Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, all major national powers who’ve been to the College Football Playoff before, will decide this year’s national champion. Three undefeated teams from the smaller conferences that comprise the “Group of Five,” Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, and San Jose State, have no shot.
That has been the case since we moved to the College Football Playoff system. While the two-team BCS was restrictive, at least there was a formula that decided to teams involved. Teams knew where they stand.
The selection committee, meanwhile, has shown no interest in even putting an undefeated, elite Group of Five team anywhere near the top four. The highest that UCF, which went 13-0 in 2017 and 12-0 before a bowl loss to LSU in 2018, reached was No. 8, at the end of that run. This year, Cincinnati reached No. 7, but slid despite not losing any games over the last few weeks.
Michael T. Benson, president of Coastal Carolina, which is down at No. 12 with an 11-0 record, is tired of it. He penned a letter to Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and the rest of the selection committee, calling out a lack of fairness in the process.
News: Coastal Carolina President pens letter to CFP calling for football equity. The P5 “have worked to ensure that a different kind of Golden Rule remains firmly in place at the highest level of Division 1 football: those with the gold make the rules.” https://t.co/VbVe8cB5SS
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 23, 2020
Even in an eight-team system, it is unlikely that Coastal Carolina would’ve broken through, but even an opportunity for a team like Cincinnati or, in previous years, UCF would give a school like that reason to dream.
From Yahoo‘s Pete Thamel, on Benson’s letter:
“I can’t help but think what might have been this season had all FBS programs been given the same equality of opportunity,” Benson wrote in a letter obtained by Yahoo Sports. He added: “Just think about that: Football is the only sport where the deck is stacked insurmountably against those who have the inevitable classification of “Group of Five” before toe hits the leather each fall.”
“If you expand the playoff to eight teams, they’re talking about a Group of Five representative or maybe two,” Benson said. “Just give us a chance to have access like these other schools.”
One of Benson’s points about the College Football Playoff and current bowl system’s inequity is that it lacks some of the intrinsic qualities that make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament great.
“For all the drama that March Madness basketball presents each and every year with the Cinderella stories of Butler or Loyola of Chicago or George Mason making the Final Four, what is currently in place for football is completely devoid of any comparable suspense and excitement,” he said. “Or, for that matter, fairness.”
There is definitely more widespread support for College Football Playoff reform this year, not necessarily because of the top four, but because of the general treatment of the Group of Five schools that thrived this year.