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 #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
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.
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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