Blog Entry

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:19 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 1:16 pm

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In one of the strongest overtures yet to a revamped offseason in college football, the Mountain West Conference has proposed a 16-team playoff in the current FBS -- and a complete dismantling of the Bowl Championship Series.

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic reports that MWC commissioner Craig Thompson has submitted the plan to the NCAA, and says it could increase playoff revenue multiple times over:

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, in an interview with The Arizona Republic, estimated a playoff would generate $700 million annually for college football, more than three times the nearly $182 million the BCS generated last year.

"What we are trying to do is offer an alternative with the current system. We have not been comfortable with the current system," said Thompson, who based his financial projections on current television contracts with various conferences.

The Mountain West plan would make it easier for champions of all 11 Football Bowl Subdivison conferences to qualify for the post-season as long as a team is ranked among the top 30 in the country. The rest of the tournament would be filled with at-large selections, and a committee would determine the seeding. Teams not making the tournament could play in minor bowl games.'s Dennis Dodd has all the details of Thompson's plan, which you can peruse here.

Now, the odds of this proposal actually being adopted are somewhere between "no" and "NOOOOO," because there's nothing to suggest that Thompson has the support of any of the BCS conferences. Plus, if the current logjam atop the polls works itself out to the point that there's two clear BCS Championship participants, a playoff suggestion would be political kryptonite for at least 12 months. "The system works," the powers that be will all crow, and let's face it: they'll have a point.

However, if let's say Wisconsin and Stanford are both undefeated and left out of the playoff situation -- or if somehow a one-loss LSU or Alabama overtakes a BCS conference team -- the tide could theoretically turn against a BCS system in favor of a playoff. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has long enjoyed his conference's relative power in the current BCS arrangement, when a 12-0 Big Ten team never has any problem garnering a BCS Title Game invitation for its troubles. Change that arrangement, though, and who knows what enmity Delany will be garner?

That all said, while the number of 16 teams sounds admrably inclusive, there exists the pesky problem of dilution of quality. Here are the current Nos. 11-16 teams in the 2011 BCS standings as of October 19.

11. Kansas State

12. Virginia Tech

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. West Virginia

16. Michigan State 

That group of teams -- which also comprises 11-16 in the AP poll but in a different order, so there aren't any unpopular shenanigans with determining that tier --  is not bad. It's also depressingly mediocre compared to Nos. 1-6 in the same polls, and in no way a group of teams that has any legitimate claim at the national championship. And that's if we ignore Thompson's plan to incorporate conference champions who are in the Top 30 of the BCS standings. That would sub out Michigan State for Houston, and No. 28 Notre Dame and No. 32 UL-Lafayette might be sniffing bids too. This is the Mountain West's plan.

Now yes, looking at the NCAA basketball tournament, mid-majors with middling resumes are not universally a bad thing. Butler, in particular, was an extremely compelling Cinderella team -- in 2009.

But Thompson would be much wiser to look at Butler in 2010, when the team was seeded at No. 8 again and made an unlikely run to the title game again, only to stink up the joint in a loss to heavily favored UConn, a game so bad it sort of cheapened the Huskies' NCAA title and made some grumpy fans wonder how, precisely, this was all the NCAA could muster for a supposedly authoritative championship game. And when the BCS has faced similar complaints about quality, it's been from its placement of BCS-conference teams -- even when they're ranked, ohidunno, 16th -- into bowl games where they clearly don't belong. And now we want to open the door for those teams to, in theory, make the championship game?

So that's the test for how deep a playoff's cutoff really ought to go: not whether fans would enjoy seeing a team of that seed compete for a championship, but whether that low seed getting blown out in a championship round would tarnish the tournament for a significant portion of fans. If your playoff plan can't pass that test, it's not an improvement over the current BCS, which -- for its maddening lack of credibility and fairness -- does a fine job of putting deserving teams on the field with the championship on the line. Pretty low hurdle to clear, really, but I'm not sure Thompson's plan does that job.


Since: Jun 24, 2008
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:35 pm

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

The Butler comparison is a bit of a joke. First, they beat a several of the big conference teams to get there, so this isn't like Houston potentially getting crushed in the first round by Alabama. It would be more like Houston beating Oklahoma and Stanford before getting crushed in the title game by Alabama at which point, I'm sorry, but they would have earned their way there. Second, Butler had a horrible game, but I didn't think they were overmatched. They weren't a great team, but then again I'm not sure there was a great team in college basketball last season. The lack of any great team for Connecticut to beat cheapened Connecticut's championship, not Butler specifically being in the finals.

While I'm not on board with a 16-team playoff, an 8-team one would be great. Let's say we drop conference automatic bids (sorry Big East). That would leave a potential final eight of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State and Clemson. That should yield some pretty good football and generate more interest than a single title game would.

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:32 pm

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Where does the whole two team from a conference thing come from? BCS bull. We need a playoff that has the best teams in it. The formula is out there, just need to modify a bit for football. Strength of schedule has to matter. Boise is a great example. They can beat anyone on a given day, put them in a grind where they have to play big games in consecutive weeks? We wont know until they do it. No conference is just over powering this year with a bunch of killer teams. Oklahoma/Oklahoma State are good teams, but State has little defense. ALA/LSU/ARK are good, but with question marks. Clemson looks pretty good from the ACC, also with question marks. The same could be said for Stanford/Oregon. Wisconsin appears to be solid with Michigan State as a maybe? Who else? Think about it. If you put your team preference aside and look at results, attempt o be fair, who else is there? Auburn and KState come to mind and if they win out would get in. We could have a legit playoff each year with about 12 teams. The smaller bowls could be still play a role for teams that had a good year, a one a done trick or treat. We need a playoff, that is not determined by money or conference affiliation. The teams that could get hurt the most are the schedule fillers, Texas State, Georgia State 1AA types who need those $700K pay days to survive.

Since: Apr 17, 2008
Posted on: October 20, 2011 1:57 pm

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

You do realize the NIT is for those schools not good enough to get into the NCAA Tournament, right?

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:59 pm

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Sixteen teams is way too many for football.  Should be a max of 8 to maintain the intended outcome of crowning the BEST team, not the luckiest one.  Obviously, he wants the pool expanded to increase the chances of a MWC team being included, but if the BCS were to just eliminate the AQ criteria and open up to all conferences equally, an 8-team playoff would work and not lengthen the season at all if current bowls were used to match teams for quarterfinals ans semifinals.  It's easy, but nobody seems to want to take the easy road to a solution.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:44 pm

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

forget football !  How about we have a 1 game winner take all in basketball...You take the tournament champion from the NCAA/NIT...and put that on tv( the one day there not 1 sport on tv) !  10 5 2012.....make it happen

Since: Jul 23, 2008
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:10 am

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Obviouslt it comes down to money but I will never understand the morons who don't think a playoff should happen. How the H*LL would it cheapen the regular season? No one is saying that you can go 6-6 and automatically qualify. You take Conf. Champs regardless of top 30, and the rest at large. If the SEC has 4 teams in ranked in the top 10, then let them in. I don't get it. EVERY other division has it. And for the person who thinks that Michigan or any other top tier school for that matter won't sell out every game...really? Seriously? You actually think that all of a sudden attendance will go from 110K to 25k or something? Also EVERY playoff game will be traveled to. Anyone ever seen a bowl game or go to a March Madness tier school fans large numbers. So this year if Alabama and LSU didn't play, and they went undefeated, they would probably be playing for the National Championship. But Oklahoma, is undefeated, and dropped from 2 to 3 for some reason, but they shouldn't be allowed to compete for the championship? Get your head out of your arse. Start a playoff system, call them Bowls if you want to for the traditionalist. But you can't argue traditionalism when you now have teams switching teams like they are now.
Sorry for the soapbox, but playoffs are SO overdue!

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:03 am

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

All conference champions should get in if there is a 16-team playoff. Also, it's 2010 and 2011 for Butler.

Since: Nov 1, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:01 am

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Only solution is a computer (points) based poll, taking the human element out (no "opinions" count), and top 16 teams in this poll make the playoffs. Just like every other division of college football. Just my "opinion".

Since: Sep 20, 2011
Posted on: October 20, 2011 8:54 am

BCS AQ teams are only better b/c of the BCS

I think your argument that people wouldn't want to see mid major teams get blown out is about the dumbest one I have ever heard.  In the 13 BCS games that have been played up til now on 6 of them had the losing team within one score.  If a team doesn't belong in the National Title they won't get there under a playoff but at least they had a chance.  There is no question in my mind that the non AQ teams that made BCS bowls last year were as good as the AQ teams but we will never know.  You don't win a game by having a name on your jersey you still have to play the game. 

But let's really be honest, the BCS isn't about football, it isn't about college players, it isn't about pagentry or history, it isn't about finding a National Champion, it is simply about making people who have no reason to make a single dime off the sport, FILTHY rich.  If your part of the 65 teams that benefit from it's anti trust schemes, then you are fine but for the other half of the country it is the devil.  College football was never fair, it has always had warts but at least kids picking schools didn't decide on which school had the most money but which school they liked.  Too bad we can't go back to those days with a playoff.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2011 8:17 am

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Someone always complain about being left out.

65 teams go to the dance in basketball, every March, and we always hear someone complaining there.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or