Last week, news reports showed that the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division had delivered a letter addressed to NCAA president Mark Emmert, asking what the league’s plans were regarding a playoff system to determine the Football Bowl Subdivision’s football national championship.
In response, Emmert, through NCAA VP of Communications Bob Williams, issued a short, one-paragraph statement. “When we actually receive the letter from the Department of Justice we will respond to its questions directly. It should be noted that President Emmert consistently has said, including in the New York Times article, that the NCAA is willing to help create a playoff format for Football Bowl Subdivision football if the FBS membership makes that decision.”
On Friday, the NCAA finally acknowledged receipt of the letter.
I’m not about to wade into the debate over whether a playoff system in the top football division is desirable over the bowl system currently in place. Nor am I even going to touch the questions about how many teams should be fielded, how they should be selected or how a playoff system might incorporate the bowls. Those are matters that will play out by themselves over the
months years to come.
What I want to do is point out the last sentence in Emmert’s short response to the NCAA before it even formally acknowledged DOJ’s inquiry. If the FBS membership—ie, the presidents of the FBS universities—want a playoff system, the NCAA says it willing to help.
Neither the NCAA administration, nor the BCS, nor the conference commissioners of the ACC, Big 10, Big XII, Big East, Pac-10 or SEC have much say-so in whether big time college football establishes a playoff system. The power to do that lies squarely in the hands of the big time college presidents.
As onerous as many college football fans find the BCS and bowl system, the college presidents like it the way it is. The way it is includes keeping the NCAA out of the organization—and revenue stream—associated with a playoff system. It’s hard for me to see how a formal DOJ inquiry into the NCAA’s “plans” could make anything happen, and I don’t see how the Utah Attorney General’s pending anti-trust lawsuit does anything, either.
What will it take to reform the system and get the league moving towards a playoff? I don’t think anything short of a grassroots fan revolt will succeed. Fans will have to stop buying tickets, stop going to games, stop watching on television and stop being fans of college football until the presidents feel forced to make a change.
Do you like the chances of that happening?