So I hear people say everyone wins because of college football's decision to expand its playoff field from four to 12 teams no later than the 2026 season.
I'm not so sure.
I know fans will win. They will see more meaningful football deeper into the season. That can't be bad, right? Each fan's school will have a better chance of getting into the national tournament. The top six-rated conferences will get automatic bids with six at-large bids. The top four-ranked teams will get a first-round bye.
Many of the meaningless bowl games no longer will be so meaningless because they will be used for the quarterfinals and semis of a 12-team field. The Peach Bowl should be more attractive than it was last season when it had Pitt playing without Kenny Pickett and Michigan State without Kenneth Walker III. So should the Outback Bowl, which had a ho-hum game last season between Penn State and Arkansas.
There is no doubt the same schools — the haves, if you will — will continue to dominate the sport. The SEC and Big Ten will continue to be super conferences. ESPN reported the two leagues would have averaged a combined 5.6 bids a year since 2014 if the 12-team format had existed, a number that would have jumped to 6.6 if you include Texas, Oklahoma, USC and UCLA, all of which are headed to one of the super conferences. Alabama made seven tournament appearances in that time, played in six finals and won three national championships. Ohio State, Georgia and LSU each took one title. Only Clemson of the ACC spoiled the big boys' party with six appearances and two championships.
But, still, 12 teams means more opportunity for the other schools. If that format had existed last season, Pitt would have been No. 12 and played at No. 5 Notre Dame in the first round. Penn State would have qualified every season from 2016-19 with a bye in 2016.
Opportunity is a good thing. It allows fans to dream. It keeps their team in the hunt a lot longer.
The conferences and their schools also are winners, really big winners. It's no wonder there will be a push to go to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season, even though the current media contracts run through the 2025 season. The conferences will leave nearly $1 billion on the table in the 2024 and 2025 seasons with just four teams, according to ESPN.
You can bet there will be a big push for 2024.
So if a 12-team playoff is good for the fans and the schools, why do I have a significant reservation?
I'm not sure the players are winning, at least not the top players, the players everyone wants to see.
The season is long enough with each team playing 12 games, 13 if it makes its conference championship game. Now they are going to add two extra rounds of playoff games? That means Alabama, for instance, even it if gets a first-round bye, will have to play 16 games to win the national championship, 17 if it doesn't get a bye.
I can't believe the top players will want to play that many games. They will want to get ready for the NFL draft. Their future — their livelihood — will be on the line. I might be wrong, but I'm thinking many will skip the extended postseason the way Pickett and Walker skipped the Peach Bowl. I know the stakes will be higher than a routine Peach Bowl, but the players still will be risking millions to play the extra games.
Would you want to play those games?
It's true, the college game has become more player-friendly. The transfer portal allows a player in a bad situation to leave one school for another without penalty. Name, image and likeness money also is there, with some players making $1 million or more.
But more needs to be done.
The day is coming when college players will be paid beyond what they get from NIL. Coaches are making millions. Alabama's Nick Saban just signed a new eight-year, $93.6 million contract. The schools are making countless millions and will make even more when the 12-team format arrives.
Why shouldn't the players cash in?
Aren't they the show?
And when the players are paid, will that be good for college football? I mean all of college football?
The super conferences will thrive more than ever. The more money they make, the more they can pay out. The Big Ten just signed a staggering seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal. Think about that for a minute.
Will all of this be good for the Pitts and West Virginias of the college football world?
Again, I'm not so sure.
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