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article imageOp-Ed: Is this the college football playoff we've been asking for?

By Vincent Gerace     Jan 21, 2015 in Sports
Well, it finally happened. The first ever College Football Playoff National Champion has been crowned, The Ohio State Buckeyes. As a member of Buckeye Nation I could not have been more excited, but I can't help but wonder, "Is this the playoff we wanted?"
The Buckeyes of Ohio State beat up on the Oregon Ducks resulting in a 42-20 final score in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship. This is exactly what people have been craving and begging for for years, and now that it’s here we... want to change it.
In all sincerity, a lot of what followers of college football have been saying since the four-team playoff has been introduced is, “What next?” or, “How do we make it better?” or, “Four teams isn’t enough.” That, coupled with some rumors that the “Power Five” conferences (B1G, PAC 12, ACC, Big 12, and SEC) might break away from the NCAA in search of a better and more traditional postseason format brings me to this idea. The NAIA should throw everything plus the kitchen sink at the Power Five in an effort to get them to jump ship.
Some people may have just read that and thought, “What in the world is the NAIA?” Great question, the NAIA is the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics/url], a governing body for college athletics, and has been since it’s inception in 1937[. The NAIA currently reports having over two hundred and sixty member schools, all of which may offer athletic scholarships to different degrees. Think of the level of play and scholarship policies in the NAIA somewhere on par and/or in between the NCAA Division 2 and 3, whom it’s worth noting, both use a larger playoff format to decide their national champions then NCAA D1 football.
I’m suggesting that the NAIA do whatever it takes to persuade these major conferences to agree to terms to become members of their organization and cut ties with the NCAA. The NAIA’s selling points can be many: the promise of a “real” playoff, expanding their organization to include these teams as Division ‘A’, for example, and re-branding their current teams as Division ‘B’ (comparable to D1 and D2 in the NCAA). While adopting a similar scholarship policy of NCAA D1 with some possible tweaks here and there but ensuring that ‘Division A’ schools would have the same amount of scholarships for athletes as they do now. As well as, the big one: pay the players. It doesn’t have to be too much, but enough. Something like $1,000-$2,000 per semester enrolled plus incentives based on jersey sales for each particular player and things of that nature, this could compare to other students earning money for a work study job, jobs scholarship athletes are often not allowed to have. This can all be governed by the NAIA.
“How would this play out on the field?” one might ask. Let’s look at what may be the best scheduling idea. First, the conferences remain the same, just as they are, except for the Big 12. It must break into two divisions and add a conference title game; everyone else keeps their current alignment. The schedule would work as such: Each team would play an eleven game regular season (reducing the current regular season these teams play by one game). This is to benefit scheduling but also because many, including [url= t=_blank]National Champion, Urban Meyer, believe the college football season has become too long.
Based on the most schools featured in any division of the “Power Five” being seven by the B1G, SEC, and ACC (give or take Notre Dame) every team would play all other teams in their own division. With the remaining five games each team would play one “Cross-Over” game. This would be an in conference match-up that would have two teams from opposite divisions face each other. This game would allow schools to continue in state rivalries where the two programs belong to different divisions, such as a North Carolina State verse North Carolina game in the ACC.
In the case of an NC State/North Carolina, or a Purdue/Indiana teams could schedule each other every year because of the games rivalry elements and history as such things are one of the greatest parts of college football. All other teams without such a game would rotate that game. In this case Florida, an SEC East representative, could play Alabama one year, Arkansas the next, then Auburn, and so forth. Now, the Big 12 and the Pac 12 do not have as many teams as the other conferences in this discussion, so to supplement that part of the schedule they would play addition “Cross-Over” games. After this part of the scheduling is complete teams would take the remaining four open slots on their calendar and play one team from each other conference every year. This would create some big time regular season match-ups, equivalent to what we get with a lot of Bowl Games in the NCAA.
So picture if you will, the first game of the college football season pitting Oregon versus Alabama, or Georgia versus Ohio State while Michigan State squares off with Florida State. What a dream for the TV. networks, who would undoubtedly come running regardless of the NCAA or NAIA affiliation. The season would then feature the “Cross-Over” games, here is where USC and Stanford meet or Baylor and TCU hash things out. Following this part of the season, the in conference, in division games would start where each team would play all the other teams in their division holding their rival for the last game of the regular season as it should be.
Upon completion of the regular season the standings would slate the division champs in each conference against one-another, much like now. Five conference title games would kick off the post-season on the same weekend. The winner of each of these conference title games would then be seeded based on record and ranking before the conference title games, as well as like opponents and other tie breakers. Now ranked one through five, these teams continuing the post season. The first game of this would feature the number four and number five seed squaring off in the only playoff game that weekend. A sponsored event, at a neutral site, because we all know college football loves that money. The winner of this game would move on to face the top seeded team while the second and third teams face each other on “Bowl Weekend” as it would be great to see the NAIA agreeing the terms with two major, historic bowl games such as The Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, or Orange Bowl to serve as the semi-finals, like we saw for the first time this year. The winners of each of these games would play in the National Championship Game held on January 1st.
Not only would this create a much better, and all-encompassing playoff format, it would give us college football from season’s start to finish with no month-long break before the Bowl Games — the playoffs would take up much of this time. It would feature a 15-game season at most, if a four or five seed went on to win the title. Recruiting would do great with this new system because of equivalent scholarship opportunities to anything the NCAA could offer, payment for players, and the influence on draft status that these big time conferences and teams have.
It would also do great with TV audiences and ratings. I think we can all agree that the most important thing is seeing the big time football schools play, not their NCAA affiliation. If something like this were to happen the NAIA would be featuring great match-ups during the regular season and a post season format like no other with a big time National Championship on New Year’s Day. This would leave the NCAA competing for t.v. ratings with games that look something like (1)Boise State vs (4)Cincinnati and (2)Fresno State vs (3)Northern Illinois. Nothing against those programs, but they are far from the cream of the D1 crop.
Some questions may arise, one being “Why couldn’t the NCAA just use this format?” The answer to that is simple. The NCAA Division 1 encompasses more teams then just those of the Power Five. If they took on a format like this they would be blatantly telling most of their member schools who are not a part of those conferences, “You will never be good enough to compete for a national crown.” By the NAIA taking on these conferences and labeling them as the top level in their organization they can get make it work, and from the wide range of locations of these schools the whole country is still represented.
Another question that may arise is “If the point was a better playoff format why was only one more team get added?” The reason one team was added is so that all conferences are represented by their champion, and with having to win your conference’s title game to continue your season towards a national championship you get an additional playoff round with the conference championship weekend which includes addition teams (those who play in and lose there conference championship) essentially giving fans a ten team playoff system. In the NCAA right now a team could potentially lose their conference and be voted into the playoff system ahead of a conference champ. So think of it as a four week playoff: conference championship weekend, play-in game (seed 4 vs 5), National Semi-Finals, and National Championship.
Just for fun let’s look at what this season might look like on paper using the National Champions themselves, the Ohio State Buckeyes, and a 2015 calendar. This will be based on end of the year rankings from this past season and the wishful thinking that the NAIA could pull the trigger on this and major bowl game affiliations.
Week 1: September 5, 2015 - (9)Georgia @ (1)Ohio State [SEC]
Week 2: September 12, 2015 - (1)Ohio State @ (2) Oregon [PAC 12]
Week 3: September 19, 2015 - (5)Florida State @ (1)Ohio State [ACC]
Week 4: September 26, 2015 - (1)Ohio State @ Texas [Big 12]
Week 5: October 3, 2015 - (13)Wisconsin @ (1)Ohio State [Cross over]
Week 6: October 10, 2015 - BYE
Week 7: October 17, 2015 - (1) Ohio Sate @ Penn State [Divisional]
Week 8: October 24, 2015 - Maryland @ (1)Ohio State [Divisional]
Week 9: October 31, 2015 - Indiana @ (1)Ohio State [Divisional]
Week 10: November 7, 2015 - (1)Ohio State @ Rutgers [Divisional]
Week 11: November 14, 2015 - (1)Ohio State @ (5) Michigan State [Divisional]
Week 12: November 21, 2015 - Michigan @ (1)Ohio State [Divisional]
Conference Championships: November 28, 2015
(1)Ohio State vs (13)Wisconsin [B1G]
(4)Alabama vs (9) Georgia [SEC]
(2)Oregon vs (10)UCLA [PAC 12]
(3)TCU vs (7)Baylor [Big 12]
(5)Florida State vs (8)Georgia Tech [ACC]
Play-in: December 5, 2015
(4)Alabama vs (5)Florida State
BYE for teams not involved
Semi-Finals: December 19, 2015
(1)Ohio State vs (5)Florida State: Sugar Bowl
(2)Oregon vs (3)TCU: Cotton Bowl Classic
NAIA National Championship: New Year’s Day 2016
(1)Ohio State vs (3)TCU
As one can see by looking at this hypothetical schedule one “bye” is given to each team during the regular season. There are addition weekends, such as the “Play-in” weekend, where certain teams would not play based on their seeding coming out of the conference championship however, the fans do not go that time without a game to watch. Rather, all eyes are on on the “Play-In” game. Following that there is an additional week off in preparation for the bowl games that serve for the “Semi-Finals”, but nothing like the month long wait we suffer through now, and the same is said for the National Championship which, in keeping a tradition alive of big time college football, is held on New Year’s Day.
A great idea to put forth, c’mon NAIA, what do you say?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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