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UGA Wants a Playoff

2008 January 8
by Skip Sauer

The Georgia Bulldogs were the hottest team in college football at the end of the season this year, and will finish second in the AP poll behind LSU. Perhaps they could have done better in a playoff system. Certainly, the BCS process led to a series of weird match-ups in the bowls, with teams like Missouri, Southern Cal, and Georgia — all strong teams with great resumes — paired against relatively weak opponents. Things would have been much different in a playoff system, probably to Georgia’s benefit. Which may explain this open letter from Georgia President Michael Adams to NCAA President Myles Brand:

In recent years … I have become increasingly troubled about the commercial influence of how the college football season is played out, particularly with the post season bowls. The television networks … have grown too powerful in deciding who plays and when they play, and indeed, whom they hire to coach. The BCS has become a beauty contest largely stage-managed by the networks….

Colleges need to regain ownership of their football teams…. reorienting the national football championship is an important step in managing a model that benefits students, institutions, and our constituents.

Adams is proposing an NCAA-managed 8-team tournament that begins with the New Years Day bowls, to be accompanied by a return to an 11 game season. Adams is the chair of the NCAA executive committee, so this proposal – and the money that will flow from it – carries some weight. Here is Adams’ letter to Brand, and a similar statement of the issue.

Adams’ take changes my view of this issue – (I’m an advocate of league championships as being the focal point rather than playoffs, but the reality is that we will have some form of playoff, so I’ve been baying at the moon…). Moreover, the salaries paid to the bowl directors — $490,000 for the Outback Bowl!!! — suggest that the colleges are leaving money on the table in a system which is fraught with conflicting interests. While history provides many episodes that make one skeptical of NCAA coordination, there is clearly scope for improvement on the current setup. Let the negotiations begin!

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