By Ken Reed

It’s past time for the college football bowl system to die. There are over 40 bowl games these days. The vast majority are irrelevant — and completely unattractive — matchups (some pitting 6-6 teams against each other). The games have no impact on who will be crowned national champion. In fact, they are so meaningless that numerous players and coaches leave for other programs before the games are even played. And some of the players projected to be middle round to first round draft choices sit out the games to avoid possible injuries that could negatively impact their value in the eyes of NFL general managers. Even the big traditional bowl games, Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Fiesta, lack the marquee value of years gone by.

The four-team playoff to determine the national champion has been a disaster as well. Too few teams get a chance to participate and many of the games have been non-competitive events in fairly sterile, off-campus environments. Why not have a real playoff system, say a 16-team playoff format like they do at the FCS, Division II and Division III levels?

Early last year, a postseason committee recommended a 12-team playoff for FBS teams. However, that recommendation hasn’t been approved yet as television networks, conference commissioners and school presidents can’t seem to all get on the same page when it comes to a playoff.

But the possibility of a 12-team or 16-team playoff at the highest level of college football is very intriguing and could rival the NFL’s playoff system in popularity. Imagine this: if there had been a 12-team playoff this season, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Mississippi (Baylor would’ve had a bye as the 4th highest ranked conference champion) would’ve hosted home playoff games. Can you imagine the excitement and crazy atmospheres in those locales? All playoff games in an expanded playoff would be sold out, TV ratings would be through the roof (especially when compared to bowl game ratings), and ad revenues would be substantial. Instead, we’re stuck with sparsely attended bowl games that, for the most part, are more boring than Week One games during the regular season. At least Week One games are meaningful, even if they are mismatches, because the games have implications for the rest of the season. Today’s bowl games are nothing but meaningless exhibitions.

Some college football coaches and analysts are critical of players for sitting out bowl games and looking out for their economic futures. How about criticizing the system that doesn’t give fair market value to players instead of criticizing the players who make the decision to protect their future value? And where’s the heavy criticism of coaches that leave their teams stranded before bowl games so they can sign lucrative contracts at other schools? Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC, Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU (Notre Dame still had a chance to make the four-team playoff at the time) and Mario Cristobal left Oregon for Miami. All those coaches — along with many others — left their teams before bowl games. And there was hardly a peep about their lack of dedication to their players.

If the bowl system and four-team playoff were to be scrapped, and a 12-or-16-team playoff implemented, players and coaches not showing up for postseason games would be basically a non-issue.

In terms of fair market value for the players, the new NIL (names, images and likenesses) system will definitely help but it’s not the end game. The NCAA’s refusal to allow players to be fairly compensated, based on their market value, has always been a clear antitrust violation. In NCAA v. Alston, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Put simply, this suit involved admitted horizontal price fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control.”

Price fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control.

Gorsuch certainly can be off-base with some of his positions but I think he definitely nailed that one.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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