When college football reaches this point of the season, the same debate erupts year after year. Why isn’t there a playoff system in division 1 college football?

For the average fan, it’s a joke. Bowl games don’t really mean anything, and why would anyone rather watch two unranked non-AQ schools play in the Salt n’ Peppa Bowl when they could be watching round one of the college football playoffs? There would be more money, more interest, and an undisputed champion. It’s a no brainer.


For years I too shared this popular sentiment until I was overcome with a recent revelation. For once in sports, it’s not about the average fan.


To the people in college football that really matter, the players, students, and die-hard fans, the chance to take part in a bowl game is the ultimate reward for a successful season. The teams are given the keys to cities around the country. They are treated to exclusive tours; they dine at the best restaurants, attend parties in their honor, and are given gifts from the bowl sponsor. They have the chance to end their season as champions, and do it on national TV, so that all their friends, family, and all the people who have supported them over the years can watch. Whether the school is a perennial top ten power, or not, the experience for the players is the same, they are treated like royalty.


One of the most beautiful things about the bowl season is that the scheduling allows for the smaller, often uncelebrated schools to receive national spotlight, if only for a night. For once, their game gets the national hype. For once, their highlights are on ESPN, and for once, the national media talks about them. For the players on these smaller teams who may not be destined for pro sports, the bowl season is the opportunity of a lifetime.


Sure, the system is flawed, and the way it is designed means there will always be a team or two left out in the cold, but as we inch closer and closer to what now seems an inevitable playoff system, we have to ask ourselves; is having an undisputed national champion worth costing hundreds of young men around the country their night in the national spotlight? Because any way you look at it, a college football playoff system will come at the expense of the Salt n’ Peppa Bowl.


The smaller schools that once cherished their one night of fame will now have to compete for airtime with pundits discussing upcoming mega matchups between big time programs.


The current leading candidate for a playoffs system seems to be a plus one or two system in which the top three or four teams compete in extra games to determine champions. Granted, depending on scheduling, this would allow the smaller bowls to continue to have their exclusive night on national television, but how many of those elusive ad dollars from the ESPN hype machine be diverted from promoting the smaller bowls to promoting the upcoming playoffs? And once a plus one or two system is allowed, how long before public outcry demands an expanded playoff field, pushing round one further and further back into the bowl season? Once Pandora’s box is opened, it can never be closed again. Likewise, once the smaller bowls lose their prime time TV slots, the bowl system, as we know it will be lost forever.


The average fan has already taken so much. High dollar luxury boxes now occupy the best seats in stadiums around the country. The Super Bowl, our nation’s crowning jewel of sport has devolved into a six hour parade of pop-stars and ad dollars, designed more to sell beer and potato chips than honor the two best teams in the sport. Even the rules of the game itself have been altered to cater more towards the average fan.


I understand that the system has its issues, but for a sport that has fallen from the quintessential prototype of amateur athletic display, to a seedy cesspool of backroom deals, dirty boosters, and greedy coaches, the bowl system may be the only redeemable thing left in maligned punch line of an organization that division one college sports has become.


For once, it’s about the people who it should be about. For once, the good guys win. Who cares what the average fan thinks.