4-Team Playoff Format Superior or Expanded Playoff Format???

In response to a June 19, 2013 posting in the Inside Higher ED webpage pertaining to “Keeping College Playoff at 4 Teams, Faculty Group Pleads”, the 1-A Faculty Athletic Representatives group wish to discourage any expanded playoff format more than the 4 team system that will be implemented with the 2014 FBS season. This article was a link from a linkedin.com posting by one of the groups I follow, by Mark Majeski, in which I read. Brian Shannon, President of the 1-A faculty group and Charles (Tex) Thornton; Professor of Law at Texas Tech are opposed to any further playoff system and quote “The four-team College Football Playoff design is far superior to any expanded playoff system that would add more teams playing more games over more weeks, thereby further interfering with academic obligations, inevitably overlapping with final exams and extending into the second semester, and increasing risks for serious injury” (Inside Higher ED, 2013). These claims all though sound, lacks sufficient evidence to support the statements made by both Shannon and Thornton within their concern about an expanded playoff format.

From my educational experience, research and vast knowledge on this topic, their concerns and arguments are like Lorraine Swiss Cheese, possessing many holes in their argumentative points. Their first comment about the 4-team playoff design being far superior to any expanded playoff format, is very delimiting. The NCAA operates 88 NCAA Championship playoff type formats with large member, expanded playoff pools and formats. Why should not one of America’s favorite past-times and traditions with the passage into Fall and the start Fall classes, be excluded from an expanded playoff format? The four-team playoff format is a step in the right direction, but still possesses many major issues that are still currently prevalent in the BCS system used now.  From the group of faculty representatives position, they only want to invite a small sample size of 3% of the current 125 FBS programs to compete in college football, for the national championship at the FBS/NCAA D-1 Football level. The 88 national championship tournaments operated by the NCAA offers 20% or more of the member institutions or individuals to compete for and be called a national champion of their NCAA respective sport and competition. The incorporation of just the 4-team format, places the decision making process, assessment and selection process in a group of 8-12 committee members hands who ultimately possess a Democritus position since millions of $$’s are on the line for the program and conference. Limiting the sample size to determine a national champion in college football at the FBS/NCAA level is very hedonistic, because we are not offering all prominent programs with credible records during that competitive season to compete for the national title, also known as the Boise State’s, Nevada’s, Louisiana Tech’s, Northern Illinois’s, Hawaii’s and other Non-BCS conferences and programs that possess national notoriety.

The second comment stated by Shannon and Thornton about adding more teams and weeks would interfere with academic obligations and final exams and into the second semester.  Is it not possible that an expanded playoff format could be implemented with those aspects in mind with the regard to academics and final exams? In my book “College Football in the BCS Era, The Untold Truth: An Analysis of Factors that Supports the 16-Team Playoff Model, examined that very comment and created a playoff format that took into account this main argument and others arguments. Did Shannon and Thornton take into account that conference championship weekend, the first weekend in December possibly interferes with finals week and academic obligations of the student athletes. College post season bowl season does not start until just prior to 3rd weekend of December or the 17th or 18th, which indicates that the bowl committees have already taken into to account for academics and finals week. As for more teams playing more weeks, the weeks in which an expanded playoff format would occur, would be completed during the between semesters break of Fall into Spring. The current championship game and the future 4-team playoff format will and does now extend into the second semester for many larger high profile universities that compete at the FBS/NCAA level of college football. The 16-team playoff format in which I created and designed, ends at the same time as the current championship game does now. The 4-team format will inevitably be pushed directly into the second semester, since television will possess some decision making process into when the final game will be played in January.

As per the comment about increasing risk of serious injuries to the student athletes, injuries are part of all sports and activities. Proper conditioning and training will not only prepare these student athletes for this expanded playoff format, but significantly decrease the chance of any serious injury. Does Shannon and Thornton not think that these coaching staffs and training staffs are not qualified to condition, care for and prepare these student athletes for extra games? Please give credit to these highly educated athletic training staffs and conditioning coaches for their just do, for keeping the student athletes healthy all season long.

The implementation of an expanded “inclusive and fair” playoff format  for all 125 FBS and future FBS programs to be considered to compete in, will more than significantly be financially beneficial to the NCAA and college football. A 16-team playoff format, will currently allow 12.8% of the FBS programs to compete for the national championship in college football at the FBS/NCAA level. That’s a 400% more participation rate than the 3% the faculty representatives want. The 12.8% participation is a square number, utilitarianistic number and allows for great games to be played between evenly matched programs to determine advancement to the next rounds. Another positive aspect to an expanded playoff format like the 16-team format, allows for time switchers and casuals to attend this high profile playoff event, without placing ticket requirements on alumni and athletic departments to purchase a large number of tickets, like they do with bowl games and sometimes left holding extra tickets and a financial loss. The casuals, time switchers, along with the 37 million college football fans, will increase the revenue taxed based dollars in those specific football and bowl site communities where these games are played. Why must we limit attendance to these high profile bowl games to alumni and ivory tower members? Is college football and the playoff format not for all spectators to attend and be part of, just like winning a National Championship should be available to all FBS programs to earn, and not just the  6 or 5 BCS conferences with 69 BCS programs.

Without an expanded playoff format in college football at the FBS/NCAA level, the NCAA and selection committee are hedonistically keeping those athletic accomplishments and dreams of those Non-BCS conferences, programs, players, coaches and fans to be called a National Champion in the sport in which they have a passion for. In a peer reviewed journal article written by Stephen Finn (2009), in the Journal of  the Philosophy of Sport, ” In Defense of the Playoff System” , Finn made interesting arguments for a playoff format. The current system in use by the NCAA for FBS college football is more like a season long championship with human subjectivity and computerized systems to determine the final 2 FBS programs to compete for the National Championship in college football. Finn(2009) states ” A season long championship includes narrative possibilities that offer enriching experiences, but a playoff system provides us with, to put it simply, a better story. A playoff system, by contrast, offers a culminating event that increases tension and drama; it produces more uncertainty and thereby heightens one’s interests in the outcome; it allows for a distinction between types of games, where athletes are challenged in different ways.” I believe Finn, along with my research and book, are onto something that educated commissioners, college chancellors and presidents are afraid to admit, but they respect the use of higher educational knowledge, learning and peer reviewed journal articles to assist in making decisions.

The link to purchase my book is on the front page of my blog page or go to www.lulu.com and search for the title “College Football in the BCS Era: The Untold Truth”.

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