Those into expanding the College Football Playoff ignore this HUGE thing
In case you missed it, Brian Kelly did the inevitable over the weekend during his press conference at the University of Notre Dame. He became the latest coach to suggest (OK, urge, or should I say beg or plead?) for the expansion of the College Football Playoff.
Anything uttered along these lines by coaches or athletic department officials doesn’t count. When it happens, you should plug your ears and covers your eyes. Mostly, you should sprint in the opposite direction until you find somebody who can put this whole thing into perspective.
You can stop sprinting now.
I mean, of course Kelly wants more than four playoff teams. His No. 3-ranked Notre Dame (12-0) squad reached the CFP this season, but as an independent, the Fighting Irish can't do anything less than go undefeated every year to have at least a chance of making the Final Four over a conference champion. After he told reporters Saturday there is an "appetite" for expanding the CFP, this recently crowned AP Coach of the Year joined Air Force head man Troy Calhoun in calling for eight teams.
North Carolina coach Mack Brown once suggested 10 playoff teams, but he mentioned the other day he would settle for six, you know, the same number proposed by Barry Alvarez, the current Wisconsin athletics director and former head coach of the Badgers.
There also is the eternal wishes of Washington State coach Mike Leach for 64 teams, which dates back to his time at Texas Tech, and I'm sure neither Leach nor many of his peers would object to having all 130 members of the Football Bowl Subdivision in an ever-expanding playoff system.
If you haven guessed by now, the motive of everybody I've mentioned so far matches that of the majority of their peers, both past and present: It's called self-preservation. The more teams you have reaching the playoffs for the big boys of college football, the more opportunities coaches and athletic department officials have to solidify their job status or even to manage a raise.
Did I say coaches and athletics department folks don't count in this discussion?
The same goes for fans. They'll always vote to watch more football, and if a slew of playoff games gives their favorite college program a better chance to make a run at a national championship, well, you know the rest. The media also doesn't count. Big-time football increases readership and viewership. So if you're a network with an opportunity to show an expanded playoff system among the major colleges, you'll hug those who view anything less than, say, a 12-team CFP as evil.
Coaches. Administrators. Fans. Media.
Since none of those folks don't count, let's move to those who do, along with a huge thing.
Nobody talks to the players . . . except for me.
I've spoken to several of them through the years about the ramifications of playoff games overall at college football's highest level, and Roddy Jones was my favorite. He's an ESPN sideline reporter these days for the sport, but he was a star running back for Georgia Tech during our chat six years ago.
"A playoff system certainly would have its challenges, and it's already a challenge now," Jones told me back then, when the CFP was two years away from starting. In addition to his accomplishments on the field, he was an Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference player who earned his degree in management. He recalled how an average day for a Georgia Tech football student-athlete back started at 6 a.m., stretched through tutoring sessions at 9 p.m. and continued with individual studying before a late bedtime.
"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 game. It can be a mental grind."
When you add more games to the mix for these student-athletes through a playoff system, a messy situation becomes outrageous.
And don't laugh . . . There really are student-athletes.
On a given roster of a Power Five Conference school, maybe four or five out the 120 or so players get invited to an NFL training camp during a given year. Another 40 think they have a shot when they don't. That leaves the rest, and they join the others in preparing for playoff games both mentally and physically as if they're NFL players, when they aren't anything close. College players don't train all year like pros for the grind of a postseason run, and scholarships aside, college players don't get paid like the pros.
That said, the CFP will expand, and then it will expand some more. Who knows? Leach might even get his wish sooner rather than later about 64 playoff teams. But here's the question: By the time the championship game takes place around Easter under that scenario, will the equally likely expanded Final Four move back to Independence Day?