By Ken Reed

College football’s barons still can’t figure out how to have a real playoff format.

It’s a classic sports example of ineptitude: 154 years after the first college football game was played, college football fans are stuck with a 4-team invitational tournament whose participants are chosen by a dozen or so suits in a hotel conference room.

It’s shameful that an undefeated Florida State team can’t compete for the national title. FSU is a 13-0 Power Five conference champ with four Top 25 wins.

“I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games. What is the point of playing games?” said Florida State head coach Mike Norvell after learning his 13-0 team had been left out of the playoff field.

Instead of deciding the championship on the field, a group of administrators and glorified fans meet and pick four teams they think are the best in college football. Actually, given the greed that drives big-time college sports, it’s more likely the focus of the selection meeting was on which four teams had the best chance of getting good TV ratings for the sport’s media partners.

The NFL has plenty of flaws but at least they have a playoff system that rewards teams for games won or lost on the playing field. It’s a much more fair system than the college football model.

Next year, college football will move to an actual playoff format with 12 teams. A 16-team play-off would be the most fair and fan-friendly postseason option. That’s the format used at the lower levels of college football.

At the FBS level, a 16-team playoff would mean all of the conference champions from the 10 FBS conferences would get into the playoffs. Then there would be six at-large teams selected. Games would be played at the higher seed until the title game, when a neutral field would be used.

Conference championships would truly mean something with this format. And teams in every conference would have a chance to make the playoffs when the season starts. The football playoffs would truly be a national event and would create excitement similar to the NFL playoffs and the NCAA basketball tournament.

The 12-team playoff that will be implemented next year isn’t as good, or as fair, as a 16-team playoff but it is much better than every system used at the top-level of college football since it’s inception some 150 years ago.

It will finally be a college football postseason worth looking forward to.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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