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A college football playoff system? Forget it

By Terence Moore, Special to CNN
updated 9:37 AM EST, Mon January 2, 2012
Coach Tom O'Brien of the North Carolina State Wolfpack gets doused after the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday.
Coach Tom O'Brien of the North Carolina State Wolfpack gets doused after the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A playoff system for college football would be a big mistake, says Terence Moore
  • For one thing, student-athletes would have even less time for studying, he says
  • Moore: Where would you play the games? And how would participants be chosen?
  • Home attendance in the playoffs for teams at lower levels is frequently low, Moore says

Editor's note: Terence Moore is a sports columnist of more than three decades. He has worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer, the San Francisco Examiner, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AOL Sports. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- When it comes to the horror of bringing a playoff system to the big boys of college football, there are several things for members of the Knee-Jerk Society of America to think about.

The problem is, they don't wish to think. They prefer emotion.

Mostly, they fume over the current system that chooses a national champion through a combination of polls and computers with the so-called Bowl Championship Series. They say a playoff system is the best way to determine a champion on the field, and they are correct. But only if you ignore things you have to ... think about.

For instance: Name those screaming the loudest about a playoff system for the Alabamas, the Ohio States and the Southern Californias.

Schedule of 2011-12 college bowl games

The fans? Yep, because they are, well, fans.

The coaches? Uh-huh. In their minds, a playoff system gives them the chance to add millions to their millions.

The media? Definitely. They have airwaves, cyberspace and newsprint to fill, and if you're ESPN or the networks, a playoff system gives you the chance to add billions to your billions.

Terence Moore
Terence Moore

Guess who gets ignored? The players.

Pro players get paid for their sacrifices regarding extra games, but college players don't. And that's just for starters.

Consider that every team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) has about 120 players. On the high side, an average of five or six of those players make NFL training-camp rosters. Of the nearly 110 left, maybe 40 believe they should have made an NFL training-camp roster. So, a large portion of that 40 joins those five or six in spending more time studying playbooks than textbooks.

That leaves roughly 70 student-athletes on a team each season doing whatever it takes to get a degree -- and it takes a lot for that group, even without an extra game or three.

Just one extra game means a slew of more practices, film sessions and team meetings for those student-athletes.

"A playoff system certainly would have its challenges, and it's already a challenge now," said Roddy Jones, a four-year starter at running back for Georgia Tech. He is a three-time Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference player, and he has earned his undergraduate degree in management along the way to seeking an MBA.

Not only that, Jones is part of an advisory council involving Georgia Tech athletes and administrators. He said an average day for a football student-athlete can start as early as 6:30 a.m., stretch through the end of a tutoring session at 9 p.m. and continue with more studying at the dormitory.

"Time management is the biggest thing," Jones said. "People just see the games on Saturdays, but we're practicing Monday through Friday, and we have classes every day as well. A traditional student has the weekend to get a project done. We don't have that liberty, because we're in a hotel on Fridays, getting ready for the games. It can be a mental grind."

And that's without a playoff system.

That's also coming from Jones, among the elite of student-athletes, who added, "A lot of those games with playoffs would come during finals weeks or at other times that are very stressful for any student, particularly for a student-athlete."

OK, so you couldn't care less whether Johnny can read or write. You just want to know whether Johnny can punt, pass or kick.

Tell me this: A playoff system would have how many games, and who's to say it wouldn't keep expanding before expanding some more? While several athletics directors want a "plus one" approach featuring a championship game after the 35 bowl games, others want two semifinal games and then a championship game.

President Obama wants eight teams playing three rounds.

Washington State coach Mike Leach wants 64 teams.

No doubt, others wouldn't mind putting all of the Football Bowl Subdivision's 120 teams in the postseason.

Where would you play these games? The site of current bowl games, you say, or maybe NFL stadiums, neutral sites or various places on the dark side of the moon? How many -- if any -- of these locations would be available?

If you use bowls, which ones? And since the bulk of the TV and advertising revenue would flow to playoff games, what would happen financially to the bulk of the bowls without playoff games?

How would you choose the participants for a playoff system, and wouldn't that create more controversy?

I know. They have a playoff system in college basketball called March Madness, but here's something else I know: The academic status of participating dribblers often has been a disaster. In fact, if the new academic rules that the NCAA adopted this fall were in place last spring, Connecticut wouldn't be allowed to defend its national championship.

Connecticut barely would have made the tournament.

I also know they have a playoff system for the lower levels of college football. The one for the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) began November 26, and it will end with the championship game January 7.

Here's something else I know: The last NCAA report on the financial status of its schools at the highest level was for the 2009-10 season, and it showed that only 22 out of those 120 athletics departments turned a profit. Which raises the question: How many football programs for those schools would agree to lose revenue by slicing regular-season games to keep a playoff system from lasting until Valentine's Day?

Zero.

Oh, and home attendance in the playoffs for teams at those lower levels is frequently lower than their regular-season games. Such was the case last season for traditional FCS powers Delaware and Appalachian State, and such is the case this year for North Dakota State, according to its sports information department.

I say that because Georgia fans dominated the Georgia Dome this month for the Southeastern Conference title game. Their LSU counterparts were sparse. Word back in Baton Rouge was that LSU fans were saving their money for the Bowl Championship Series title game next week in New Orleans between LSU and Alabama.

Which raises another question: How many folks would travel multiple times to see their team during a playoff system involving the big boys?

The answer?

Just leave the current system alone.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Terence Moore.

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