An Anti-Playoff Argument Debunked and Refuted

I’ve got to say thanks to a reader named Ike for this one. He found a fabulously idiotic anti-playoff column that was posted at the Aiken Standard. (Read the stupidity in its entirety here.) Anyway, this one was so outrageous it just had to be addressed. I know what you’re thinking, what could be better than the fun and frivolity argument? Oh, we’ll see. I’ll put excerpts from the argument made by Butch Henry in italics and then destroy them. Enjoy!

As more individuals undereducated in the conduct of intercollegiate athletics pine for a Division I college football playoff, I tell these folks, ‘you don’t have a clue what you are talking about.’

That’s right Butch, because you obviously do. Forgive me for not taking the advice of someone who “retired in Aiken following a 35-year career as a collegiate athletics administrator, including service as a Division I Athletics Director. He currently is an instructor in the master’s program in Sport Management at the University of Alabama.” Hmmm…a former athletics director…you know, the ones who benefit most from the current system. Why? GUARANTEED REVENUE. Why would anyone with guaranteed money want to change the system? Exactly, think of who is writing this to us “undereducated” folks.

How much interest would there be in that first round game between Troy and Alabama and likewise, the 2-15 pairing of Central Michigan and Texas? That means only five at-large teams would be picked. Most likely, Clemson would be omitted, as well as Penn State. Are the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten conferences going to agree to a playoff that limits their post-season options?

Well, my guess is about as much interest as Alabama playing Chattanooga last year. That would be 92,012, the same number of people who showed up to watch Alabama play LSU and Tennessee at home. No interest? Get your head out of your butt. People show up to watch their team. Period. Oh cry me a river, so Clemson and Penn State might not make the playoff every year. DEAL WITH IT! That’s how sports work. You don’t say we can’t have a playoff because the conferences with all the revenue and power now don’t want it because they don’t want to share the power and revenue. MAKE THEM! It’s pretty simple.

Folks point to Divisions I-AA, II and III that have playoffs that crown a champion. The quip is “It works in these divisions, it will work in Division I-A.”

Actually, it doesn’t work. Those playoffs lose money and must be supported by surplus revenues from the Final Four. When Appalachian State played at Montana last month, only a handful of App. State fans made the trek to Missoula, Mont. Similarly, playoff games would have to be played on college campus sites to ensure a crowd for rounds one through three.

Actually, it does work, you just have to have an IQ higher than your GPA to figure it out. Let’s see…all other divisions manage to fit in a playoff, the players manage to play the games, they don’t miss school…seems like it works to me! Oh wait, they lose money…what on earth can be done about that? Oh fantastic job Butch, you gave us the solution- play the first rounds at home! That sounds eerily familiar, like another college football playoff proposal maybe? I’ve been saying it forever already, play the first rounds at the higher seed’s stadium. And don’t worry about attendance Butch, if Alabama can sell out a home game against Chattanooga I don’t think they would have any trouble filling the stadium when any team came rolling in for a first round playoff matchup.

College presidents have long railed against the idea of Division I-A playoffs. They realize that playoffs in December would disrupt the exam process. With the fervent student bodies at the highest level of college football, they realize the larger student bodies would be adversely effected by travel and interruptions.

This coming immediately after you admitted that other divisions of college football have implemented a playoff and manage to do so not at the expense of academics? Oh wait, he’s saying bigger universities can’t do the same thing because they are harder. Has this guy been to college in the last 50 years? Ask any college kid, especially the athletes, what they think of the exam process and how seriously they take it. Get a grip on reality Butch.

If Georgia Tech was playing a second round game at Oregon, would the Jacket fans make the cross country trip on a week’s notice or wait to see if the team won and would be playing closer to home next week?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? C’mon Butch, the game is at Oregon, no one gives a rip if the Georgia Tech fans show up anyway, the Oregon fans will fill the stadium anyway!

Also, the average size of players in Divisions I-AA, II and III are far less than those in Division I-A. Their recovery time is far quicker than the size and strength of players in the largest class. Alabama has already played 13 games. What would be left of its team to play four more games over the next four weeks? In October, Bama played five consecutive weeks against teams that qualified for bowl games. The last game in that stretch resulted in a 12-10 squeaker against a rested but lesser Tennessee team.

The size of players?!?!? THE SIZE OF PLAYERS?!?!?!?!?!? Now I have heard it all. Now we have to protect the players and their precious recovery times. Earth to Butch Henry, come in Butch Henry: NFL PLAYERS ARE MASSIVE! How on earth do they manage to keep a playoff and Super Bowl going in that league? I mean, think of the recovery times! Somehow I think the Alabama team would manage to survive the few extra games somehow. And don’t forget, after one week off after Tennessee, Alabama beat up the #9 team, LSU, 24-15. Are you saying they almost lost to Tennessee because the players were too big and didn’t have enough recover time? Well, you’ll be pleased to know in my playoff proposal they get two weeks off after round two, plenty of recovery time for those large players.

The suggestion has been made that the bowl system be utilized with the early round games being played at the Gator, Liberty, Sugar and Cotton, with semifinals at the Orange and Fiesta and final at the Rose. Again, crowd support is a problem.

The Sugar Bowl provides each team 17,500 tickets to sell to fans and students. How many teams would sell 17,500 tickets on a Monday after a victory for a game the following Saturday 10 hours away?

Thanks for backing me up on that one Butch. Like I said, bowls should be left alone and played in the two weeks they already are played right now. The playoff takes a break during those two weeks. The Final Four and Championship game get played at one bowl site which rotates each year, just like in basketball. Attendance would definitely not be a problem.

What is a bowl game, anyway? It is a reward for a team that has had a successful season… the teams resume practice at their campus for about a week while everyone else has gone home for Christmas. The players are released for a day or two and then are given the option of returning to campus and flying to the bowl site on the team charter, or they can receive mileage and drive to the site themselves.

The players are given money for meals during the time they practice after finals when their scholarship money stops, and if four players pile into a single car and each gets mileage, that is a hefty check.

If teams were involved in a playoff, the vast majority of them would be eliminated before finals were completed, and no coach would allow players to drive on their own in a playoff scenario. So, those hefty checks players have become accustomed to would be long gone.

The NCAA gives all players in postseason competition in other sports a watch. The championship teams get a ring All bowls give every player a $300 bag of gifts, and teams are allowed to supplement with another $300 bag of gifts.

So, let’s see. If there is a playoff, a player slugs it out for four more weeks, gets no $600 souvenirs, wearables and gifts and doesn’t get approximately $700 for food and mileage. Also, his parents, friends and girlfriend will go to the bowl game. Few parents can make four consecutive trips across the country in December.

Similarly, teams spend five to seven days at the bowl site prior to the game. Practice and meetings take up half the day, and players are free to go to the beach or hit the tourist spots/social gatherings up until a day or so before the game. Then, the coaches put in place the normal game procedures.

If there is a playoff, the players know the coaches will fly the team to the game site on Friday, play the game on Saturday and fly home immediately afterwards. Also, almost all bowls donate a portion of the local profits to area charity. There is no charity when the NCAA takes over. There is no incentive for a locality to support the local playing of a game other than tourism.

Wow, wow and wow again. No more wearables? No more hefty checks? No beaches or tourist spots or social gatherings? Think about the charity! This hardly deserves a response. People, these are the folks we are going up against who are preventing a playoff. They think players value souvenirs and some petty cash more than a chance to legitimately win a championship. These are delusional morons who are far removed from reality. These paragraphs prove it. And again, no worries about a locality supporting a playoff game, home games for all until the Final Four. Then I’m sure there will be no shortage of localities willing to sacrifice their charitable donations to host that event.

Periodically, the NCAA has surveyed the senior student-athletes to see if they want a playoff. In each instance, the response has been about 80 percent opposed. I asked a starting football player at Alabama in September if he wanted a playoff, and he replied, “I would give up the reward we get for a good season to play four more weeks of high pressure, physical work. No thanks.”

We don’t…sniffle…want a hard…sniffle sniffle…playoff….it’s too hard! Oh cry me a river, a college football player backing down from physical work and high pressure? Umm…can I see the methodology of this apparently scientific NCAA survey? I would love to know how that survey goes down…if it does at all.

Bowl games have a great following on television. This past year, the Alamo Bowl between Missouri and Northwestern had higher ratings on ESPN than Duke-North Carolina basketball. However, all bowl television contracts contain a clause that cancels the contract if there is a football playoff.

Great, so if meaningless bowl games get high ratings, then consequential playoff games, even between two lesser known teams, should generate even higher ratings, right? Oh boo hoo, your tv contract got canceled…if these supposedly high ratings exist, wouldn’t networks be lining up to get any one of them?

In short, the idea that the bowl system could be utilized as the early round playoff is pure fantasy. There will be no bowls if a playoff system is initiated. Only 16 teams would play postseason. Do you think the Southeastern Conference, which has 10 teams playing in bowl games this year, will support for one second a system in which only two or three teams go to playoffs? How many coaches get fired for not making the playoffs when just two or three get to play? We have more than 60 teams going to bowl games this year. No one will agree to a system that only 16 get to go.

Easily refuted- just play the bowl games and playoffs separate from each other. Simple solution. First two weeks of December are the first two rounds of the playoff. Next 10-14 days are for bowl games. After all bowl games, the playoff semis and final go down. Easy as that.

And of course what it always comes down to- money. So the SEC loses 10 bowl games. Think of this- how much revenue does an SEC team share with their bowl opponent? I might venture a guess at half. How much money does a home team make for any given game? More than half maybe? So if SEC teams were ranked 1 and 4 like what would have probably happened this year, and assume they win the first two rounds, that is 4 home games for SEC teams. Quite a chunk of change. Throw in the other random bowl games in mid December and you have oodles more revenue than 10 lame games.

There is a too much at stake to let some senator who votes on a bill he has never seen or some newspaper publisher who has never seriously considered Division I-A football to make a knowledgeable decision about the greatest game in America.

But there isn’t enough at stake to stop some retired administrator turned instructor from deciding the rest of us are all “undereducated” and can’t figure out how to make a playoff work with a bowl system.