Make no mistake, the NCAA is multi-billion dollar franchise of Capitalism.
While this observation is not earth shattering, the reality coalesces with the dreams and perception of fandom in the wake of Thanksgiving and always creates an abundance of confusion. Not surprisingly, the college football rankings are the resounding face of blame as the facilitator of an illogical system in painstakingly evaluating the body of work of all 129 FBS teams and determining a hierarchy. The rankings are made by a committee of selected individuals, who are each given a set of specific criteria and instructions in compiling a ballot which will ultimately determine the four spots that makeup the playoffs. As, the claim by athletic departments and fan bases to be included in the final four swells to double the amount of slots available, the ceaseless energy spent on debate and conversation, dominates the sporting news cycle and is an indication of system which is fundamentally flawed.
Of course, the NCAA board of directors and the television networks realize the universal truth that it’s not always wise to select the best teams, but rather the teams who fit the system best in generating an abundance of revenue. As in the Yankees, Lakers and Cowboys of the professional sporting ranks, college football is dominated by brand names fueled by a century of prevalence and influential alums. The Notre Dame’s, Alabama’s, and Ohio State’s of the world, will always have the ingrained advantage in gaining an invitation to the playoffs, over the non-traditional powers, and this has been the blatant theme of why the current framework is failing in giving fans the best possible viewing experience. While, it is easy to appease to the majority with known quantities, the overall integrity of the game is being compromised by the fact that the television networks and internet portals ultimately dictate the landscape of the championship game, and the importance of competitive balance is left on the back burner.
While all champions are not created equal is a key component to economic Capitalism, when the best teams are left home and are awarded a consolation prize which is not acceptable for a brilliant body of work on the field, the shortcomings of convoluted and contrived tournament are readily apparent. The key to saving the future of the sport is in expanding the championship field to 16 teams, without inundating student athletes or overburdening an already full regular season schedule. This would wipe out the current popularity contest and daunting amount of subjectivity placed on the collective shoulder of the underqualified selection committee.
As the television networks constantly dream of a Alabama versus Notre Dame final, the only way to avert a nightmare is to force the hand of the talking heads, by having teams earn a right to the limelight on the field and not through reputation. It works in basketball, baseball and in all other divisions of football and it is time to end the insanity and antiquated stubbornness perpetuated by a lack of innovation or foresight. Or the system can continue to stagnate and alienate supporters and season ticket holders.