The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 14, 2020 1:00 am

Playoff expansion would help sport grow

Ralph D. Russo | Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – The College Football Playoff format was created to give more teams a chance to win the national title, but in reality it has highlighted how few programs can even dream of doing so.

Playoff expansion is regularly brought up as a way to level the playing field. The current playoff structure exacerbates the imbalance that limits the sport's growth.

The biggest impediment to parity in college football is talent distribution. Demographics, culture and population shifts have created a massive disparity of that heavily favors Southern schools. 

Chuck Neinas, former commissioner of the Big Eight, has been a proponent of an eight-team playoff, with Power Five conference champions receiving automatic bids along with at least one team from the other five FBS leagues.

“I think that would help encourage more popularity (of the playoff), because during the regular season the importance of being a conference champion is actually increased,” Neinas said.

This year the list of elite teams included LSU, Clemson and Ohio State. Oklahoma made the final four but was clearly not in that class. LSU and Clemson met Monday in the championship game.

This was the fifth straight season the title game matched two teams from the Southeast. Include the BCS, and seven of the last nine national championship games have featured only teams from the Deep South.

“I think what's happening is that the sport is becoming more national, but it's doing so with brands that are regional only because they have state names attached to them,” ESPN's Rece Davis said. “But Alabama is a national brand. LSU is going to become that. I think Clemson has become that.”

Ohio State is in that class, the one school above the Mason-Dixon line consistently recruiting at that level. Georgia has moved toward that class, as well.

Media, traditional and social, allows all schools to put their brands in front of players who live outside their regional recruiting territory.

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