Coming Soon: Playoff Expansion and NIL; Black Hole Closing; Bum Ruling
The College Football Playoff will be expanding soon. It’s no longer a question of “if," but “when.”
After the CFP management committee met virtually last week, executive director Bill Hancock reported that a CFP “working group” on expansion had discussed 63 options for expanding the current four-team playoff, including scenarios with 6, 8, 10, 12 and 16 teams.
The four-member working group, consisting of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, may present its final recommendation as soon as the next committee meeting this summer.
This is the first time Hancock, speaking for the CFP, has admitted that expansion is being seriously considered.
It’s about time.
As we’ve argued over the past three years, the four-team model has become too predictable, with the same teams every year—Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and either Oklahoma, Notre Dame, LSU or Georgia—while the Pac-12 is left home and no team from the Group of Five has a realistic chance of participating.
The six-team model would include the Power Five champions and perhaps the Group of Five’s best team guaranteed a spot. I can’t see the SEC agreeing to that.
The best format would include eight teams, with the Power 5 champs, the best Group of Five team, and the two best remaining at-large teams.
The CFP is entering the eighth year of a 12-year agreement. Hancock said change “isn’t imminent” and that there “will not be a new format this season or next season.” The most likely scenario is for expansion to occur when the current agreement expires after the 2025 season, but I believe change could come as early as 2023.
New ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips has already indicated he favors expansion as soon as possible, and the new Pac-12 Commissioner will certainly share that point of view. The push to expand is gathering steam, and these new commissioners will only add to the momentum.
NIL Coming Soon: Last week, college football and basketball players achieved a version of free agency, when the NCAA ruled athletes can transfer once without sitting out a year. Next up: compensation for use of athletes’ name, image and likeness.
Since California governor Gavin Newsom signed NIL legislation into law last year, 10 other states have passed laws and another 29 have introduced bills that will allow athletes to be compensated for things like social media followers, cameo posts (video shout-outs, birthday greetings, etc.), endorsements, speaking engagements, memorabilia sales, camps, clinics and autograph signings.
Some of these state laws go into effect as early as July 1 of this year. Among the states whose top players and hometown heroes can start cashing in on their fame during the 2021 football season are Alabama, Arizona and Florida, with Georgia and Texas about to follow suit.
Black Hole Closing: We wrote last month about the paucity of black head coaches in college football and basketball, but things are definitely improving in basketball.
As of last Thursday, according to the Athletic and the Undefeated, 26 of the 51 men’s head coaches who have been hired since the end of the 2020-21 season have been black, and eight of the 17 coaches hired on the women’s side have been black. That’s over 50% in each case, which represents a huge increase.
Two black coaches who have spoken out about this issue in the past were cautiously optimistic about this development. “It’s obvious that this is a year that a lot of qualified guys got some tremendous opportunities, more so than in the past,” said Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton. “Let’s hope that the climate is changing.”
South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley, who lost a heartbreaker to eventual national champion Stanford in the NCAA semi-finals, said “I think we’re in a place where people are more apt to hire, you know, black bodies. Part of it is people speaking out on it and awakening decision makers. I also think people are looking at their athletic departments and they want a more diverse look. Whatever the case may be, it’s a good thing for us.”
Bum Ruling: Former Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner, now in his second year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, threw a seven-inning no-hitter in the second game of a doubleheader with Atlanta on Sunday.
Because the game lasted only seven innings, which is typical now during the pandemic, the geniuses at the Elias Sports Bureau—who keep Major League statistics—ruled that Bumgarner's gem doesn't count as an official no-hitter.
"I didn't give up any hits today," Bumgarner said after the game. "I'm not in control of how many innings we're playing."
From this corner, it seems only logical that if you throw a no-hitter in a seven inning game that counts as a game and is “official” in terms of wins and losses, then it should be an official no-hitter.