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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Playoffs?!

There are plenty of reasons for a playoff in major college football, and it's a topic I've explored before. I tend to before for one in theory, my favorite model being the four team playoff (aka "plus one"); still there's always been one piece of it that doesn't resonate with me, and that piece may be rearing its ugly head as we speak.

As we head into championship weekend, the internet is abuzz with rumors that the Big Ten is hiring seat-fillers for its inaugural championship game in Indianpolis where Wisconsin will face Michigan State.While I don't know if this is true or not, it wouldn't be a unique occurrence; the ACC championship game has featured empty seats, especially when held on the outskirts of the conference in Florida. The Pac-12 is starting its games at campus sites with the hope of avoiding exactly that. But if you're team's playing for the throne in your conference, why on earth wouldn't you be there?

Because you're looking down the road. Especially in this tight economy, folks are making decisions with their entertainment dollars, and it makes attending multiple travel games difficult. Let's take Wisconsin and Michigan State. The winner of this game will be headed to the Rose Bowl, but the loser won't end up too bad off, and will probably find themselves booking flights to Florida New Year's Day bowl game, given the Big Ten's tie-ins. If you can only make it to one, where are you headed? This problem is exacerbated many times over with the addition of any playoff scenario, even just a plus-one. More than perhaps any other sport, college football is about the fans, the tailgating, the marching bands, the cheerleaders, and all sorts of other elements to create the full experience we know and love as college football. When you add the potential of two more travel games--in some conferences in addition to their conference championship game--you make it prohibitive for fans to attend, especially students and recent alumni.  With the playoffs looming, will we see more empty seats at conference championship games, or vice versa?

i would make and continue to make the argument that someone needs to be done to the current system, but I hope that if/when this is considered, all of these pieces are part of the picture as well. Those trying to sell the idea of a playoff to the media have pushed the idea that the additional games would make money hand over fist in TV revenue. And while that may be the case, I'd hate to see the live element suffer because of it.
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