Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith has plenty of reasons to offer praise for the new College Football Playoff. His football program wiggled into the four-team playoff last season after nudging past and pulling away from Big 12 contenders Baylor and TCU, and then the Buckeyes took advantage of the opportunity by defeating SEC champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Pac-12 champion Oregon in the first College Football Playoff national championship game. Naturally, Smith thinks the playoff worked out well, and he would prefer to keep it as it is moving forward.
Smith’s primary concern about potential expansion to the College Football Playoff appears to be the health of the players. A championship contender is already set to play 14 to 15 games in a single season (12 regular season games, conference championship game if applicable, one semifinal game and national championship game), and expanding to the length of an NFL season at this level is not something Smith feels would be a good idea.
“Could they (play one)? Sure,” Smith said Tuesday at the Big Ten spring meetings (He also said he expects Braxton Miller to stay at Ohio State in 2015). “Would we have had significant injuries? No doubt. We had a nice gap between the Big Ten championship game and the Sugar Bowl. But we still had guys recovering from playing the gauntlet of the regular season.”
The health and safety of the players has been a big topic in recent years, so it comes as no surprise there might be some hesitation to expand the postseason by at least one more round because of it. Remember, the players are not paid to play (beyond the value of a scholarship), and schools are preparing to offer more in total cost of attendance packages and more through the age of autonomy.
The College Football Playoff cooked up some massive TV numbers and the revenue generated from it was nice as well. You would think there would be some financial incentive to expand the playoff field by one more round, and the calls for expansion are already firing up (they were growing before the completion of one year of the new system), but the company line coming from the College Football Playoff is it remains committed to a four-team format for the duration of the current contract (so 11 more years of four-team playoffs).
The playoff is very likely to expand at one point. It is more a question of “When,” not “If.”