TAMPA – Monday night’s national championship game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, will mark the end of year three in the 12-year, $5.64 billion contract with ESPN to televise the College Football Playoff.
So how is the CFP doing so far? Is everybody happy?
Not really. There is one thing about this sport of which we can all be sure: At no time is everybody in the college football community happy.
Fans, as fans usually do, want more. The more vocal ones want an eight-team playoff and they want it now.
And what about the selection committee? With No. 3 Ohio State getting waxed 31-0 in the semifinals by No. 2 Clemson, some fans are saying the committee got it wrong by leaving out Big Ten champ Penn State, which beat Ohio State. Those people feel they were validated by Penn State’s performance in a 52-49 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.
Still other fans don’t like that the semifinals aren’t played on New Year’s Day every year and can’t understand why this isn’t fixed.
To get the answers to those questions and more, I sat down with Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff. Hancock has been doing this kind of work for a long time. He was the first full-time director of the NCAA men’s basketball championship and first full-time director of the Final Four. When the BCS was launched in 1998, Hancock was its first executive director, too. And when the College Football Playoff was being put together, there was only one choice as the executive director.
Hancock has many duties, and one of them is to put the public face on the CFP and answer, as diplomatically as possible, its critics. It’s not an easy job.
I started our conversation with a general question about how the playoff is doing as it completes Year Three.
“The playoff is every bit as successful as we had hoped,” Hancock said. “And we had high expectations coming in. We knew that the fans would love it. We knew it would be good for the coaches and the players. The playoff has met those expectations.”
I’ve been hearing from fans who said the Penn State-USC game in the Rose and the Florida State-Michigan game in the Orange Bowl, which FSU won 33-32, made it clear that there was room for more teams in the playoffs.
Hancock said that based on his conversations with the 10 commissioners who run postseason football, there is no appetite to expand the playoff. The reason is simple.
“It’s the regular season,” Hancock said. “I can’t imagine doing anything to hurt the regular season. It’s a best in sports. It’s a cliché, but it is also true. College football’s regular season is compelling from day one.”
Hancock’s position – and that of the commissioners – is that going to eight teams would change the regular season “in ways that we don’t even know.”
One example: If there were an eight-team playoff, Michigan-Ohio State wouldn’t have meant as much this season because both would have gotten into the playoff. One of the iconic games in college football would have had a 16th-week-of-the-NFL-regular-season feel to it.
Another example: If there were an eight-team playoff, there would have been no incentive for Ohio State to play at Oklahoma this season. As it was, because the Big 12 doesn’t have a championship game, Oklahoma played that game knowing that if it won, it could be the difference between getting into the playoffs or not.
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