Expanding the College Football Playoff for this season – or forever – is a terrible idea for more than two reasons, but only two matter.
There are many points made by expansion advocates that make a little bit of sense, but pale in comparison to the two that tilt the scales in favor of the status quo of limiting participation to the four teams deemed worthy by the selection committee.
Here they are:
Money – Expanding the field to eight teams would not expand profitability. It would marginalize the importance of the conference championship games as programs would be able to lose in a conference championship and still qualify. That can happen now, but it’s not guaranteed for any that go undefeated into the conference championship as it would be with expansion.
Expansion would also allow programs like Central Florida into the fracas, and no one watches that team with interest. If somehow a Central Florida made it into the National Championship game, TV ratings would crater. For a championship game involving a combination of two teams from a field of Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, and Oregon (the only programs to make it to the final game in the history of the current format), ratings and money pour in. A final of Central Florida and Boise State? It would owe viewers to Nielsen ratings.
Inclusivity already exists – Every Power Five team has a shot at a spot in the four-team format. Go undefeated and win the conference championship, you are in. Lose once and win your conference championship game, you are probably in (only the 2018 Ohio State team failed to earn a spot while satisfying that criteria). Lose twice, you are out. That’s fair. Inviting more teams is unnecessary as conference championship games are already a de facto play-in game for a spot in the field for the SEC, Big 10, ACC, and Big 12 (now that they have a championship game). The Pac-12 rarely has a team in the top four, so why worry about them?
Expanding the field of the College Football Playoff is a solution in search of a problem. Eventually, expansion will happen because administrators are rarely smart enough to avoid the ‘bigger is better’ trap. But it won’t be the right thing to do, and when the event loses momentum as a result, no one will admit the problem because they would then have to own it. One absolute truism about administrators is that they would rather bathe in scalding oil than admit being the cause of a problem.