
“Everyone has different reasons in their mind about why there was no big playoff at the end of the season,” Hancock said. “For me, yeah, an extra game is an issue and maybe playing during finals is an issue. But for me, the biggest reason was to protect the regular season. Our regular season in college football is awesome – the best one in sports. Our identity in college football is Saturday – those Saturdays. It’s not, ‘Wait until the end of the season and then let’s get interested and play a big tournament.’ So we protected the regular season with this four-team tournament. Who knows what might happen if it were bigger. But in any case, it doesn’t really matter because we have a 12-year contract for this four-team tournament, and it’ll stay that (way) for 12 years.”
But again, if a team from, say, the SEC wins the national title this year, that team will have played 15 games – 12 regular season games, one conference championship and two playoff games.
That’s NFL territory.
What about academics? What about player safety? Do those not matter?
“These games are going to be played during the break between semesters, and there’s time for their bodies to heal before the playoffs,” Hancock said. “But I have to tell you: It’s something we’re going to be watching. What happens between the semifinals Jan. 1 and the championship game Jan. 12 – we’re all going to be watching that.”
“We just heard the fans that said they wanted more football and they wanted a bracket – and they got that,” Hancock continued. “Yet, from our perspective, we protected the regular season, and we protected the bowl system by keeping this in the bowls for all the athletes from top to bottom. It’s a win-win.”