Next year, for the first time, there will be a football playoff of sorts. There will be four teams involved, and they’ll have to win their way to the title game. This still won’t be a true playoff, because teams will be selected by a committee instead of playing their way in. “Our committee will be charged with picking the four best teams for the playoffs and the best available teams for the other bowl matchups,” head man Bill Hancock explains.
But it’s a start. And once there’s a hint of playoffs in the air, fans will demand a true championship tournament. “The four-team playoff will be more controversial than the BCS ever was,” Hancock admits. “But in the four-team playoff, there will be a number of teams that think they are as good as No. 4.” So it probably won’t be long before the four-team playoff becomes an eight-team playoff.
This will be a challenge, but also an opportunity.
Teams will no longer think they must be in the arms of a big conference to have a shot at a title. It should become possible, as it was into the mid 1980s, for an independent (other than Notre Dame) to compete for a national title (Miami, 1989, West Virginia, 1988, etc.).
This means that schools could potentially afford to return to their roots, in basketball-sized conferences. That means no more than 10 teams, so each team can play home-and-home with each other team (18 games).
There’s no guarantee they would agree to do so, of course. The big conferences still make big money from regular season football. But there’s a chance that basketball (which also makes plenty of cash) will suffer a drop-off in popularity in the new mega-leagues. Everybody loves Syracuse-Duke. But will there ever be a rivalry with Florida State, Wake, Miami, Georgia Tech or UVa.? Far-flung leagues may suffer empty barns for uninteresting matchups.
There’s more to college life than football, as UConn’s two championship teams prove. If we’re lucky, some conference would even want them as members again, some day.