You know what college football needs? A good revolt.
Bringing equity to the game is decades overdue and that will happen only with drastic measures.
It’s time for the so-called Group of 5 conferences to declare war on the Power 5 conferences.
Let’s face it: There is no sport on the planet that is more systemically unfair than college football, a competition in which half the teams are virtually eliminated from competing for the championship before a game is even played. The Power 5 conferences again claimed the four playoff spots this year, as they have each year since it was created in 2014. No outsider has broken into the playoffs, and they rarely broke into the so-called BCS bowls before the playoffs were created.
So it’s time for a revolt. The Group of 5 should form its own playoff and its own TV deals. Years ago the schools in the Power 5 broke away and created their own TV and bowl deals that ensured they would monopolize the game; the Group of 5 should respond.
I have been advocating this for several weeks in email exchanges with readers and in private conversations. So I was glad to see recently that Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier is advocating the same thing.
“It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” Frazier recently told ESPN. “Why not?”
Frazier continued: "There is absolutely no ability for us (teams in the Group of 5) to be in that national title conversation. That's just reality. Anyone that says we can — that's a flat-out lie."
On one side there are the HAVES — the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) — and on the other side there are the HAVE NOTS — the Group of 5 (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt).
The have-nots must run the table to even be considered for the playoffs, and even then it’s no guarantee, as 13-0 Western Michigan proved this year. Meanwhile, the rich get richer and the disparity grows. The Power 5 schools produced $6 billion in revenues last year, nearly $4 billion more than all other schools combined, according to a report by "Outside the Lines."
It’s an ingenious business model. The Power 5 schools get the guaranteed path to the national playoff, where they get more exposure and more TV money, which enables them to create bigger and better football programs, which enables them to contend for the playoffs. By the way, five of the 12 members of the selection committee are current athletic directors from the Power 5 schools and none are from the Group of 5. Four others have ties to schools in Power 5 conferences.
By creating a separate playoff, the Group of 5 schools would create a split national champion and that’s a big problem for the establishment. The winner of the Power 5 playoff could no longer crown the outright national champion. It would create a situation similar to the dual professional football leagues in the ‘60s and ‘70s when the American Football League rose up to challenge the established National Football League, which gave birth to the Super Bowl and eventually a merger into one big equitable league.
The last time a non-Power 5 team won the national title was BYU in 1984. Whether it’s the Bowl Alliance or the BCS or the current four-team playoff, the result is the same: The deck is stacked against any team that doesn’t belong to the Power 5 conferences. It was largely the same story under the BCS, when an occasional Group of 5 school was invited to a BCS bowl but never given the chance to compete for the national title, including unbeaten Utah in 2004 and 2008, unbeaten Boise State in 2006 and 2009, and TCU in 2010.
The simplest solution is to expand the playoff to include more teams, and/or award an automatic playoff berth to all conference champions, along with a couple of at-large berths. Meanwhile, the Group of 5 conferences are going to have to rebel against the establishment to force change.