Now that the College Football “Championship” contestants have been decided, I can safely program that football game off my TV watching list. While many people in both Georgia and Alabama are jubilant about the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide locking horns in Atlanta for the big prize, there are plenty of reasons for people to tune out. I can actually offer five legitimate arguments to avoid this game, some of which are based in actual logic and some rather interesting anecdotes.
“So it depends on what the goal is.” – Nick Saban, summing up his thoughts in 2016 over why a school which didn’t win their conference (Ohio State) should get a shot at the national title over one which did (Penn State).
- It’s NOT a TRUE “Playoff.” Yes, this will get a LOT of college football fans angry, but here it is. There is no officially-sanctioned (read: NCAA-issued trophy awarded) national championship game in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly referred to as “Division I-A”). In fact, the level of the NCAA’s Division I Football ranks which has an officially sanctioned championship playoff system is actually called the “Football Championship Subdivision.” The reasons for this are varied, but the root cause most historians point to is an early 1980s antitrust lawsuit filed by Oklahoma and Georgia against the NCAA. The result of the suit was an unintended consequence which led to the greatest fly in the playoff ointment – Notre Dame’s refusal to join any conference in football because of a juicy deal later negotiated with NBC. Because of that lawsuit, and Notre Dame’s subsequent network deal, the Division I-FBS/A/whatever-you-want-to-call-it’s chances of a “true” playoff were as good as dead, and will likely remain so, at least until 2025, when the current NBC-Notre Dame TV contract ends.
- It’s a Made-for-TV show created by men in suits in smoke-filled rooms. Okay, the “Smoke filled” part is dramatic license, but the rest is essentially accurate. According to the College Football Playoff’s own website, the “Playoff” is administered by CFP Administration, LLC. The NCAA itself has virtually nothing to do with this process. On the CFP Playoff website’s “About” section, the governing company (which is a for-profit entity, mind you), you will be hard pressed to find any references to the NCAA, save a logo. While the criteria and process for selection are made available, one thing must be made clear – the entire selection process is done by secret ballot, meaning zero accountability.
- ESPN has a huge, Cinderella’s Castle-sized finger in the pot. The so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has been very crafty with its involvement in the College Football Playoffs. The Disney-owned network created ESPN Events to not only help manage the playoffs, but also run several other “lower tier” bowl games which it televises on its own networks. While this may sound like a complete conspiracy theory, consider this fact: this year’s contestants are both members of the Southeastern Conference, whose own network, the SEC Network, is majority owned by ESPN, who also holds the rights to the CFP Championship Game. Coincidence?
- This is the second year in a row in which an “at large” team has been selected over an actual conference champion. An uproar was created in 2016 when Penn State University, the Big Ten Conference Champion, was passed over in favor of Ohio State, which not only failed to appear in Big Ten Championship Game, it also lost to Penn State in their head-to-head match, 24-21. The CFP Playoff Committee pointed to Penn State’s early-season loss to the University of Pittsburgh as the reason for being excluded, despite winning winning their conference outright. That same season, Ohio State would go on to be shut out, 31-0, by eventual CFP Champion Clemson. This year, Ohio State would suffer an experience similar to Penn State’s when, despite winning the Big Ten Championship, they were bypassed in favor of Alabama which, like Ohio State the previous year, did not even appear in the SEC Championship Game!
- Did Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban’s actual quote about qualifying for playoffs give the committee a convenient “cop out?” While many folks (and memes) claim Saban said only conference champions should be allowed into playoffs, the actual quote is quite a bit more damning, and calls Saban’s own character about playing by the rules, versus winning, into question: “Hey, we won a national championship here and didn’t win the SEC. I think in that particular year, LSU and Alabama had the two best teams. So we had to play in the regular season, so we played 9-6. There are 42 guys — somebody wrote an article — that played in the NFL that played on that field that day. So they were two really, really good teams. Well, both teams in the same divisions couldn’t play in the conference championship, so we end up going to the championship game. So, was that the right thing or the wrong thing? I’m sure everybody could debate that. I believe that those were the two best teams. So it depends on what the goal is.”
So I guess the “perfect season” the University of Central Florida sealed over Auburn (a school which beat BOTH championship contestants in the regular season to give them one loss each), wasn’t that big a goal, but a big fat payoff for ESPN, Georgia and Alabama is. If it truly depends on what the goal is, parents would be wise to consider now, more than ever, where they send their young men to play a game in exchange for an education. What may seem like a great choice in Alabama or Georgia could actually be signing a contract with the devil. When “Football” is actual course at these schools, and coaches and boosters flout the rules because college football is the closest thing they will ever get owning a franchise of their own, it’s easy to see how most people regard college football is just a hair less corrupt than Washington politics.
But what do I know? I’m a broke writer, not a millionaire athlete.