The old NCAA’s new playoff

With a bowl system that bleeds many schools (particularly the smaller, less popular ones), there would be no desire for those 48 schools to maintain the old system, even if the bowls still wanted them. To maximize their exposure and their revenue (Delany estimated that a playoff could make almost 900 million dollars; although that would be WITH the Super 6 teams, I think a playoff without those teams could still easily garner upwards of 100 million dollars for the remaining NCAA schools) a playoff that would be featured in many of its own time slots on national television could become an “NIT” of sorts for Division 1 football.

The NCAA would require conference championship games to conclude by the last weekend in November, which could mean starting a week earlier or reducing the schedule to 11 games.

Sixteen teams would qualify for the NCAA playoff–two automatic bids from each conference and six at-large bids to be chosen by a selection committee or an objective poll. The first round (played on the higher seed’s home field) would begin on the same weekend as the conference championship games for the Super 6. Although these games would barely make a smudge on the Super 6’s television ratings, they would gain exposure for the NCAA’s first round.

On weekend #2 of the tournament, the NCAA would have the limelight to itself (except for Super 6 award ceremonies). The second round would also be played on the higher seeds home field and would still be played while school was in session to insure large crowds. Ratings for these final 8 games would be huge on a Saturday without Super 6 football games. Additionally, the victors would carry audiences into the next round of games–the NCAA-licensed “Final Four.”

The NCAA playoff would then skip a week while the Super 6 play the first round of their 8-team playoff (the third weekend in December). Little “buzz” would be built during this time; the big boys of the Super 6 and the even bigger boys of the NFL playoff hunt would certainly overshadow them. But teams would be able to heal a bit, take final exams, and get ready to travel to the “Final Four” site.

The “Final Four” would be played in a major, neutral-site stadium with both games in one location. This unique “2 for 1” setup would ensure a capacity crowd and a “primetime” feel for these not-quite-ready-for-primetime players. The game would played just after Christmas, competing only with the lesser bowls for TV attention. Granted, some viewers would still rather watch West Virginia vs. UCLA in the Insight Bowl than Northern Illinois vs. Nevada in the Final Four, but the meaningfulness and drama of a playoff game might steal the average viewer away.

The Final Four winners can return home for New Year’s and still get in a full week of practice before the NCAA championship game on the second Monday in January. All of the Super 6 bowl games would be complete, and the majority of viewers would either be A) still interested from the Final Four drama two weeks earlier so they’ll tune back in or B) so hungry for the conclusion to the Super 6 championship that they’ll snack on the NCAA championship game to tide them over. I believe this game could even attract the casual fan as it would high-stakes and two relatively strong teams. Sports fans love to watch a championship of just about anything, but most importantly of all, this playoff would make great TV money for the old NCAA teams that will keep their football teams and athletic departments in the black.

3 Responses to The old NCAA’s new playoff

  1. Chris says:

    Why would the remaining 48 D1-A (FBS) schools not simply merge with the D1-AA (FCS) schools to create a larger league? The top 1-AA football programs are basically on par with the smaller 1-A programs, and it seems like a postseason tournament with more diverse geographical representation (more teams from the south and northeast) would be a bigger money-maker for the NCAA. The combined tournament would probably have to go to 32 teams as well (existing 1-AA tourney has 16), possibly providing greater fan/media interest as the field gets whittled down to the final two.

    • Chris, you are totally right. This is actually happening right now. UMass is moving up…and I think the WAC is pulling up a few programs out west to “Division 1” status to fill in their holes. This is very plausible. And I see no reason it can’t fit into my proposal. Maybe it ended up as 60 “NCAA” teams. That’d be a nice amount for a league, and it would still make a 16 team tournament interesting.

    • To give a new twist to this, if the current Power 5 conferences freeze out everyone else, we’re looking at less than 70 teams in the “haves” category. That gives us over 55 teams in the “have not” league. Choosing the top 16 out of those 55-60 seems very plausible to me. It doesn’t make the playoff too exclusive but it’s not taking everybody either.

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