By Steve Williams
Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself.
The University of Central Florida did that last week and proclaimed its football team the 2017 national champion.
The Knights had a parade in Orlando, put the “We’re No. 1” news on billboards, hung a banner in their stadium and no doubt printed up a T-shirt or two.
UCF had the right to do all that. After all, it was the only undefeated team in the nation following its 34-27 win over No. 7 Auburn, a 9-point favorite, in the Peach Bowl.
Auburn had even beaten both Georgia and Alabama, who will play in the official national championship game tonight.
Deep down in their hearts, the Knights and their fans probably know they aren’t America’s best team. But not getting the opportunity to compete in the College Football Playoff hurt them far more than a whipping by top seed Clemson would have.
UCF, which was No. 12 in the CFP rankings, deserved better. I blame it on the system and those who run it.
The College Football Playoff has been fundamentally flawed since its inception in 2014. Four berths won’t hold five conference champions.
If your argument is five conference champions aren’t worthy, then you’re not letting the players decide it on the field. Instead, you’re putting it in the hands of a 13-member selection committee made up of athletic directors and former coaches and players, whose choices are highly subjective.
An eight-team bracket would allow for the five champions from the Power 5 conferences and room for three at-large berths, like a couple of Power 5 conference runner-ups and a Group of 5 team like this year’s Central Florida.
The CFP committee could make those final three selections or a formula combining the media’s ranking, a coaches’ poll and computer ratings could be used.
Those who oppose an eight-team bracket argue it would devalue regular season games and make the season even longer for student-athletes.
But the conference’s regular season games and title games would remain as important, since conference champs make the playoffs and non-conference games would still have an impact on those three at-large berths.
The length of the season would include just one more weekend, with only two of the eight teams being affected.
Then there’s the argument that the No. 9 team would still be upset and wanting in. Well, the No. 9 team has a much better chance of getting in an eight-team bracket than a four-team bracket.
So why are we stuck on a four-team bracket through 2025-26?
As always, the answer is money. The Power 5 conferences will rake in some $369 million dollars from the CFP and affiliated bowl games this year for their league members to divide up.
Even Tennessee, 4-8 and home for the holidays, will pull in around $5 million from the SEC’s take, which is $1 million more than Central Florida earned in the Peach Bowl for the American Athletic Conference.
Look at it this way. Currently, the playoff pie has four big slices and college football’s fat cats don’t want to slice those pieces in half and share.
Not even for the betterment of the sport.