College Football Essay

The arrival of September foreshadows sun-splashed Saturday afternoons at the stadium, ancient rivalries, the blaring brass of colorful halftimes, tailgating behind the end zone grandstand, fight songs after touchdowns — the full panoply of college football’s timeless charms. It is also the cue for the annual emergence of a discordant and plaintive cry across the land, “Why can’t we have a playoff?”
Over the last 11 years, college football’s postseason has been centered on a still relatively new creation, the Bowl Championship Series. It replaced a system that was really no system at all, and offered the prospect of a championship game matching (hopefully) the two most deserving teams. To a large extent, the B.C.S. has met that objective, but it has also become an inevitable bogeyman for those who want more: a series of showdown games, a tournament, a playoff.
The arguments advanced by advocates of a playoff need no reprising. Using comparisons to professional and other college sports, they have a certain logical merit and are embraced by broad groups among fans and the news media.
I have been employed as a television and marketing consultant by a number of college sports organizations, including the B.C.S., but I do not speak for them in any way. My purpose is to summarize the views of others — views that are well known to me.
The reason college football does not have a playoff is that most of the people responsible for administering the sport do not want one. I include in this group college presidents, conference commissioners, athletic directors and coaches. It is not a unanimous view, by any means of measurement, but I believe a significant majority opposes a playoff because of a number of specific factors.
One factor is the uniqueness of college football’s regular season, possibly the most exciting and competitively meaningful in all of sports. Most administrators do not want to see it overshadowed by a huge monthslong focus on the postseason. This has...