Change on the Football Field

From the very beginning of his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama has been advocating change; change in the military, change in the economy, and now, change in college football.

In an interview with Steve Kroft on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, Obama, for the second time took sides in the heated debate of establishing a college football playoff.

“If you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner,” Obama told Kroft. “We should be creating a playoff system.”

Obama originally proposed his idea for the playoff in an interview with ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” on the night before the election.

“Eight teams. That would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.”

The President-elect’s sentiment is echoed by many students at Marist College.

“As a fan of college football, how can you not want to see a playoff, “said sophomore Harry Redeker. “Seeing the powerhouses of the sport battling it out to decide once and for all who the true champion is would be must see TV. I know I’d be glued to my seat.”

Obama’s plan to do away with the current Bowl Championship Series (BCS) format wasn’t taken especially serious on the eve of the election, but following his second call for a new playoff system, many of the sporting world’s biggest names have voiced their opinions, including BCS coordinator John Swofford.

“For now, our constituencies have settled on the current BCS system which the majority believes is the best system yet to determine a national champion while also maintaining the college football regular season as the best and most meaningful in sports.”

In addition to the opposition Obama would likely receive from Swofford and the BCS, it has also been speculated that he would face heavy resistance from ESPN. The Connecticut based sports superpower announced a new four-year, $500 million TV deal with the BCS this past Tuesday.

“ESPN obviously believes the current system is valuable enough to cough up $125 million a year,” said Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel this past week. “The key to establishing a playoff would be convincing the powers at ESPN that the new format would make their contract worth even more.”

However, if Obama were to press the issue, there are a number of routes he could take in trying to make the playoff format happen. Tim Lemke of the Washington Times expressed two of Obama’s options Tuesday.

“Obama could potentially attempt to impose an executive order on the NCAA to create a playoff or he could even ask the Justice Department to explore whether the BCS is a violation of antitrust law on grounds that the system often excludes teams from non-major conferences.”

Both avenues however, are not expected to be easy for the President-elect.

“The sports world has a history being very hesitant to alter the status quo, especially if it’s working,” said Hank Williams, a sports and entertainment lawyer for the Universal Music Group. “Compound that with the state of our economy and the dramatic reform expected to take place once Obama takes office, and it’s hard to imagine that the President will have time to establish a college football playoff anytime soon. Although a sports fan certainly has the right to dream.”

-Sam Benjamin

One response to “Change on the Football Field

  1. The idea of a president getting involved in athletics is something very strange to imagine. In a way it makes him more like a normal, everyday person. It takes away the “holier than thou” persona. On the flip side, I feel decisions such as creating a college football playoff should be left to the professionals. The BCS has been a longstanding tradition that has been successful since its inception. Personally, I don’t think the college bowls emphasize who the best teams are. I feel the networks are primarily concerned with what teams will make the most revenue. A playoff would show the nation who the best team was, instead of who is the most popular. Based on this, I would completely agree with Obama’s idea to create a college playoff system.

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