Maybe the problem is our own, those who tune in every Saturday (and Friday, and Thursday and Wednesday), who still enjoy college football, who still care about it, who still enjoy color and performance, hyperbole and hypocrisy, all that college football does. Also, college football.
Our problem is that we expect the sport to set its clock in a glacial way to start thinking digitally. We hope that college football takes a good quantum jump someday in the 2020s, but its high meaning and sensibility still seems to be locked in the 70s.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said after the College Football Playoff Committee adjourned the meeting on Monday without reaching a consensus on the expanded playoff system, “we have unresolved problems.”
“Rooted” has been a constant problem of college football, for decades – for a century, if we’re honest. Nowhere is there more fear of change, where progress is much more alienated. However, the sport came out of the Dark Age a few years ago and gave this four-team playoff format a Monday-night Alabama-Georgia SEC feud at Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium.
The four-team system is good compared to what you came up with immediately – the two-team BCS – and what happened before the start of the time, the random bowls and the random postseason system sometimes brought out the best. Teams are allowed together but mostly two voting institutions – AP, made up of sports writers and UPI (later USA Today), coached – to determine the national champion.
And, sometimes, two national champions.
Of course this is an absurd way to determine a champion, but that system has been allowed to exist for years, even decades, as a damn near-century. So, yeah, it’s better that we have it now.
But only in the sense that dial-up internet is better than no internet.
It is clear that the 12-team playoff will benefit the sport in multiple ways – and yet the committee cannot figure out the way to pull the trigger. Monday’s breakdown is the last example of an escalation.
“We’re going overtime,” said Bill Hancock, executive director. And though Hancock is one of the last remaining optimists on the planet, the hard truth is: the change, if it does, will not come until the current CFP agreement is reached in 2026. The committee expects to move that date to 2024. That hope fades.
And that’s a shame.
College football has really done a remarkable job over the last few years trying to catch up on time. Some of it was forced, such as name, image and comparison rights. Some of it is still difficult to digest, especially the permanently rotating transfer portal. Some people agree on common sense – most colleges have been laughed at for most of December and the idea that “classroom time” was a factor in early January.
The 12-team playoff is so meaningful that thinking otherwise hurts your brain. All Power Five conferences are represented and each has a shot at big bids. The Group of Five Conferences – which eventually dropped Cincinnati to the CFP this year – will have a place on the table. Notre Dame’s independence still leads to bids if the Irish are worthy.
And everyone makes a bucket of money.
“Everyone cares more about their own silo than anyone else,” Bowlsby said, and it’s understandable during a big revolution in the sport. And the fact that it can further subdue bowl games that have ruled College Football Roost for years is another competitive silo.
Still, progress is progress. General knowledge is common knowledge. And the men who run college football can’t accept anything that is in favor of anyone outside their small circle? It is worse than being entrenched. That is utter stupidity.