A Dirty Dozen Teams: College Football Playoff Expansion on the Table

It has been a long time since my last post and we have a lot to catch up on (to say the least). There will be more to come, but let’s focus on a timely topic: the very real possibility of college football playoff expansion.

Last week, the College Football Playoff management committee issued a press release about its latest meetings where it stated that it had a working group exploring expanding the playoff with “some 63 possibilities for change. These included 6-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 16-team options, each with a variety of different scenarios.” While CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock had all of the standard disclaimers that there is still a 4-team playoff and the discussions are all exploratory, the fact that the CFP directly acknowledged all of this on its own indicated that the powers that be might have been further along in its talks than anyone could have imagined up to this point. Remember that conference commissioners were all publicly firm that the old BCS system wouldn’t change only weeks before the current CFP format was put into place and the party line until now has been a steadfast, “We have a 4-team playoff under a 12-year agreement and that’s not changing.” The powers that be in college football HATE talking about college football expansion, so unilaterally offering it up to the public that they’re discussing the issue isn’t just throwing out there for speculation.

Needless to say, this got me quite excited! I have been writing about college football playoff scenarios for as long as this blog has existed (and way before conference realignment really became such a huge focus here). My oldest post on this subject was a proposal in July 2006 to have an 8-team playoff with power conference auto-bids using traditional bowl matchups (such as always having the Big Ten and then-Pac-10 champs play in the Rose Bowl). All of these years later, that would personally still be my optimal playoff format. That 2006 post would need a few tweaks and updates to account for events that have occurred since that time, but all of the principles I wrote back then pretty much apply today.

Following up on that press release, The Athletic reported on Wednesday that college football playoff expansion discussions are indeed progressing along quickly. That in and of itself didn’t surprise. However, what did surprise me was what was revealed in the opening of the article:

Concerned that their four-team product has been harmed by the dominance of a select few teams from the same region, FBS commissioners are seriously considering expanding the College Football Playoff. And while it’s long been assumed that any change to the format would be modest, several influential decision-makers are suddenly open to a playoff system that skips past eight teams and into the double digits.

“I sense 12 teams is building support,” one Power 5 athletic director said.

12 teams?!

My initial reaction was, “WTF?!” I had it in my head that an 8-team playoff was the inevitable next step for so long that the thought of the system moving to 12 teams made my head feel like I just did a keg stand on a Slurpee machine. How could the powers that be that have inched along with playoff expansion for the last century suddenly zoom up to a 12-team playoff?

Taking a step back and thinking about it further, though, maybe the powers that be are (weirdly) seeing a 12-team playoff as a system that is closer to the status quo than an 8-team playoff. Consider the following:

(1) Many college football fans (myself included) have been so focused on whether to expand the 4-team playoff itself that we have generally neglected the fact that the overall CFP system consists of 12 teams competing in the New Year’s Six Bowls. Those 12 teams consist of the Power Five conference champs, the top Group of Five champ, and 6 other teams (at-larges and conference contract bids). Essentially, the powers that be could be viewing this as simply taking that existing field of teams (with the exception that the 6 “other teams” would all be at-larges based on merit) and turning it into a playoff.

(2) A 12-team playoff would presumably provide first round byes to the top 4 teams. This preserves the top 4 horse race that exists in the current CFP system (and goosing the ratings of those weekly CFP rankings release shows on ESPN) while expanding enough to allow for auto-bids for the Power Five conferences and the top Group of Five champ. That wouldn’t be the same in an 8-team playoff. This also alleviates concerns that Power Five schools that have clinched conference championship game berths might rest players in late season games (similar to NFL teams that have clinched playoff spots) and just bank on winning their conference championships. Putting in the carrot of a first round bye means that teams would be competing just as hard for a top 4 spot throughout the entire regular season. (Personally, one of the reasons why I have advocated for an 8-team playoff was to minimize the power of the CFP selection committee. If we end up with a 12-team playoff, the powers that be clearly aren’t as bothered by that issue as the ability to grant byes arguably gives the CFP selection committee more power than ever.)

I don’t know if I personally like the prospect of a 12-team playoff more than an 8-team playoff, but I’ll have to say that it’s growing on me. If that’s the size of field that’s required to have auto-bids for all of the Power Five conference (which I believe is a minimum requirement for any playoff expansion), then it works for me. To be sure, there are many other issues to examine over the coming months (not the least of which is what happens to the bowl system).

In any event, with colleges large and small getting squeezed with a double whammy of higher expenses and lower tuition and room and board revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, university presidents are likely far past the point where they can afford to pass up any opportunities to generate revenue regardless of past reservations. Expanding the College Football Playoff is simply one of the easiest ways out there for universities to instantly raise revenue, so it’s not a surprise that it is coming to forefront now.

(Image from Scarlet and Game)

54 thoughts on “A Dirty Dozen Teams: College Football Playoff Expansion on the Table

  1. Tyson

    I definitely DON’T like the idea of conference champions being locked into specific bowls, a la the Big 10/PAC 12 Rose Bowl….in any given year, those two conference champs might be the weakest of the 8 teams so why should either get what amounts to a favorable seeding preemptively every year? I love the expanded playoff but definitely want to see the teams seeded, 1-8

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  2. loki_the_bubba

    – Twelve team playoff
    – Unlimited free agency
    – Paying the players

    This is not the college football I grew up with. I’m not happy with NFL-lite.

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  3. Tyson

    Time for a Conference Realignment update, Frank. Seems like we’re closer to some TV contracts being up for renegotiation. As a Texas fan, I’m curious what Texas’ attitude will be once the LHN is no more–I am assuming it will not be renewed by ESPN. Your thoughts?

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      1. I have a lot of thoughts on this for the future, although it’s much more about possible movements at the Group of 5 level (such as the AAC and/or MWC consolidating and/or poaching each other) or FCS-to-FBS moves. The Southland defections for the WAC could certainly be related to the latter (or at least a hope/wish for the latter).

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    1. When I first started writing about conference realignment, I truly thought that Texas was looking to be among its institutional peers. That led me to argue that there ought to be mutual interest between them and the Big Ten initially and I honestly thought that the original Pac-16 proposal (where the then-Pac-10 would have added Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado) was the best reasonably possible conference move that they could have ever hoped for.

      Now, though, I see Texas in a different light. Their control over the Big 12 is akin to being a financial independent that has its own conference, which is something that the Longhorns can’t get anywhere else. So, I’m much more skeptical about a Texas move regardless of what happens with the LHN.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, Notre Dame wants everyone to get off of its lawn, while Texas likes having the worker bees in Waco and Lubbock take care of its lawn.

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  4. Mike

    Ahhh. A post with out thousands of comments.

    My issues with playoff expansion:

    1. I am not comfortable with continually asking for more from a bunch of unpaid college students. A conference champ could be playing this schedule: 12 regular season, conference championship, round of 12, round of 8, round of 4, NC game. 17 total games is a lot to ask.

    2. Conference championship games become a hinderance. Lets say there are two teams ranked #1 and #2 in the same division. The loser of the game between the two, has a very good chance to get a bye in the playoff (especially if the game is earlier in the year) effectively giving the losing team a double bye (no CCG, no round of 12). That’s a pretty nice conciliation prize. Yes, you can make a rule that only conference champions are eligible for byes. If so, the Big 12 should drop their game.

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    1. I think point #1 is valid, although it may end up being moot if/when those students will turn out to be paid (either via third parties with Name, Image and Likeness compensation or directly from the schools depending on court cases and legislation). It’s interesting that The Athletic article interviewed some NFL agents and they were universal that players would be quite happy and motivated to play in those playoff games even with the risk of injury. It’s the exhibition bowl games and non-competitive payday home games that aren’t appealing to players.

      For point #2, I can see where having the top 2 teams in the same division could cause that concern, but it’s such a specific exception that I can’t see how that would drive the overall policy. That’s an interesting point about making only conference champions eligible for byes, but that gets into the real problem (whether college football fans like it or not) of how to treat Notre Dame as an independent. My feeling has always been that ND shouldn’t receive special treatment, but it also can’t receive negative treatment, either. Likewise, an at-large conference team shouldn’t be receiving special or negative treatment compared to ND. So, my guess is that the CFP would take the same approach with first round byes as they have done with the current 4-team playoff field: it’s going to be whoever they think is the best 4 without any conference champ requirements or quotas.

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      1. Mike

        @Frank –

        In the eight playoffs we’ve had so far, a non division champion has made the playoff twice* with a possibility of three other times. Regardless, I would like to see some advantage attached to being a conference champion instead of it being a hinderance. As far as Notre Dame goes, I guess it depends on the perspective. Is ND advantaged by not having to play in a CCG so having them play in a round of 12 game is more fair?

        *2016 & 2017. In 2018 Auburn’s upset of Alabama (probably) prevented it from happening again. You could make a case for 2015 Ohio St (yes they were ranked #7 but there were a ton of one loss teams that year), and 2020 Texas A&M could have been non-division champ playoff teams.

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  5. Brian

    Old bowl system > BCS > CFP > 8 teams > 12 teams > 16 teams for me. Clearly I am no longer the target audience for CFB, though I’m pretty sure my alma mater still wants my donations. At what point (if ever) does increased TV money lose out to lost donations and more tenuous alumni relations?

    I don’t watch the CFP now, even when OSU is in it. I’ll be even less interested in an expanded field. March Madness has greatly devalued the MBB regular season, and this will do the same for CFB. Autobids will remove the impetus for tough OOC games. Seeing 8 southeastern teams in a 12-team playoff will just further erode the national fan base, as will seeing all the games played in the south and west.

    Good to see you back Frank. Please stick around a while this time.

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    1. Great to be back, Brian!

      To be fair, I wonder if auto-bids would actually have the opposite effect and end up encouraging tougher OOC games. Under the current system, there is still an outsized punishment for even a “good loss” compared to taking an easy win. The playoff at-large field would also seem to encourage better non-conference scheduling. While I understand the consternation of the March Madness effect on the basketball regular season (even though I personally believe that an 8-team or 12-team playoff would enhance the competitiveness of the regular season than detract from it), the one thing that the NCAA Tournament *does* encourage and clearly reward is aggressive non-conference scheduling.

      Here’s the thing: if you’re an Alabama or Ohio State fan, then the traditionalist thinking that “the regular season *is* the playoff” is much stronger. Their fans have always been in the heat of a playoff race every year. For the plebeians of college football, though (like my Illini), that has never been the case. 95% of college football is effectively eliminated from playoff competition by the end of September… and it’s just not sustainable to have 95% of teams eliminated from the national conversation so early going forward. So, a playoff where (at a minimum) there are auto-bids for the Power 5 champs at least gives the *hope* for all of those teams to make it to the playoff… even if it still ends up being Alabama/Ohio State/Clemson in the end again. Granting just 1 Group of Five champ a spot gives all of those teams similar hope, too (even if it’s essentially lottery odds to win that spot). That’s why most of us watch sports in the first place: we just want to see *our* teams have a *chance* for the championship (even if the odds are against them winning it in any particular year).

      The NFL understands one thing very well: what drives interest in their core product is the playoff RACE. Who actually makes the playoff is almost besides the point. If *your* team is in the playoff *race* late into the season, then that drives interest in both your own team plus the sport overall. I’m not saying that the Bears deserved to be in the NFL playoffs last year as an 8-8 team, but you can be sure that I (along with the rest of Chicago) watched every single terrible Mitch Trubisky pass to the bitter end along with all of the NFL games that involved wild card contenders because of that playoff race (and you can replicate that for every other similarly situated team).

      Despite being a historically regional sport, the college football playoff system has paradoxically been disproportionately reliant on a handful of national brands. Only a small handful of fans are actually watching *their* team (not their conference or just a general fan) in the playoff race in any given year… and that’s honestly a big gaping market that college football isn’t filling right now.

      I think it would take much less than an NCAA Tournament-esque playoff to fill that market. 8 teams with Power 5 auto-bids and Group of 5 spot would be clearly enough for me without detracting anything from the regular season. My only surprise is the thought that the powers that be could skip an 8-team playoff and go directly to 12 teams.

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      1. Brian

        Frank the Tank,

        To be fair, I wonder if auto-bids would actually have the opposite effect and end up encouraging tougher OOC games.

        I’ve heard this argument, but I don’t buy it. It was supposed to be true now, but the penalty for a loss is so high it’s not worth the risk. The same will remain true as long as the committee is ranking the field. They only reward OOC risk as a tie-breaker (if both teams have the OOC loss, for example), and beating a cupcake to improve your record is worth more.

        … the one thing that the NCAA Tournament *does* encourage and clearly reward is aggressive non-conference scheduling.

        MBB plays > 30 games and rarely does anyone go undefeated. CFB teams go 13-0 on a regular basis. A 2-loss team has never made the CFP while I doubt a 2-loss team ever missed the tourney. The reward for risk differs.

        The top 33+ teams, plus autobids, get into the tourney. Even at 12 teams, that’s less than 10% of I-A and less than 20% of the P5.

        … 95% of college football is effectively eliminated from playoff competition by the end of September… and it’s just not sustainable to have 95% of teams eliminated from the national conversation so early going forward. So, a playoff where (at a minimum) there are auto-bids for the Power 5 champs at least gives the *hope* for all of those teams to make it to the playoff

        That has always been true (at least since 1900), yet the sport has done just fine. And an expanded playoff doesn’t really change that. IL fans used to hope for the Rose Bowl and occasionally got there. The old bowl system fixes the issue. The only teams eliminated are those that can’t get to 6 wins, and no playoff format will help them.

        Maybe expansion gives G5 teams a little hope, but only until it’s clear they can’t go 11-1. They know they won’t get picked, so they have to be the top G5. And even then they know AL or Clemson will destroy them.

        The NFL understands one thing very well: what drives interest in their core product is the playoff RACE.

        That’s a funny way to spell “gambling.” Take away all forms of gambling (incl. fantasy) and half the NFL fan base disappears.

        And the RACE has never attracted my interest back to the NFL. Maybe it was all those years with teams that had zero chance, but only 3-5 teams have any shot in a given year anyway. Everyone else is playing for a chance to lose in the playoffs.

        And most importantly, the NFL is nominally 32 teams of equals. The talent disparity in CFB is much, much greater so most teams know they don’t have a chance at the title from day one.

        Despite being a historically regional sport, the college football playoff system has paradoxically been disproportionately reliant on a handful of national brands.

        It always has – the blue bloods of any era have always dominated. The regional aspect is why the old major bowls worked – my regional champ against yours every year.

        Only a small handful of fans are actually watching *their* team (not their conference or just a general fan) in the playoff race in any given year… and that’s honestly a big gaping market that college football isn’t filling right now.

        I don’t think TV numbers support that working for CFB. The big names draw ratings, especially when they play each other. No other games draw big numbers.

        8 teams with Power 5 auto-bids and Group of 5 spot would be clearly enough for me without detracting anything from the regular season

        And on what day of the season would you stop believing IL had a chance at the title? And how many years of a committee putting 3 SEC teams into the playoff would it take to kill fan interest again?

        My only surprise is the thought that the powers that be could skip an 8-team playoff and go directly to 12 teams.

        I’ll believe it when I see it. I haven’t seen a single president voice approval for going to 12 (or more) and extending the season. The ADs and conferences might be willing, but will the academics?

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        1. The big difference in an expanded playoff with Power Five auto-bids would be that the day of the season when I would stop believing that Illinois had a chance at the title would be the day that they’re mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten West Division race. Maybe that day might end up being in October in many years, but at least it won’t be September! We could say that about any other school in the Power Five in a system that provides auto-bids: they are truly still in the race until the day that they are mathematically eliminated from being able to participate in their conference championship game. Most schools may still never get to that conference championship game, but it’s at least a concrete and objective on-the-field elimination as opposed to a subjective committee ranking elimination due to a random September loss. I think it’s a *huge* psychological difference with watching a team that’s still *mathematically* in the hunt versus an amorphous goal like a non-playoff bowl berth. Being in the hunt drives interest in your own team plus all other games that may impact your team in the standings.

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          1. Brian

            Frank the Tank,

            The big difference in an expanded playoff with Power Five auto-bids would be that the day of the season when I would stop believing that Illinois had a chance at the title would be the day that they’re mathematically eliminated from the Big Ten West Division race. Maybe that day might end up being in October in many years, but at least it won’t be September!

            If there are autobids, which is not guaranteed. With CCGs, it brings up the chance of an 8-5 champ getting in while 12-1 G5 champs get left out. That may be fine for the NFL where half the teams make the playoff, but probably not in CFB where 12 teams would be < 10% of the teams. Autobids mean fewer slots available for the SEC, so both they and ESPN will fight it.

            And not being mathematically eliminated isn't the same as truly believing your team has a real shot at it. Think the NFL – when did Jags fans believe they were out of it?

            Most schools may still never get to that conference championship game, but it’s at least a concrete and objective on-the-field elimination as opposed to a subjective committee ranking elimination due to a random September loss.

            But the subjective rankings still impact seeding (and byes) and which G5 champ makes it. So the G5s still don’t get the benefit of this.

            I think it’s a *huge* psychological difference with watching a team that’s still *mathematically* in the hunt versus an amorphous goal like a non-playoff bowl berth.

            Maybe, but a bowl berth is a goal you can chase much longer in the season and much more realistically even if your team is only average. And I really don’t hear most fans of average P5 teams truly believing they can win their conference by mid-October. They aren’t eliminated mathematically, but after 3-4 games most fans have a good idea of what level of team they have and adjust their goals appropriately. There is much more focus on winning the next game and hoping your rivals lose.

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  6. Alan from Baton Rouge

    I’m assuming a 12 team playoff would looks like this using the 2020 final rankings as an example.

    Opening round on campus of higher seed on January 1
    #9 Georgia at #8 Cincy
    #12 (25) Oregon at #5 Texas A&M (Coastal Carolina was #12, but I’m assuming the P-12 would get an automatic bid)
    #10 Iowa State at #7 Florida
    #11 Indiana at #6 Oklahoma

    Quarterfinals at the 4 non-semi NY-6 Bowls on January 9
    Peach – #1 Alabama v 8/9 winner
    Fiesta – #4 Notre Dame v 5/12 winner
    Cotton – #3 Ohio State v 6/11 winner
    Orange – #2 Clemson v 7/10 winner

    Semifinals at Sugar and Rose (relocated to Arlington, TX) on January 16

    CFP Championship game in Miami on January 25

    I would assume during a “regular” regular season, the opening round would take place the week after the conference championship games, with the quarterfinals taking place on NYE/NYD, the semifinals taking place at least one week later, with the CFP championship taking place on the Monday a week after the semifinals.

    Participants in the Championship game could play up to 17 games.

    Breakdown by conference:
    SEC (4) #1 Alabama, #5 Texas A&M, #7 Florida, #9 Georgia
    B-12 (2) #6 Oklahoma, #10 Iowa State
    B1G (2) #3 Ohio State, #11 Indiana
    ACC (2) #2 Clemson, #3 Notre Dame
    Pac 12 (1) #25 Oregon
    AAC (1) #8 Cincy

    The obvious downside is travel for fans. Also, the players would be playing the equivalent of an regular NFL season.

    An upside would be renewed interest in the non-semifinal NY-6 games, since they will all mean something. I attended the Fiesta Bowl in 2019. LSU and UCF were well represented, but the locals could have cared less. I’ve seen that with the Sugar as well. After 20+ years of sellouts, the first non-sellout in a Peach Bowl occurred after they were “elevated” to major bowl status with the NY-6.

    The big losers would be the Citrus, Alamo and other minor bowls that do have local interest.

    Rematches would become the norm. I obviously don’t like rematches. See the 2011 season for reference.

    I think you could keep all the NY-6 Bowls happy with an eight team playoff.

    The added TV money would more than make up for any minor inconveniences I described above.

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    1. That’s one thing that’s hard to get a handle on with this 12-team playoff proposal: how does it work with the bowls… if does at all?

      An 8-team playoff could be pretty seamlessly be incorporated into the current bowl system (whether they use traditional matchups like I’ve suggested or a straight seeding process). That would actually be better for the bowls than the CFP format where the matchups just aren’t attractive and/or have no real stakes.

      On the other hand, the 12-team playoff proposal seems to indicate that the powers that be don’t care about the bowls (or at least as much as they used to). I would think that the first round, at a minimum, would need to take place outside of the bowl structure and earlier in December. That automatically eliminates 4 elite teams that would have otherwise been valuable bowl participants. If they have the semifinal round in December, too, then that totally blows up the top level of the bowl system.

      One format that I think would work is having the first round at home field sites, use the bowls for the quarterfinals with the top 4 getting their natural preference for a bowl site (e.g. the Big Ten champ goes to the Rose Bowl, the SEC champ goes to the Sugar Bowl, etc.), and then have non-bowl neutral sites for the semifinals and championship game. Similar to the NFL playoffs, I’d actually re-seed after each round as opposed to having a straight bracket (so the #1 seed would play the lowest ranked first round winner).

      Applying last year’s rankings and assuming a non-pandemic year (meaning the Rose Bowl would be in its rightful place in Pasadena), the first two rounds of the playoff would turn out this way:

      FIRST ROUND
      #9 Georgia (at-large) at #8 Cincinnati (top Group of 5 champ)
      #25 Oregon (Pac-12 champ) at #5 Texas A&M (at-large)
      #10 Iowa State (at-large) at #7 Florida (at-large)
      #11 Indiana (at-large) at #6 Oklahoma (at-large)

      QUARTERFINALS
      Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama (SEC champ) vs. 4th ranked Round 1 winner
      Orange Bowl: #2 Clemson (ACC champ) vs. 3rd ranked Round 1 winner
      Rose Bowl: #3 Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs. 2nd ranked Round 1 winner
      Fiesta Bowl: #4 Notre Dame (at-large) vs. 1st ranked Round 1 winner

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      1. Applying this same format to 2019:

        FIRST ROUND
        #9 Florida (at-large) at #8 Wisconsin (top Group of 5 champ)
        #17 Memphis (top Group of 5 champ) at #5 Georgia (at-large)
        #10 Penn State (at-large) at #7 Baylor (at-large)
        #11 Utah (at-large) at #6 Oregon (Pac-12 champ)

        QUARTERFINALS
        Sugar Bowl: #1 LSU (SEC champ) vs. 4th ranked Round 1 winner
        Orange Bowl: #3 Clemson (ACC champ) vs. 2nd ranked Round 1 winner
        Rose Bowl: #2 Ohio State (Big Ten champ) vs. 3rd ranked Round 1 winner
        Fiesta Bowl: #4 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ) vs. 1st ranked Round 1 winner

        This scenario brings up the rematch risk Alan noted where Utah would be playing at Oregon, which would’ve been even worse in practicality since it would be a rematch of the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game that they would have just played.

        That makes me think that there needs to be some guidelines similar to the NCAA Tournament to prevent rematches or intra-conference matchups in at least the first round. The CFP committee could swap Penn State and Utah, for instance… or just release the rankings to fit their intended bracket (call Utah #10 and Penn State #11) as opposed to other way around.

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    2. Brian

      Alan from Baton Rouge,

      Opening round on campus of higher seed on January 1

      I’ll believe the SEC (and ACC) is willing to come north in winter when I see it. They actively fought home games so far.

      I would assume during a “regular” regular season, the opening round would take place the week after the conference championship games, with the quarterfinals taking place on NYE/NYD, the semifinals taking place at least one week later, with the CFP championship taking place on the Monday a week after the semifinals.

      I disagree. That is Army-Navy day. I think they start right when bowl season does (around 12/17ish) so the players get some recovery time post-CCG.

      Breakdown by conference:
      SEC (4) #1 Alabama, #5 Texas A&M, #7 Florida, #9 Georgia

      And won’t America just be thrilled to see that every year.

      The obvious downside is travel for fans. Also, the players would be playing the equivalent of an regular NFL season.

      And loss of interest in the regular season. And more disgust at the pro-SEC bias of ESPN and the committee. And doing all this just to see AL play in the title game every year anyway.

      An upside would be renewed interest in the non-semifinal NY-6 games, since they will all mean something.

      They meant more in the old bowl system than they ever will again. And the renewed interest will be on TV, not in traveling for 5 post-season games (CCG + 4 in playoff).

      I attended the Fiesta Bowl in 2019. LSU and UCF were well represented, but the locals could have cared less. I’ve seen that with the Sugar as well. After 20+ years of sellouts, the first non-sellout in a Peach Bowl occurred after they were “elevated” to major bowl status with the NY-6.

      Locals don’t care about playoff games their teams aren’t in, either. They want the money and maybe to see the spectacle, but that gets old if you hose every year.

      I think you could keep all the NY-6 Bowls happy with an eight team playoff.

      Or by returning to the old bowl system, where their games truly mattered.

      The added TV money would more than make up for any minor inconveniences I described above.

      Would it? You get diminishing returns as you expand a playoff. And they’d have to share it out with everyone in G5, so it would get diluted pretty quickly.

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  7. davidpsu

    I wish we would return to the old traditional Bowl system with Conference tie-ins. An 8-team playoff can use the winners of 8 top bowl games. You get both: the traditional bowl system AND a true national champion.

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  8. I still favor an 8-team playoff with auto-bids to Power 5 champs + any undefeated G5s (you can require they are at least T-25 to prevent schedule shenanigans). Seed them 1-8 and ignore current tie-ins.

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  9. Mike

    Last years end of year late scheduled game had me thinking of a way to make playoffs within the conference structure. I think it would make for more interest for every team by keeping more teams in the running later in the year.

    Today each Big Ten conference team plays nine games. Six division games and three cross overs with all games counting in the division standings. This leads to some inequitable scheduling within the divisions as some teams have five home games and others have four. My proposal is to include a four team (top 2 in each division) Big Ten playoff using the last week of the regular season as the final four while the other teams play late scheduled games.

    It would look like this: Six division games plus two cross overs. The last week of the year the top two teams (E1 vs W2, E2 vs W1) in each division play (west hosts in even years, east in odd) for the right to play in the CCG. The other ten teams play in conference designated match ups (west hosts in even years, east in odd) that could serve any number of goals*.

    This format increases the likelihood of the two best teams in the conference playin the the CCG. There will be some adjustments to traditions, but this is pretty doable. An eight team bracket is possible by getting rid of another cross over, but odds of rematches go way up.

    *Help ensure each team plays the other every four years, maximize bowl teams by having a 5-6 teams play 1-10 teams, best TV games, whatever floats your boat.

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    1. Brian

      Mike,

      It would look like this: Six division games plus two cross overs. The last week of the year the top two teams (E1 vs W2, E2 vs W1) in each division play (west hosts in even years, east in odd) for the right to play in the CCG.

      I think current NCAA rules prohibit this. The CCG must pair the two division winners. You could still schedule the way you suggest, but you risk a repeat the following week about 50% of the time. That’s one reason they try to avoid crossover games in the final week now. You’d also displace all the rivalries that are usually played that final weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mike

        @Brian –

        I agree its probably against the rules now. My hope would be that this format would be used instead of the top two best record “divisionless” format that gets thrown around every once in a while to improve CFP access. Unfortunately, a 12 team CFP with out an autobid limits this plan’s usefulness. However it would be neat to see a Cinderrella run from a team that stars slow (Wisconsin, Northwestern have started slow in the past). As far as rivalry week goes, move it back to the Big Ten’s traditional pre-Thanksgiving weekend. Nebraska would lose is permanent black Friday opponent, but still could play on that day during non Big Ten playoff years.

        Like

    1. @Mike – It tracks what I’ve seen locally in the Chicago area. The outflow to places like Florida and Arizona has been normal for this region for years, so the pandemic accelerated some of those moves. However, the biggest real change has been intra-region movement with the suburbs becoming a hot housing market again, which is a reverse of the past several years where the city has been the stronger real estate market. This has been driven by Millennial families that had stayed in the city longer than prior generations but were finally pushed by the pandemic to seek out more space in the suburbs. (To be sure, I always thought this would eventually happen. It just that I didn’t predict that the tipping point would a global pandemic.)

      Also, I think the collective experience of mass remote work over the past year has taught most companies and people that it works well. Prior to the pandemic, I was already working about 50% remote and was actually quite surprised/naive about how many workplaces were still so tethered to a physical office for tasks that could be easily done anywhere with a laptop, cellphone and Internet connection. There are of course outliers that see remote work as negative, but by and large, there are few things that make people happier than the lack of a commute. Anyone that thinks that we’ll just revert to normal commuting patterns and people will go back to the office 5 days per week is fooling themselves (and short of working for a superstar FAANG company, talent will leave for more flexible competitors if companies go back to insisting upon it).

      As a result, I think you’re going to see a large re-sorting of people who actually want to live in a place for the place itself (e.g. those that can’t imagine living anywhere other than Manhattan) and those that were living in a particular place simply because of a job. The latter group has a lot more freedom now.

      Note that it seems to be fast-growing secondary cities (such as Sacramento, Austin and Nashville) and those with a lot of natural amenities that still have good shopping/restaurant options (such as beach and mountain towns) that are getting the lion’s share of out-of-region moves. I’ve seen some arguments that remote workforces could end up revitalizing rural areas, but I don’t buy that at all. What we’re seeing is that remote workers generally still want city/suburb-type amenities in a lower cost of living area and/or better weather and/or natural amenities.

      Like

      1. Mike

        @Frank –


        Also, I think the collective experience of mass remote work over the past year has taught most companies and people that it works well.

        I used to work for a Fortune 500 company that in late 2019 laid off all of its remote employees in hopes of increasing collaboration by having their teams physically together. Their plan now is to allow remote work for all employees. Amazing 180 in a little over a year.


        Note that it seems to be fast-growing secondary cities (such as Sacramento, Austin and Nashville) and those with a lot of natural amenities that still have good shopping/restaurant options (such as beach and mountain towns) that are getting the lion’s share of out-of-region moves. I’ve seen some arguments that remote workforces could end up revitalizing rural areas, but I don’t buy that at all. What we’re seeing is that remote workers generally still want city/suburb-type amenities in a lower cost of living area and/or better weather and/or natural amenities.

        I don’t see it revitalizing rural areas either. Bedroom communities maybe, but I don’t see a large amounts of white collar workers moving to isolated farming towns. I do think beach and mountain towns are going to price out a lot families if they haven’t already. The fast growing towns like Austin are starting to do it too. Just browsing around Zillow, 500K doesn’t get you a lot in Austin which surprised me since there isn’t a lot of natural barriers to prevent sprawl. I wonder if we’ll start to see the larger college towns (“big” cities but < 1 million) start to show up in these maps. College towns can provide a lot of amenities (top tier sports, Arts) with good overall quality of life. Just grabbing this from livability.com with the caveat I don't know how reputable it is.

        1. Ft. Collins (Colorado St)
        2. Ann Arbor (Michigan)
        3. Madison (Wisconsin)
        11. Columbus (Ohio St)
        12. Lincoln (Nebraska)
        15. Ames (Iowa St)
        17. Lawrence (Kansas)
        19. Corvalis (Oregon St)
        20. Iowa City (Iowa)

        https://livability.com/list/top-100-best-places-to-live/2020

        Like

  10. Eric

    I have always preferred smaller and hate idea of 12. Guess Ill get used to it but better find a way to keep Rose Bowl more important in it.

    In the end, guessing BCS (for all people hated it) will actually have been my favorite system

    Like

  11. Jersey Bernie

    This is pretty much for Frank and other Illini fans, with a commentary on the state of Rutgers.

    First welcome back, Frank.

    Now, Arthur Sitkowski has transferred from Rutgers to Illinois. I think that very few Rutgers fans will miss him. Not that he was a bad guy or a troublemaker. He was not. He seemed like a perfectly fine kid.

    Unfortunately the highlight of his football career might have been his sophomore year in high school in Old Bridge, NJ. He was eventually rated as a four star top 100 player and transferred to IMG in FL for his senior year. He then lost the starting job as QB at IMG.

    I know that IMG recruits great players, but a 4 star talent would expect to start as a senior in high school. By the time that he graduated he was still a high three and had loads of major offers including places like tOSU, Michigan, Miami, LSU, Florida, etc. He decided to some home to NJ and went to RU. And he definitely got his chance to play.

    When he did come to RU, lots of fans were excited by looking at the list of schools that he turned down, and he was still a very high 3 star. Personally, I wondered about the excitement since he lost his high school starting job (and it was not to a superstar QB). I think that the kid who beat him out a IMG wound up being a walk on at Minnesota.

    Sadly at RU he seemed to throw more picks than TDs. Was that partly because he was on a lousy team – yes. Did he help make that team worse – yes. Was poor QB play a major issue? Yes.

    It became clear pretty quickly that Sitkowski was there, but at all times the issue became who was going to replace him. Which transfer would come in and take his job.

    He did play a couple of good games last year when the starter, Noah Verdal, was injured. Now Rutgers has recruited sold 4 star Gavin Wimsatt, who is the number 1 player in KY, and the number 3 rated Dual QB by 247sports. He actually will be the highest rated QB ever signed by Rutgers.

    (Unless you include Ozzie Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet 1950s TV show fame and father of singer Ricky Nelson, who was a RU QB many years ago – and no just kidding, he was not any good and there were no QB ratings in the 1950s).

    (Arguably Rutger’s best football player ever was Paul Robeson, Class of 1919, who was the son of runaway slaves and the third black student ever at Rutgers. He was a two time All American, Phi Beta Kapp, and valedictorian of his class. He spoke 20 languages and earned 15 varsity letters at Rutgers. He was a very famous actor and singer, who eventually was blacklisted as a Communist.)

    Assuming that Wimsatt eventually signs, everyone knows that Verdal will start and Wimsatt will be the likely backup (or maybe during the season, Wimsatt will become starter).

    Made sense for Sitkowski to move on. He may still have 3 years of eligibility (at least 2) . He played a couple of games and then redshirted the year that it was announced that Schiano was coming back to Rutgers and, of course, last year was a free year, so he may have most of his career in front of him. Maybe a change of scenery will help.

    On another sort of related front, Rutgers seems to be reaching mediocrity in many sports in the B1G. Both basketball teams made the NCAAs. Secondary sports such as lacrosse, soccer, wrestling and others are now competitive in the B1G. The womans’ lacrosse team is now in the B1G tournament semi-final and the womans’ soccer team is the second round of the NCAAs. Even the baseball team is winning games.

    Early in the recruiting season, it looks as though Schiano may be putting together the best football class in years. Top 20 recruiting team? Maybe top 25 to 30 very likely. For RU that is a definite upgrade and Schiano does seems to get one or two very good transfer every year.

    Another very Rutgers oriented comment. Sports writers in NJ were really surprised when RU did not at all go after Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano. He is going to Washington State.

    I certainly was not surprised to see no interest from RU, since I would imagine that most RU fans would have been really unhappy to see him recruited at this point. He is from NJ and as a prospect, he was rated by 247sports as the 1 rated Dual QB the country and the number 2 prospect in NJ. His father holds (or held anyway) the all time career receiving records at Rutgers.

    Everyone “knew” that Jarrett was going to come to daddy’s alma mater and be the star QB that Rutgers was seeking. It was also “expected” that when the superstar QB committed other top NJ recruits would come with him.

    Well it was really a shock when he announced Tennessee. Of course, he has now been run out of town at Tennessee on the proverbial rail. He reached the point where he was regularly booed by Tenn fans. To say that his career in Knoxville did not go well might be an understatement. Possibly worse than Sitkowski at Rutgers, because expectations for the top rate Dual QB in the country were pretty darn high.

    Though local sportswriters do not seem to understand, there was no desire among RU fans to see if the team could help Jarett salvage his college career.

    Like

    1. @Mike – The TNF games were rough for the over-the-air network partners since they were non-exclusive simulcasts with the NFL Network. As a result, they were large money losers for the OTA networks (and why they were passed around like a doobie from CBS to NBC to Fox even in a world where the NFL is TV’s most valuable product by huge margin).

      My understanding is that the Amazon package consists of exclusive games for streaming nationally with the only linear TV being on in the local participating teams’ markets for each game. So, the exclusivity that Amazon is getting is quite a bit different (and much more valuable) compared to the Fox/NFL Network simulcast deal.

      Like

  12. Sports Illustrated had a follow-up article on college football playoff expansion:

    https://www.si.com/college/2021/05/03/college-football-playoff-expansion-discussions-underway

    My impressions:

    (1) Support for an expanded playoff is very broad with 8 out of the 11 voting members of the CFP committee already being on the record as wanting or opening up to it (and my guess is that the 3 that won’t go on the record are more concerned about the details instead of being opposed to an expanded playoff in and of itself).

    (2) A unanimous vote of all CFP committee members is required, so the specific details of an expanded playoff are really where the fight is going to be (as opposed to whether an expanded playoff happens at all).

    (3) Support for auto-bids for the Power 5 champs and the top Group of 5 champ seems broad. I’ll reiterate that I’d be shocked if playoff expansion happens without P5 champ auto-bids in place in a minimum.

    (4) Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick was on the working group for playoff proposals. Also note that ND has its own vote on the CFP committee… and further note above that a unanimous vote is required to pass anything… which means that ND *alone* can veto any playoff system. So, we can assume that any playoff proposal that eliminates or disproportionately punishes independents/at-larges is DOA. No one is “sticking it to Notre Dame” with any system – they are directly crafting this expanded playoff AND have a vote equal to the entire freaking Big Ten (much less a G5 conference).

    (5) The working group seems aligned on wanting on-campus sites for the first round of the playoff. Granted, the working group didn’t include either the Big Ten or Pac-12, who have the most important and valuable bowl relationship with the Rose Bowl.

    (6) Shortening the regular season is a non-starter. We might see the current Week 0 become the new Week 1 for everyone and/or the conference championship games pushed up to Thanksgiving weekend. Otherwise, the expanded playoff would be purely additive to the current system.

    (7) As much as there was buzz about a 12-team playoff last week, reading between the lines, it looks like an 8-team playoff is the closest thing to a consensus. Some people might like 6 teams and others might like 12 teams, but it seems as though everyone can at least live with 8 teams.

    Like

    1. Brian

      Frank the Tank,

      My impressions:

      (1) Support for an expanded playoff is very broad

      With no details, that’s easy to do. Once details start coming out, then individual constituencies start complaining.

      (2) A unanimous vote of all CFP committee members is required, so the specific details of an expanded playoff are really where the fight is going to be (as opposed to whether an expanded playoff happens at all).

      Exactly. And what’s good for the G5 or ND may not be good for the SEC or ACC.

      (3) Support for auto-bids for the Power 5 champs and the top Group of 5 champ seems broad. I’ll reiterate that I’d be shocked if playoff expansion happens without P5 champ auto-bids in place in a minimum.

      I think this ties back to #1. We know the SEC has fought against this before. More than P5 autobids, I think the G5 autobid is the biggest lock. Without that the G5 members will not approve the plan unless they get a huge pay increase.

      (4) … which means that ND *alone* can veto any playoff system. So, we can assume that any playoff proposal that eliminates or disproportionately punishes independents/at-larges is DOA. No one is “sticking it to Notre Dame” with any system – they are directly crafting this expanded playoff AND have a vote equal to the entire freaking Big Ten (much less a G5 conference).

      When has ND ever been punished by CFB? The fans want to see it because it’s always the opposite, ND gets special treatment above and beyond any other team. Like having their own vote on the CFP, or their own guaranteed CFP payout no matter how bad they suck, or their own TV deal.

      (5) The working group seems aligned on wanting on-campus sites for the first round of the playoff. Granted, the working group didn’t include either the Big Ten or Pac-12, who have the most important and valuable bowl relationship with the Rose Bowl.

      We know the SEC has fought against this before. Eventually the CFP will play the player safety card and say the risk of concussions from frozen fields up north is too great. Since not every school can guarantee a safe surface, none will be allowed to host. Maybe the northern schools can get approval for local domes (Indy/MSP/Detroit).

      (6) Shortening the regular season is a non-starter. We might see the current Week 0 become the new Week 1 for everyone and/or the conference championship games pushed up to Thanksgiving weekend. Otherwise, the expanded playoff would be purely additive to the current system.

      So many schools out west and down south already have heat stroke issues in the early games, plus I don’t think the presidents want to start earlier. Adding a round in mid-December seems most plausible.

      (7) As much as there was buzz about a 12-team playoff last week, reading between the lines, it looks like an 8-team playoff is the closest thing to a consensus. Some people might like 6 teams and others might like 12 teams, but it seems as though everyone can at least live with 8 teams.

      I’m still waiting to see any presidents chime in. The CFP can vote however they want. The presidents have the final say.

      Like

  13. Marc

    The latest SI article suggests that campus sites for the first round are practically a done deal. That surprised me.

    When the current playoff was being negotiated, there was a comment that some of the northern stadiums are not winterized. Michigan and Ohio State have hosted hockey games in winter, but most CFB stadiums are not used after Thanksgiving. I could easily see problems like pipes freezing over, underheated (or unheated) dressing rooms, and so forth.

    And to echo what @Brian said, I would be shocked if SEC signs up for the potential of playing in a blizzard or temps in the single digits. There are probably kids on those SEC teams that have never seen that kind of weather, much less played in it.

    Like

    1. @Marc – It actually wouldn’t shock me if the SEC has so much hubris that they can’t fathom that their champ would ever be traveling on the road for a playoff game. From what I’ve seen, the SEC seems to have long been much more open to first round games on campus. It’s actually the Big Ten that has much more invested in the bowl system, which makes sense: the Big Ten and Pac-12 have the Rose Bowl relationship, which is something that no one else has here. To be honest, I think that the Big Ten/Pac-12/Rose Bowl alliance is the only reason why we’re using the bowls for the semifinals in today’s 4-team CFP format. The bowl system for the SEC is largely transactional – if they can get a better deal with on-campus games, then I don’t think they’d care. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are really the only conferences that are giving anything up if the bowl system is further weakened because the Rose Bowl has special value. Everyone else (whether power or non-power conference or independents) seems to just look at the bowls as the equivalent of NCAA Tournament neutral sites at this point, so they’re increasingly seeing the bowls as middle men that might be taking more revenue than they deserve.

      Like

      1. Brian

        Frank the Tank,

        The SEC champ may not, but what about their at-larges? This is a conference with teams like UF that went decades without leaving the state for an OOC game. They want to risk playing in Madison in mid-December?

        Or what about the ACC with their smaller stadiums and teams like Miami that use sideline heaters during bowl games in FL.

        And some northern school may have legitimate winterization concerns. Old stadiums with old pipes could face problems if a cold snap comes through. Would they be allowed to substitute a local dome?

        The bowl system is already dead. The Rose has lost it’s special meaning to B10 and P12 fans under the age of 40 (maybe even older). It will never regain its status. The question now is just little bowls versus games on campus.

        I’d like to think they settle on campus sites just for travel costs, but then the 1st round losers would not get their “bowl experience” so maybe they’ll insist on that. The big bowls won’t move to mid-December, so it’s either little bowls or delaying the postseason.

        I think they’ll really struggle to find consensus on the details, especially since they haven’t gotten any input from TV yet on how much more they could make by expanding.

        Like

  14. Marc

    As I understand it, the requirement for unanimity applies ONLY if they tear up the existing contract before expiration. That is because every Division I conference plus Notre Dame is a signatory. When you have a contract, a subset cannot walk away (without serious consequences).

    Once the contract expires after the 2026 championship game, the separate parties can do whatever they want. This is exactly what happened during the old Bowl Alliance era, when most of the power conferences (plus ND) agreed to pit #1 vs #2 at the end of the season, but the Big Ten and Pac-12 chose instead to keep their separate Rose Bowl agreement.

    Now, I am not suggesting that you’d ever see an expanded playoff while the Big Ten and Pac-12 go back to their Rose Bowl deal: those days are surely over. But after the current contract expires, it becomes a lot harder for a small minority to derail what most of the others want.

    The current situation, where they are looking at expanding the playoff before the current deal expires, gives any dissenter much more power than they would ordinarily have. Of course, what limits the dissenters is the knowledge that their leverage lasts only until 2026.

    Like

    1. Brian

      Marc,

      I believe you are correct, but there will be no playoff system that doesn’t include ND. First, there is too much money at stake to leave out a 12-0 ND team ever. Second, I think we are seeing that the money has gotten so big that congress is stepping in. Any system that keeps teams out will likely suffer legal challenges at some level. The same is true with the G5 – if they get left out, look for legal issues and possible legislation. I could even see congress forcing (by threat) the NCAA to host a I-A playoff just as they do in all other sports – no more special deals for the P5. That would require a huge split of money for the G5, so the P5 will be very careful about that.

      Like

    2. @Marc – In that sense, yes, it’s true that the unanimity required is due to having to amend an existing contract.

      That being said, I’ve seen some of the financial damage that the pandemic has caused to otherwise strong P5 universities firsthand, so I think we’re at the point where if there’s “easy money” to be had more quickly, then they’ll push this forward (especially if everyone believes that they’d expand the playoff for the next contract, anyway).

      Like

  15. Marc

    Notre Dame’s special status merits a comment. The Irish have so much power only because the other Power Five conferences voluntarily allow it. Now, why is that?

    In a deal that did not give them the special access they now have, ND would be forced to join a conference. The Irish are contractually obligated that if they join ANY conference in football, they must join the ACC. This would delight the ACC, but no one else.

    So, the rest of the Power Five treat ND as an equal, because they have decided an independent ND is more useful to them. I know that many of ND’s opposing fans resent this. Treated strictly as an economic decision, it makes perfect sense.

    Like

    1. Brian

      Marc,

      ND has special status because they make money for everyone they play, and because it didn’t really harm anyone that mattered to the powers that be. The G5 get screwed over by it, but nobody in power cares. Even before ND was linked to the ACC, the P5 teams were happy to treat ND as an equal. Part of that was their history and importance for national fans. I actually think that aspect has faded as everyone is on TV nationally and ND doesn’t have nearly as many fans on the east coast as they used to.

      Like

      1. @Brian – Yes, this is true, too. Ultimately, ND makes more for the system overall and anyone that is a money-maker is fine with the P5.

        Granted, ND *has* deserved to be in the playoff in the 2 instances where they made it in the CFP era. It’s not as if though they were some type of charity case or money grab. The fact that they didn’t actually perform well in the playoff games themselves doesn’t detract from the fact that their on-the-field accomplishments leading up to them were completely playoff-worthy.

        Like

    2. @Marc – Completely agree. I see comments all of the time from fans that ND should be “forced” to join a conference. However, none of the Power Five want ND to join *a* conference. Instead, each of the Power Five wants ND to join *their* conference.

      How does it benefit the Big Ten and SEC for the ACC, which directly competes with those leagues in their respective footprints, to add in arguably the most valuable brand in college football in ND? Absolutely none – that would be increasing the power of the ACC drastically. As a result, the Big Ten and SEC are better off keeping ND independent and aren’t going to engage in sabre rattling on that front. An additional Group of 5 playoff participant honestly bothers the Power Five 1000 times more than allowing ND to have access.

      Like

      1. Marc

        In addition to that, all of the P5 conferences play ND in the regular season — some more than others, but they all do it. The conferences clearly WANT those games, and they could not all happen if ND were committed to a full ACC schedule.

        I just noticed that ND agreed to a future home & home with USF, a rare true road game for them at a non-P5 opponent. (I know they play @Navy every other year, but those games usually move to neutral sites.)

        Like

  16. Brian

    https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/31402209/hartford-athletics-transitioning-division-division-iii

    I don’t think this is starting a trend, but Hartford is moving from D-I (America East) to D-III by 2025. That means no new scholarship offers as of 2022-23. I’m sure that will be a fun team to coach or play on those last few years with walk-ons facing D-I scholarship players (I assume those who can get a scholarship elsewhere will transfer).

    “A move to Division III will allow the University to further strengthen the academic, co-curricular, and wellness experience for all students,” board of regents chair David Gordon said in a statement. “While we know this decision will disappoint some members of our community, we remain confident that this shift is in the best long-term interests of the institution and all its students.”

    Last month, a University of Hartford athletics feasibility study, commissioned by school president Gregory Woodward and conducted by the consulting firm CarrSports, was made public. The study indicated the school would save $9.2 million per year by going from Division I to Division III.

    Like

    1. Marc

      The math makes sense. Hartford is not a school for which any sport is a meaningful part of its public identity. They don’t play football, so basketball is their only money-making sport, but it probably doesn’t make THAT much money, since they’ve never achieved any sustained success.

      What they make in basketball has to be spread across all of their other sports. That it falls short to the tune of $9.2 million a year is not surprising. For a school like Hartford, that is a significant sum to plow into athletics.

      Like

      1. Brian

        https://www.courant.com/sports/college/hc-sp-university-of-hartford-goes-div-iii-20210507-jva2n5pi5nfvvnt2wyr2cz3jde-story.html

        Pat Meiser, who was the athletic director at Hartford from 1993-2014, said she was very disappointed in the decision.

        “I really fear for the future of the school,” Meiser said. “This appears to be a quick fix, which sadly may turn out to be terribly disappointing for the overall institution.”

        “I don’t think I would characterize it as a strictly financial decision,” [Board of Regents vice chair Kathy Behrens] said. “I think the board felt this was a better path for the long-term success of the university.”

        The report’s recommendation that UHart transition to Division III sparked backlash from athletes and alumni, who organized rallies and signed petitions seeking to keep the school in Division I. Critics of the proposed shift to Division III have argued that Division I athletics bring attention to a school, while benefiting fundraising and alumni engagement.

        Other have pointed to UHart’s declining enrollment and resulting financial troubles as justification for a potential shift to Division III. According to figures from the university, undergraduate enrollment at UHart dropped about 14% from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2020, and total enrollment was down about 6.5% during that period.

        The math does make sense if you only consider the athletic costs. But then only a few schools actually profit from sports. But the BoR vice chair said it wasn’t a strictly financial decision. How else would it benefit the school?

        What about the free advertising? The student experience? Alumni relations? They still have all their facilities that require maintenance and have overhead costs. Maybe they even have some debt for them. What will they do with them now? Will the reminders that they used to be D-I hurt them in recruiting students? Perhaps their independent report looked into all these aspects and still said it wasn’t worth it.

        And the $9.2M number is disputed.

        https://www.courant.com/sports/hc-sp-hartford-hawks-athletics-report-questions-20210424-padw3zs4sbdsfmwgwfsgog2dbe-story.html

        But a close analysis of the report reveals that some of the $9.2 million is shifting from the athletic department to other parts of the university, as acknowledged elsewhere in the study. Additionally, experts note, savings from cutting athletic scholarships depend on UHart’s ability to replace scholarship athletes with tuition-paying students, which won’t necessarily be easy.

        Of that $9.2 million in projected athletic department savings, $6.2 million comes from eliminating all athletic scholarships, which are not permitted in Division III — with the rest coming from cuts in compensation for coaches and staff, as well as a decrease in operating expenses.

        That does not mean, however, that the school would save the entire $6.2 million in aid to athletes by shifting divisions. Instead, experts say, Division III recruits would likely be enticed to enroll with other forms of financial aid, just as many other UHart students are. Their aid would not be charged to the athletic department but would still cost the university.

        Replacing several hundred students receiving a 94% discount rate with several hundred other students paying a 57% discount rate would likely save the school some money — but not the full $6.2 million. Rather, the report says, replacing athletes paying a 94% discount rate with others paying a 57% discount rate would net the school about $5.1 million a year.

        That level of savings, however, assumes the university would be able to replace its current pool of Division I athletes with a new pool of Division III athletes or other students paying more in tuition.

        The reality might not be so simple.

        “In terms of the actual cost to the university of admitting the student,” says Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University, “it’s a cost only to the extent you are displacing another student and that the student you are displacing is paying his or her own way.”

        If Hartford can’t replace scholarship athletes with tuition-paying ones, its savings will likely be lighter than projected.

        The report projects that UHart’s new Division III athletic department would take in about $600,000 a year in operating revenues, down from $1.8 million in Division I. This projection, the report says, includes ticket sales, sponsorships, fundraising and income from athletic facilities.

        Leeds agreed that the figure seemed “very optimistic,” though he said the difference was ultimately “small potatoes” in the context of college sports finances.

        So if they’ll save less than projected and make less than projected, does it change the case?

        Like

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