A couple of years ago, prior to the formation of the College Football Playoff, Bobby Bowden enthusiastically stated that he would be willing to serve on a hypothetical committee that would hypothetically determine the hypothetical playoff participants.
“I would be willing to serve on it,” the Florida State coaching legend said in June of 2012. “I think ex-coaches have a lot of wisdom. I watch the games. And I watch the game films on my iPad.”
Fast-forward 26 months. The CFP is entering its first season, replete with a 13-member committee that will select the four playoff teams at season’s end. Bowden, though, is not a part of it. In fact, there are just three former FBS head coaches (Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Whittingham) who will serve on the committee.
Coincidentally enough or not, Bowden is now voicing fear and trepidation over the playoff system as it’s currently constituted.
“I always thought they got one and two right. Really people don’t care about three and four,” Bowden said while attending the kickoff luncheon in Akron, where his son, Terry Bowden, is the Zips head coach. “It’s going to give more teams an opportunity to play for the national championship, but I like it the way it was. I’m not sure it’s going to work. Maybe it will turn out better. …
“Now No. 5 is really upset. No. 5 says we should have been in that dadgum top four. That’s what three said. You get the same debate going on down the line.”
(Writer’s note: I’ve said it before and I’ll continuing beating it into the ground for as long as it takes: it’s progress that we will be arguing over the Nos. 4 and 5 teams instead of the Nos. 2 and 3. Just like it’ll be progress when — not if — the field is expanded to eight teams and we’re arguing over Nos. 8 and 9 and not Nos. 4 and 5.)
Bowden also expressed concern over access for the Non-Power Five conferences — the AAC, Conference USA, MAC (his son’s current conference), MWC and Sun Belt.
“I don’t like that. I liked it where Boise State had a chance, where smaller schools have a chance.” Bowden said. “Now they’re just [favoring] the rich people, the schools that have it all.”
OK, two things Coach Bowden.
One, no Non-Power Five school ever played for the BCS championship, so there’ll be no difference under the new system if it never happens. Two, with the CFP, the highest-ranked Non-Power Five team is guaranteed a spot in a marquee — think old BCS — bowl game. That was not the case under the old system. In fact, during the 16 years of the old system, just seven Non-Power Five teams qualified for a BCS bowl berth. And those came in six seasons (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 (2), 2010, 2012). By the end of the 2021 season, more Non-Power Five teams will have played in CFP bowls in eight years than did in the entire 16-year history of the BCS.
Additionally, the Non-Power Five conferences will receive five times as much in revenue from the CFP than they did from the BCS.
In other words, the financial benefits and access are much greater and better, respectively, in a new vs. old comparison. Yes, it’s not a level playing field; thing is, it never was in the past, won’t be in the present and never will be in the future.
That said, a team like Boise State stands a better chance of winning a national championship now than under the BCS, if for nothing more than the fact that there are four slots open now on the road to a title instead of just two. Bump that field to eight and the little guys can once again be a yearly factor.
The CFP is far from perfect, but it’s a far piece better than the BCS.