Open up the tournament for the elites to everyone by expanding to 8 teams.
Two years in, we have no complaints about the College Football Playoff. OK, let’s take that back. We have one: That college football still bows to the Rose Bowl, allowing it a better time slot than national semifinals.
All in all, that’s a small grievance, one we’re determined to fix.
In fact, the initial four-team format has been so popular that fans have clamored for an expansion. After the most exciting NCAA Tournament opening weekend in memory, that time is now.
Let’s expand to eight teams. Let’s do it the right way.
Let’s get the dreamers – i.e. the mid-majors who wreak havoc in March Madness – involved.
The plan is simple. Here are the particulars:
• Who’s in — The five champions of the Power 5 conferences, the highest-rated Group of Five champ and two at-large teams. The only caveat: No single conference can be represented by more than two teams. Sorry, SEC.
• Seeding – You have a CFP selection committee already. Let them rank the eligible teams.
• First-round games – Will be played the week of or what would be the week after conference championship games in December on the campuses of the four highest-rated teams.
• One added benefit – Four slots in the never-ending lineup of bowl games are reserved for the four first-round losers.
• What changes – There are no more conference championship games. Conferences can determine how they determine their champ, whether it’s head-to-head or highest ranking. Again, the SEC will have a beef. Does anyone else care?
• Why we’re getting rid of conference championship games — We’re talking about student-athletes who already must juggle (well, at least in theory) classes and exams. By expanding the field but nixing league title games, the maximum number of games played remains 15.
• Semifinals — New Year’s Day. The Rose Bowl can adjust. Seriously.
• CFP title game – Played the next available Monday.
Want higher ratings? First-round, on-campus games will draw more eyeballs than most conference championship games and pack stadiums, starting at 11 a.m. EST and ending around midnight. You say you don’t want to play a December game in Ann Arbor? Easy. You’d better finish ahead of Michigan.
Playing on campus is not only a reward for the top teams, it’s also a reward for fans that can’t afford to make multiple trips for semifinal and title games but can make the easier jaunt back to campus one more Saturday.
We’ve just seen a weekend of March Madness that was total chaos, with a record 10 double-digit advances pulling off first-round upsets.
Imagine the excitement of Miami of Ohio beating the Miami Hurricanes on a 52-yard Hail Mary as time expires. That’s worth two Northern Iowa half-court buzzer beaters with a Texas A&M miracle comeback thrown in for good measure.
The NCAA Tournament is for everyone. As we know it now, the College Football Playoff is for the biggest and richest. It’s designed by the elite for the elite.
By expanding to eight teams, by reserving a spot for at least one Group of Five team while allowing two other at-large teams to participate, CFP’s popularity soars even more.
And it truly becomes the greatest championship on Planet Earth.
Editor’s note: Morning Ticker welcomes Doug Segrest as a new Featured Author. Segrest is a veteran sports writer who primarily covered college sports and professional baseball at The Nashville Banner and The Birmingham News, where he was named Tennessee and Alabama Sports Writer of the Year. He’s also the co-host of the highly rated “The Zone” talk show.