If you have been listening to the podcast, a couple of past episodes have featured me hollering to the rooftops that college football will eventually move to a 32-team playoff. TideKing, and our newest addition to the podcast, Jimmy, have been steadfast deniers of this eventual outcome. On this blog, I will go in depth of why this is going to happen.
Let’s have a quick history lesson. With the advancement of television in the 1950s and 1960s, professional and college sports wanted more of a primetime spot. There were skeptics that thought with the readily available tv viewing of games, that stadium and arena attendance would start to decrease. As we can see, 60 and 70 years later, stadiums and arenas across the world are much more bigger and state of the art. This doesn’t happen without TV. The revenue that comes from TV has done astronomical wonders for teams, college institutions, and in some cases have turned small municipalities into major cities.
Let’s start with the current Power 5 conference fiasco. In July, the University of Texas and Oklahoma University requested to join the SEC after they announced they will not be part of any renewal of a Big 12 TV contract. This sent the college sports world in a frenzy with the theme of “the rich get richer.” At the end of the day, can you blame these 2 schools for leaving the Big 12 Conference? The commissioner of the Big 12, Bob Bowlsby, said that with the departure of these 2 schools, the conference will see their revenue decrease by 50%.
For years, former football Head Coach Bob Stoops has complained that Oklahoma, nor any of its fellow conference schools have not gotten the primetime spots that they deserved. Oklahoma is a cornerstone in college sports. They are high level contenders across all sports, and yet when it comes to TV contracts, the Big 12 Conference is last on every Networks to-do list. I get it, the Big 12 Conference is the least competitive out of all of the Power 5 conferences, but you would think that a school like Oklahoma, who are a perennial power, would get the primetime coverage it deserves.
Out of fear that the SEC will start to recruit more schools to join their conference. The Big 10, the ACC, and the PAC 12 conferences created an alliance with each other which said they will uphold their commitment to education, social justice, and of course, the integrity of athletic competition. My ass! The “Alliance” is a Bat signal that reads Fuck Off SEC!
What continued to be left out of the conference fiascos is the impact of the NIL. Before the legalization of NIL, we had no clue a college conference shake up was on the horizon. Of course, there are your usual disgruntled institutions who are dissatisfied with their lot in the college sports atmosphere, but there was nothing this seismic in the tea leaves. But from what I can see, NIL has given the remaining Power 5 conferences an excuse to get the ball rolling on an eventual 32-team playoff.
A 32-team Playoff Is Too Big, Right?
Currently, Division III college football has a 32-team playoff, and Division II college football has 28-team playoff. I get it, these are smaller schools and there is no real revenue in these playoffs at the end of the day. My main argument in pushing the notion of a Division I 32-team playoff has been money and taking away the stranglehold of the SEC. With advent of NIL, this will be the eventual remedy. Since 2014, when the current 4-team playoff started, the SEC has a penciled in spot each year, almost guaranteeing an automatic shot at the National Championship. Now with talks of moving to an 8-team playoff, how many spots will the SEC gain in that system?
Since the college playoff began, the SEC has had an average of 3 teams finish in the Top 10 rankings. Moving to an 8-team playoff would increase the SEC’s title chances from +250 to +380. In that same time frame, a 16-team playoff reduces the SEC’s title chances to +2513. However, in the last four years the SEC’s title chances would have increased up to +3125. The eventual argument that will be had by the remaining Power 5 conferences is that no one conference should have over a +200 chance to win a National Title.
During this time, out of the top 32 teams in College Football, the SEC has had an average of 6 teams placed in these final rankings. Reducing their title chances to +1992. I don’t think any remaining Power 5 conference would have a problem with those percentages. It gives a chance for lesser conferences to squeeze in their best team and give them a legitimate shot at the National Championship.
Show Me the Money!
Now that NIL has gone into effect, college athletes have received money from mostly small tech companies, regional food franchises, and small food and drink industry companies. Dr. Pepper is the only global brand to give an NIL deal to college athlete (DJ Ulagalelei, Clemson QB). Master P’s son Hercy Miller signed a $2 million NIL deal with a tech company, and Alabama’s QB Bryce Young has NIL deals nearing $1 million. The smartest deal that I’ve seen so far is from one Drew Brees’ company.
Brees’ is the co-owner of the restaurant franchise Walk-Ons Sports Bistreaux. At the beginning of the season, the company decided to award an NIL deal to a walk-on at a different college, different sport, male or female, each week. Their goal was to bring light to the underdogs of college sports who don’t get the big scholarships and have to work jobs to pay for school. While the gesture is to be admired, unfortunately for Jimmy and TideKing, there is a bigger play on the board.
There will come a time within the next few years where these companies have seen their revenue increase year over year, but it won’t be enough. The majority of these college football players that have received NIL deals will not be playing for a conference championship, let alone a national championship. The next plan of action will be to make their brand and their players get more attention, more national attention to be precise.
These companies will start putting their players in national campaigns featuring their players. With these ads, the players and the school will get more recognition. Too many times we’ve seen a rookie player come from nowhere because they were on a lower ranked team and didn’t get the national attention of which he/she was worthy. With the national attention comes the groundswell from the fans demanding a bigger playoff. Another thing you will see these companies do is buy the naming rights to these bowl games.
With the new revenue that NIL will bring to these schools, the powers that be can’t help to think about how much more money they can make off of an expanded playoff. Think about all of our big-time sports. Each week they’re spread over multiple networks each weekend. March Madness is spread over 4 networks each year and that was due to CBS/Viacom losing 50% of their revenue to DIRECTV. By partnering with Turner Broadcasting, the sport is broadcasted to a cable paying audience and with the multiple networks comes a multitude of advertisings. Now think of that format on the grand scale of College Football.
Does It Matter Anymore?
Finally, December 15, 2021, was National Early Signing Day for College Football and the usual suspects landed their top prospects. But the shock of the day was Jackson State University landing the #1 recruit in the nation in Travis Hunter out of Georgia. Hunter was committed to Florida State University and changed his mind to commit to JSU and their head coach, Deion Sanders.
Hunter’s decision to go to a HBCU is being deemed as a game-changer in the world of College Football. In the past, HBCUs have been known for taking average talent and turning out future stars and Hall of Famers. This is the first time that any high rated talent coming out of high school has chosen to come to an HBCU. This is yet another signal of the changing of the College Football landscape.
The signal is simply saying that the College Football National Championship process is a joke. The simple fact is this, while attending JSU, Travis Hunter will never compete for a National Championship. Most of America will never see him play. Add that to the trend of draft eligible players who are opting out of dressing for meaningless bowl games. If this trend continues, the next 10 years will see these bowl games lose money.
I’ve told the Ebbtide Crew this whole time that a 32-team playoff through the bowl games is at least 10 years away. Right now, we are seeing the groundwork being laid for this inevitable outcome. If you go back to March Madness, think about how many players became stars because of that tournament:
And arguably the greatest shooter of all time, Steph Curry.
The new stars that can come out of a legit tournament would be absolutely astounding. As of now, there has been an unspoken ban on me mentioning a 32-team college playoff because whether the rest of the fellas want to admit it, the truth I’ve been putting out there is only inevitable.