In the College Football Playoff era, the concept of "playoff creep" -- that a four-team field would soon become an eight-team field, which would then become a 16-team field and so on -- has usually been talked about relative to Power Five teams and conferences. Put simply, if a prominent Power Five program (say, Ohio State or Alabama) or an entire prominent conference (say, the SEC) was left out of the playoff, the field would expand to make sure such an omission didn't happen again. Plus, the money involved in growing the playoff might be too lucrative to pass up.
But "playoff creep" has never been a topic involving Group of Five teams. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun has an idea that would change that. In essence, he wants a four-team Group of Five playoff, the winner of which would then move on to an eight-team College Football Playoff featuring the five Power Five conference champs plus two wild card teams. The Colorado Springs Gazette explained Calhoun's theory ...
That Group of Five playoff would consist of four entrants. He didn't specify how those four would be determined. Maybe it would be the top-rated champions among the Group of Five. Maybe the top rated regardless of conference.
Point is, as a fan, he wants this process to be open to all involved, and he routinely cites Cinderella stories from other college sports as an example.
"I think it would really bring a wholeness that would be splendid for the spirit of college football," Calhoun said.
It's an outside-the-box idea. Calhoun deserves credit for that much. But poking holes in it is easy.
The most obvious issue is the sheer number of games involved. At a minimum, the team that wins the Group of Five playoff and moves onto the College Football Playoff would have to play three extra games -- two G5 playoff games and then a CFP quarterfinal -- which is more than what current CFP finalists have to play. At a maximum, that team would play five extra postseason games. Tack that onto a 13-game season and, theoretically, a Group of Five team could play 18 games. That's more than most NFL teams. We can't keep asking college football players to play more and more games without paying them a salary.
Secondly, it's uncertain what type of market demand, if any, there is for more Group of Five teams in a playoff of any kind. For example, the idea of a second playoff involving Group of Five teams has enough legs that Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier told CBS Sports "the concept he first floated in an ESPN interview may be worth at least $160 million per year to a TV rights-holder.. But in the quest for that next media rights pot of gold on the other end of the rainbow, it's unknown just how full that pot really is. In February,
"However, the $160 million figure came out of discussions with 'mentors' and industry analysts, Frazier said. It isn't believed a major network has weighed in," CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd wrote.
We know the newest postseason format is a lucrative deal for Power Five conferences, some of which net more than $100 million in a year in payout. We don't know whether there's anything remotely close to that type of money available for Group of Five schools. After all, the CFP was created to make more money, which it has. It was not designed to create more access.
None of this even includes the fundamental debate over whether conference champions should have automatic bids to a playoff, which is what Calhoun suggests.
The four-team playoff as it exists today is imperfect, but it has inarguably done two things: created more money for the so-called "haves" in the sport and generated more interest in the regular season, even if it devalues it by a small margin. That's a success by any measure.
People will have their ideas and toy with how the postseason can be improved, but until something seismic forces a change, it'll stay the same. As long as the playoff is doing what it set out to do, it shouldn't change.