Last week college football fans, the media, players and coaches received the gift they’ve been clamoring about for years – a way to decide a champion on the field. Rather than using a computer formula and potentially biased polls, a playoff system will determine what team is the best in the college football nation. However, while the new playoff format, which will take effect in the 2014 season, will undoubtedly be a more fair and impartial way to determine who is the best college football team in the land, it will also fuel another major debate in college sports – paying players.
Prior to last week the college champion, or more accurately the two combatants that would compete for the right to call themselves the national champion, was determined by an often controversial and hard to understand computer formula known as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Controversy arose because the formula was made by computer programmers and not someone who has ties to or knowledge of college football. Under the new rules, the top-four teams in college football will play each other head-to-head with the No.1 team playing the No. 4 team and the No. 2 team playing the No. 3 team. Roughly a week later, the winners of these two games will face off to determine the national champion.
The NCAA and universities feared losing money earned from bowl games and for decades refused to allow a playoff system. However, the realization that the NCAA could use some of the biggest name and moneymaking bowls as sites for the semifinal games leading to national championship game lead to the new playoff format.
As it presently stands, the semifinal games will rotate between Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl – the marquee sites of the big bowl games –with the championship game going to the city with the highest bid.
A committee, much like the one used for the college basketball tournament, will determine the top four. The committee will factor in strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team won a conference championship. The selection committee will also play a part in creating matchups for the games at the four sites that do not hold a semifinal in a given year.
I applaud the decision makers of the NCAA for coming up with a playoff system, and now it’s time to start paying the players. I know they get scholarships, but so do students who receive academic scholarships. College football alone, according to various outlets, makes on average $155 million a year through various revenue including merchandise, ticket sales and videogames, yet students who are responsible for bringing most of that money in get none of it. Unlike academic scholarship recipients, players on athletic scholarship are not allowed to work any job for fear of losing their eligibility with the NCAA,. It is not uncommon for an athlete not to have enough money to buy even a hamburger. Situations like these lead to athletes accepting money from unsavory boosters and outside sources.
I join college football coaches like Steve Spurrier in saying it’s time to pay the players. I don’t know how much, but they deserve something. When everyone else around them is making millions, shouldn’t they get something?
Let’s be honest – college football has long stopped being a game. Now it’s big business.