DAN BICKLEY

College Football Playoff expansion could be a cure-all for the sport

Dec 7, 2023, 2:45 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm

The Florida State Seminoles...

The Florida State Seminoles celebrate after defeating the Louisville Cardinals 16-6 during the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 2, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

College football is a festering mess. No one is accountable. No one is in charge. Leadership by greed has effectively killed one of the greatest athletic conferences in history. The sport has rarely seemed so misguided.

At this time next year, college football will be the second most popular sport in America.

If you thought a pitch clock was a boon for Major League Baseball, imagine what a 12-team playoff will do for a sport that has underachieved for decades. Prediction: The expanded playoff will be the panacea that cures all. And there’s a lot to cure.

To wit:

College football fails its most basic tenet. Universities exist to educate young professionals and prepare students for the outside world. Except the brand of football played on campuses across America is nothing at all like the professional workplace, and college football does a pitiful job of preparing its most valuable assets.

Too many quarterbacks arrive in the NFL without proper technique and footwork. The transfer portal has turned every recruit into a transaction. Long-term player development has surrendered to pure commerce. It teaches the worst of lessons.

If things are going bad, leave. If things are going OK, look around for better options. If things are going great, follow the money and cash in someplace else. It is a sport full of mercenaries, where there is loyalty only to one’s state of wellness.

Finally, the very best players at the top of every NFL draft are, by definition, selected and placed on the very worst and sometimes most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL.

The best law students at Georgetown don’t end up in the worst legal firms. The sharpest minds at MIT are recruited by Boeing and Apple, not drafted by family-owned businesses. It’s nonsensical and counterintuitive.

But an expanded playoff is going to resuscitate college football. It won’t wipe out the oligarchies that rule the sport at the moment. It might not prevent a two-conference NFL feeder system otherwise known as ESPN versus Fox. But it will create narratives and underdogs and Cinderella stories and postseason heroes. The playoffs will become a real journey with real engagement and real meritocracy, not just a four-team, three-game invitational determined by a gutless committee.

The sport will begin to feel bigger and more connected. Less regional, and more national. The sport will come alive before our eyes, finally capitalizing on all the inherent advantages college football has squandered for decades, from pageantry to rivalries to fight songs to wacky mascots.

After all, an expanded postseason adheres and pays homage to the golden rule of pigskin:

If you’re looking for something to fix the sport of football, the answer is always more football.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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College Football Playoff expansion could be a cure-all for the sport