As the college football season has officially ended this week with a Crimson Tide beatdown of my lowly Ohio State Buckeyes, the question of playoff expansion has been the main topic of the offseason, especially after the abnormal, COVID-19- ridden college football season.
With perennial bluebloods Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and LSU, winning every single College Football Playoff, many fans are calling for an expanded playoff with the hope of an out of the ordinary team hoisting the CFP trophy at the end of the day. Although the expansion of the college football playoffs is based on the intent of getting different teams into the playoff or a more exciting playoff, the economic impacts from this decision are what is fueling this debate.
Questions that are answered in this post (3-minute read)
- What are the Pros of College Football Expansion
- What are the Cons of College Football Expansion?
- Is Expansion Going to Happen?
Pros of College Football Expansion
A hypothetical expansion of the College Football Playoffs would bring a lot of change to the current college football landscape.
Increased chance for different college football champions: With a larger college football playoff, powerhouse schools have to win more ranked matchups to reach the beloved championship. When teams have to play more games, a chance for an upset increases exponentially.
A new source of revenue for playoff schools The current playoff generates a lot of ratings and revenue through fan attendance, apparel, food, and advertisements. Furthermore, the college football system has five main conferences called the Power 5, and another conference called the Group of 5. With the existing college football playoffs, only four teams are guaranteed a spot, so at least two conferences (including the Group of 5) have been left out of the playoffs, and in most years that the college football playoffs has existed, one conference has sent two teams to the playoffs, leaving three other conferences to be left out. This is a boatload of money that is being missed out on by the college football conferences and teams in that conference that doesn’t make it. This is extremely important now because COVID-19 has created huge economic losses for many college football programs across the nations, so with an expanded playoff, all conferences will be included in this key source of revenue.
Includes More Teams: While this may seem rather obvious, it is very important. More teams from all the main conferences will be included. This will allow for a deserving non-Power 5 team to compete for a national championship as well.
Cons of College Football Expansion
Less relevance of regular season: When more teams are getting into the playoffs, the regular season becomes relatively more obsolete. Teams and conferences can just schedule easy or “cake-walk” games because they know they will get in the playoffs if they win their games. (An easy fix to this is to have a conference game minimum, which makes sure that teams are playing enough Power 5 level competition).
The same teams will still win; A larger playoff won’t be interesting until the final rounds: In the current playoff system, teams are on average getting blown out in the first semifinal round. Laine Higgins, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, writes “Since 2015, games in the first round of the College Football Playoff have been decided by an average of 21.3 points, a margin of more than three touchdowns. And while the top seeded team’s semifinal game against the No. 4 seed usually isn’t that close, the margin of victory is larger in the game between the No. 2 and No. 3 teams at 24.5 points”. An expanded playoff will mean that the higher-ranked teams will play lower-ranked teams than they would play in the current playoff structure, so it is likely to expect an even larger blowout in the first few rounds. The same teams will very likely win, it will just require more preliminary games to win the championship.
Is Expansion Going to Happen?
Although there are many specific pros and cons of each playoff structure, the playoff structure is most likely going to expand because of the economic pros of college football expansion. While we could argue which playoff structure is better for college football and competition, the need for revenue and money is going to supersede that, and expansion is very likely to come.
- Many are calling to expand the College Football Playoffs
- Expanding the College Football Playoffs would include more teams, increase chances of a new champion, and creates a huge source of income for college conferences.
- Expanding the College Football Playoffs would also create less relevance and importance for the regular season, and the same teams will still win, but it will require more games for them to win.
- The economic impact of an expanded College Football Playoff is the main reason that expansion is very likely in the near future.