People often criticize a potential college football playoff by pointing to the NCAA basketball tournament each March and pointing out its flaws. Anyone watching the Arizona/Duke beatdown last night undoubtedly saw all the empty seats I did. And TV ratings and excitement for the tournament seem to be their highest at the beginning of the tournament, not the end. This is clearly why a college football playoff would fail, right? Wrong!
March Madness is a truly incredible event, the best in all of sports. But it does have its flaws. Empty seats? This should not be happening. But the game was in Anaheim, and Duke fans may travel well, but they don’t travel that well. Arizona was clearly the majority of the crowd.
This is an easy problem to fix, and the same reason the bowl games don’t all sell out, even the BCS bowls. Just make them home games! A college football playoff works if you just have the higher seeds play at home. This gives a genuinely awesome reason to perform well in the regular season to get a higher seed. Home field advantage is huge in college football.
Imagine if Duke and Arizona had played in North Carolina. More attendance and likely a different result, that’s for sure. Or imagine if they were just in a different bracket and had played in New Orleans! Attendance would have been different and probably the outcome. The location of games is huge.
In a college football playoff, there would only be 16 teams, so you wouldn’t have to worry about multiple brackets and crazy regions and all of that. You just make a bracket of 16 teams and play it through. The site of the game is simply the home field of the higher seeded team in the matchup. Problem solved, sell outs every time, and lots more revenue in the hands of the actual schools instead of fat cat bowl executives.
But what about the lack of excitement? Everyone’s brackets were busted two days into the tournament, so no one cares anymore. This is very true and one thing I dislike about March Madness. If your bracket is doomed, you stop paying attention. That’s why excitement gradually dies down during the tournament. There are less games, less drama, and generally more apathy since the outcome doesn’t affect you.
In a college football playoff, you very simply have 16 teams. That’s 8 games in the first week, 4 games the following week, 2 games in the semi finals and it all culminates in the championship. There are some people that have gotten their entire regional brackets right. It is entirely possible to pick the exact outcome of the college football playoff. So bracketology doesn’t play into the dying excitement over time. It will be extra exciting because each game will count for that much more!
Imagine if we went to the Sweet Sixteen and everybody’s bracket was 100% accurate. People would be a whole lot more engaged, wouldn’t they? That’s why a college football playoff would be a lot more exciting. On top of that, the games would be Saturdays and the first round on Friday nights also. That means much better attendance and TV ratings as well.
The one thing I would keep would be a neutral site championship game. This can rotate between a bunch of bowl locations, but I think that is a really nice tradition. It also makes the championship game seem fair for some reason. I never liked how the MLB, NHL and NBA always have home advantages in the championship series. It just seems unfair to give that big of an advantage to someone, especially in the arbitrary way the MLB does it. Neutral site championship game would be best for college football.
I realize the thing people love most about March Madness is the chaos. Don’t be concerned. With every conference champion participating, there will always be a cinderella or two. That is what makes things interesting. Now we don’t quite have the parity in college football that we see in college basketball just yet. Not even close. Let’s be honest, the teams in the Sun Belt just don’t compare to the SEC.
But if you are going to have them all in the same league, then you have to make them all play each other in a true tournament to see who comes out on top. A college football playoff would really take all the best things about March Madness and fix the small problems to make the best playoff we could ask for.