College football’s postseason could be in for a very radical — and much-needed — shakeup in the coming years.
There’s already growing chatter and mounting momentum for a so-called “plus-one” model — essentially a four-team playoff — to decide future Div. 1-A football champions. Hell, there’s even laughable talk of a 64-team playoff that has zero chance of ever being seriously considered, let alone implemented. Now, thankfully, there appears to be some sanity entering the postseason discussion — reducing the number of bowl games surrounding the rumored mini-playoff.
Citing unnamed college football sources, Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com writes that “there’s ‘strong support’ to increase bowl eligibility to [seven] wins in 2014.” Currently, teams need just six wins to become bowl eligible.
In 2011, there were a record 35 bowls played following the season; of the 70 participants, 14 entered their games with the minimum six wins. At least as far as last season was concerned, the Big Ten and SEC would have been affected the most by a change in how bowl eligibility is determined, with the former getting four six-win teams — Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue — into bowls while the latter landed three — Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
If the seven-win threshold had been in place last season, 57 teams — Western Kentucky won seven games but didn’t receive a bowl bid — would have qualified for the postseason. You don’t have to be Norman Einstein to figure out the math wouldn’t have worked in such a scenario — the bowls would’ve been 13 teams shy of filling their available spots. That would mean, of course, that the number of bowls will likely decrease if the seven-win target is implemented; McMurphy was told that between five-12 bowls would be lopped off the slate, although he acknowledged on Twitter that it would likely be less than a dozen.
2011 wasn’t an aberration, either, as there were 56 teams with seven wins heading into the 2010-2011 bowl season, and 60 going into the 2009-2010 postseason. If the average of 57.6 seven-win teams the past three years portends a reliable future trend, that would mean at least seven bowl games currently in existence would have to go away to ensure there would be enough teams qualified, leaving, at most, 28 postseason games.
Which seven (or more) would find themselves on the outside of the postseason looking in? That would be determined by the Football Bowl Association, university presidents and the NCAA. McMurphy notes the FBA will meet in Miami this coming April, where the issue of bowl contraction is expected to be discussed.
“The 7-5 discussion is percolating,” a bowl official said. “I don’t know of many athletic directors or conference commissioners who think a 6-6 team has earned a bowl berth.”
One major hurdle in eliminating bowls could be ESPN, which owns and operates seven bowl games as well as televising the vast majority of the others. How the network would be convinced to rid itself of programming remains to be seen.
Additionally, coaches might buck at having bowls eliminated, thus eliminating valuable practice time the staff receives with returning players. McMurphy writes “could easily be solved by allowing every team to participate in the same number of December practices whether it goes to a bowl or not.”