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Dan Bickley

College football needs to temporarily expand playoffs to 8 teams

Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers looks to throw a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Sometimes, you need to make your own rules. Especially if you’re a sporting empire chasing lost money inside a pandemic.

Like college football.

To combat the chaos and anarchy swallowing the sport, the College Football Playoff should announce an expanded playoff field. One-time only. While supplies last.

Eight playoff teams. One representative from each of the Power 5 conferences. One from the Independent schools and underdog conferences. Two at-large berths for teams that stay healthy enough to play eight or more games.

The monetary payout will easily double, guaranteeing a Pac-12 payday that will reach beyond its gravy-sucking pig of a commissioner. It will motivate and level the playing field for everyone. The format could grip the nation.

By trade, college football is a distinctly regional sport. It’s full of differing dialects, diehards and contrasting worldviews. In 2020, the divisions are even more profound. Battle lines are drawn everywhere, from the political to the philosophical

I recently stumbled upon a viral video that spoofed the Power 5 by assigning human stereotypes to each of the conferences. The Big Ten was portrayed as a high-maintenance girlfriend who always shows up smug and late and a bit overweight. The Pac-12 was the dork boyfriend who barely knew how to grip the laces.

Imagine putting all of these biases and events spawned from a pandemic inside an eight-team playoff field.

To wit:

The SEC is often explained by its zealotry, by the parallels between football and religion, and the blade of grass that separates the two. The conference is built on communities without perspective or NFL franchises, relying on kid athletes and college teams for their self-esteem and identity. And yet the SEC has charted the strongest, smartest COVID-19 course to date.

The ACC and Big East only get credit for betting on the right horse. So far.

The Big Ten is portrayed as the conference that caved from parental pressure, player pressure and political pressure, from forces that extended all the way to the White House. A conference that couldn’t waste an Ohio State team potentially better than anything Urban Meyer ever put on the field.

The Pac-12 is the outlier. The ugly duckling. The dunce in a corner. Stuck with a nest-feathering commissioner, and the first to bail a sinking conference ship; stuck with a few schools that want to stand above the high-stakes profit margin of college football, an uncomfortable place where the boosters, the corruption and the bills are hard to swallow.

Sometimes, I think ASU would rather be grouped with the academic-elite minority (Stanford, Cal and UCLA) and not the ones seeking real gridiron glory (USC, Washington, Utah and Colorado).

That’s why an expanded College Football Playoff is the answer.

At least temporarily.

Let every conference sort through their conscience and their COVID-19 tests, offering up a single champion. That team will be put into the soup, one that will crown a one-time champion worthy of these perfectly-awful times.

Just remember, we are not chained to convention in times of weirdness and desperation. Nothing is impossible inside a pandemic.

Major League Baseball shortened the regular season by 37 percent while increasing the amount of playoff teams. The NFL added two extra postseason participants, eliminating one first-round bye in each conference. The NHL unveiled a 24-team playoff field, resuscitating and gifting fringe teams like the Coyotes.

College football needs to reward everyone who dares to play football in 2020. It’s the only way to save the Pac-12 from itself.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier