While college football fans may be begging for a playoff system, they should probably be careful what they ask for. At least if the NCAA basketball tournament is any indication. If the NCAA and coaches get their way, the current 65-team March Madness tournament could expand to as many as 96 teams, adding up to a mind-boggling 31 extra games to the schedule. (And you thought filling out your bracket was tough before!)
BCS proponents argue that in basketball, the already-bloated playoff system makes the regular season irrelevant, and if that’s true, then a 96-team playoff would make it even more so. That alone should be reason enough not to fatten the tournament any more than it is. But Andrea Adelson of the Orlando Sentinel points out another reason, one that would drastically affect college football as well:
One more point to consider in this story. If the tournament does expand to 96 teams, this could pave the way for superconference expansion. The idea of superconferences has been batted around for quite some time, and gained steam again when the Big Ten said it is considering expanding and could add more than one team. With more teams being allowed into the NCAA tournament, all conferences would have the green light to expand. Why? Because they wouldn’t have to worry about their teams beating up on each other and missing March Madness. Even the middle-of-the-pack teams would get in.
What would that mean to college football? It would essentially give even greater power to the traditional conferences and schools. All the non-BCS conferences, including the Mountain West and WAC, would become irrelevant because its good teams would be poached. The more powerful conferences would raid the not-so-powerful conferences. TV deals would explode, giving more cash to many programs that are already rolling in it. In essence, the face of college football would be totally changed.
To say this is all about money is of course just stating the obvious. And of course, just like with the BCS, the fans are on the losing end of the deal. March Madness is big enough already, probably even too big considering how lopsided many of the first-round games usually are. The last thing we need is to make it bigger, especially if it threatens non-BCS conferences such as the Mountain West.
Legislating a playoff system isn’t the answer