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
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. He is an expert on K-12 education and believes in the power of physical education to improve academic performance and enhance physical, emotional and behavioral health.
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Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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