I stepped over a lot of tape and pads and other protection devices for 25 minutes in the Alabama locker room Saturday after the SEC Championship Game. It was hard to find the gray carpet to put my foot down safely. A player liked my footwork. “Nice move,” he said as I toe-tapped past. All this gear, all this humanity, this stuff, these logistics, the planning.
Go ahead, Alabama, do it three more times.
If the College Football Playoff is expanded___without the athletes having any input in the decision, of course___ Alabama could play three more games, which is 15, almost as long as an NFL season, which is appropriate because the Tide is regarded as the 33rd NFL franchise. Alabama has the most players in the NFL this season (54).
What’s another bruise, another chance for a concussion, another bent ankle, a week more of practice?
You’re right, that would be only two teams that are playing three more games. Of course, there are eight who will play one more game, four that will play two more games. The Pac-12 is starved for cash. It’s hand is up for more money with an eight-team deal. UCF will get left out Sunday. It’s hand is up for eight playoff teams.
But players the last four years of the playoff have come off the field after a semifinal and said they could not play another game. They were tired, spent, out of gas. That’s only 55 full-time guys, or so, if you count all the special down players, who have to get back out there a third time. So c’mon, so what?
These games are epic___and grueling. The rest of us have no idea. That’s so what.
It is not only too much to ask these players to play another game or games, it is too much to ask them to play another game into the second semester of the college year. Believe it or not, they go to school. More and more athletes have gotten wise to the NFL thing and looking at the books for a career after football. They are studying. Alabama has 12 players with degrees (no, they are not all grad students).
Think also about the NFL prospects on the rosters of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame. One more chance to get dinged before the draft. It’s a small issue now. It could be a bigger issue when you start demanding more of your elite players.
The regular season game between LSU-Georgia can have a playoff quality to it. The eight-team playoff dilutes that.
The eight-team playoff means Alabama, which just won an epic over Georgia, may have to play the Bulldogs again. Why should the Tide have to beat Georgia again? (A big fail on my part not to ask Alabama players yesterday if they should have to beat UGa again. I was working on another story).
Here is an even bigger issue. The conferences, the schools, and the administrators will pocket more money. The players, not so much. Now, if you want to allow Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm to take that Wednesday before the semifinals to do a car commercial, make some money, that might help change my mind.
Bill Hancock, the boss of the CFP, has told me over and over the playoff is not expanding. There is a contract and resolve by the conference caretakers to keep it at four. I can see the walls crumbling if Georgia is let in Sunday and 60 percent of the Power 5 (Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten) are left out.
Money talks. The players, though, will have a little more trouble walking as they try and gather themselves for another three epic games. But, hey, it’s only 55 or so people, not to mention the horde of people who carry the bandages, drive the 400 miles for the game, and ignore the rest of their lives for the almighty CFP. They can cancel Christmas just as long as the conferences and TV get their money.
I’m good with four.