Officials from the Group of Five conferences—the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt, and Mountain West—are reportedly interested in starting their own playoff.
We are only in the third year of the College Football Playoff at the FBS level, but so far it has only consisted of teams from the power conferences. The system isn’t explicitly designed to leave out teams from the smaller leagues, but without a torrid non-conference slate, like what Houston faced this year, and an undefeated record, there doesn’t seem to be a path. Houston, of course, finished the season 9-3 and lost to San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Rather than settle for the one New Year’s Six spot allocated for a Group of Five team, some officials from those leagues want to establish their own playoff.
NIU athletic director Sean Frazier is among the most outspoken of them, and spoke to ESPN‘s Brett McMurphy about the idea.
“There is absolutely no ability for us (teams in the Group of 5) to be in that national title conversation,” Frazier said. “That’s just reality. Anyone that says we can: That’s a flat-out lie.”
“Every division of college football has a national championship — Power 5, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA — every division, that is, except the Group of 5,” Frazier said.
Not everyone is on board. Multiple unnamed ADs rebuked the idea, one of whom referred to it as a “junior varsity championship,” and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is very opposed to it.
“The answer is an emphatic no,” Aresco said. “We compete for national championships like anyone else in FBS, including the Power 5, and have no interest in any kind of separate championship.”
Ratings for December bowl games are good, almost across the board, and as long as it didn’t run up against big-name bowls, odds are a Group of Five playoff would be a financial success. However, it would further drive home the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” at the FBS level. Based on the responses that McMurphy received, the divide exists between those optimistic that they can crash the Power Five’s playoff party, and those who have accepted the current situation they find themselves in.