Dear ACC ... the SEC doesn't need Playoff expansion. You and your alliance do
Expansion may one day come to the College Football Playoff, but it won’t be any time in the near future.
ACC commissioner Jim Phillips made that obvious in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, citing his league’s opposition to expanding from a 4-team field.
Phillips said league membership is “very much aligned in its position that now is not the time to expand the College Football Playoff.”
This is a curious position for a league that just missed the Playoff and will almost surely never have multiple teams in the field save for expansion. But Phillips’ explanation for the stance at least makes some sense on the surface level.
ACC wants NCAA to get its house in order
The ACC isn’t out to kill Playoff expansion. Their thought is that college athletics as a whole needs to be sorted out before getting to the specifics of college football alone. Like ground beef to be used for a later meal, CFP expansion is being placed in the freezer.
“To the ACC, we don’t have a College Football Playoff problem,” Phillips told reporters. “We have a college football and collegiate athletics/NCAA problem.
“We don’t feel this is the right time [to expand]. It doesn’t foreclose in the future about having an expanded Playoff.”
The lone piece of concern Playoff expansionists should take from Phillips’ Q-and-A is that the season will be extended too long with the potential for 2 additional rounds of games. Phillips said that feedback from Clemson players was instrumental in the ACC’s official stance.
“They don’t want to play any more games,” Phillips said. “I don’t know what Georgia and Alabama felt like after Monday night, but Clemson student-athletes that have participated, they don’t.”
Of course, that same reason was always given for not moving to a Playoff structure in the first place. It never made held much water, though. FCS, Division II and Division III players were expected to play up to 5 rounds of playoff games while 2 was supposedly too much for their FBS counterparts.
If it is a legitimate concern, perhaps other ways will need to be discussed on how to lop a week off the current regular-season schedule.
But while the talk about Playoff expansion is the headline, it was something else Phillips said that should cause considerable unease at the lower levels of football.
Is a Power 5 breakaway imminent?
Cincinnati got plenty of pats on the back — and ultimately an invitation to a Power 5 conference — en route to becoming the first Group of 5 team to reach the CFP this year.
I wouldn’t be optimistic that the Bearcats will ever be joined by a similar program in the future.
Phillips seemed to prognosticate a dire future for smaller schools while discussing the larger issues facing NCAA membership.
The NCAA is expected to approve a new constitution at its upcoming convention, and Phillips suggested we may see a formal line of division between the Power 5 and other levels.
Though he was describing it in the context of why a decision on expansion isn’t realistic at the moment, the message is certainly troubling for fans of Group of 5 programs.
“We don’t know what Division I is going to look like,” Phillips said. “We don’t know if we’re going to have another division. … How can we put together this CFP expansion when we have no idea where this transformation committee is going to take us?”
If what he’s suggesting comes to fruition, it will be the most massive upheaval in college sports since the original split between Divisions I-A and I-AA in 1978.
Which means he’s right that we shouldn’t even bother thinking about CFP expansion right now. There is a possibility that the entire regular-season and bowl structures could be upended entirely.
Would we see Power 5 teams scheduling 1 Group of 5 opponent for a money game the way we currently do with FCS programs? Would there even be bowl games featuring Group of 5 teams against Power 5 teams, or would the Group of 5 create its own FCS-style tournament? Or perhaps its own 4-team Playoff with the remainder of teams eligible for bowl games?
Perhaps of greater concern is whether such a shakeup would affect other sports. The little guy actually has a chance to create chaos in the NCAA basketball and baseball tournaments. Coastal Carolina won the College World Series just 6 years ago. Will those schools still be considered Division I, as they are now, or will this cleaving be massive?
All things are negotiable, but Friday was the latest sign that expansion might not be coming to the CFP any time before 2026. Major changes are looming for college athletics, though. And for fans, there should be serious concern that those changes could ruin what makes college sports so fun in the first place.