By all indications, Bill Hancock is a really nice man.
Every interaction I ever had with him was pleasant, and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. He seems like a good dude in a world that has far too many bad dudes.
But, holy schnikes, it’s hard to believe the executive director of the College Football Playoff actually believes what he says when he talks about the CFP and bowl system.
With football media days kicking off last week, Hancock was in Atlanta to lift the lid on the SEC portion of the annual press fest. As expected, he raved about the Football Bowl Subdivision’s playoff system, which will crown its fifth champion Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, California.
“By every measure, the College Football Playoff has been highly successful,” Hancock said. “Fans love the CFP. It has provided a memorable experience for students, for players, for spirit squads, band members and all of their families in addition to millions of football fans, and we are bringing new fans into the game of college football into our sphere, showing them the wonders of this game that we all do love so much because of the College Football Playoff.”
Of course after Central Florida was the only unbeaten team in the FBS a year ago and locked out of the playoffs, there were (and are) those who think the tournament should be expanded to eight teams.
He suggests that the four-team CFP format is damn near perfect.
“The CFP works,” Hancock said. “It works well. Four teams keeps the focus on this wonderful regular season, the most meaningful and compelling in all of sports; four lets us keep the bowl experience for thousands of student-athletes; four keeps college football within the framework of higher education.”
Obviously, I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. I mean, this is his job. If all 129 FBS teams were required to have green and magenta feathers sprouting from the top of their helmets, he’d be talking about how the green and magenta feathers add to the pageantry of Saturdays in the fall.
But remember, Hancock used to be head of the now defunct Bowl Championship Series – and fiercely opposed any kind of playoff system for what was once known as Division 1-A.
Here’s what he said during a radio interview with WDAE in Tampa back in 2011:
“The reason that the presidents and the coaches and ADs support what we have is two things. First of all, we have the best regular season in sports in large part because there’s no playoff at the end. We have three months of frenzy rather than three weeks of frenzy at the end of the season. Our folks feel strongly that’s in the best interest of the game. The second one is the bowl system, the bowl tradition, the bowl experience for the student athletes is so wonderful and worth keeping. No one has come up with any kind of a playoff that will keep that same bowl experience where the athletes get to go spend a week in a different culture and they’re the talk of the town.”
So there was a time not so long ago that Hancock thought a playoff would cheapen the regular season and bowls, and he believed that right up to the point when he decided a playoff would, in fact, be great for the regular season and bowls (which I’m sure coincided with being named ED of the CFP).
However, it’s a different gridiron world now, and I think this whole notion of “bowl tradition” is extremely overrated.
Yeah, it was cool back in the day – but back in the day there were only a handful of postseason “classics.”
I’m sure it was thrill for Michigan Wolverines tackle Johnny Plowboy from Hog Taint, Indiana, to board the train and head out to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to play Southern Cal’s Trojans in a battle of unbeatens. It was his first time to go clear across the country on a big ol’ iron horse, and he got to gawk at sights ma and pa never dreamed of while they toiled away raising boll weevils in their backyard.
Today, players on teams with .500 records fly to Mobile, Alabama, and get swag bags from Dollar General.
And that’s fine, but let’s not pretend the modern bowl system is designed with tradition in mind.
And let’s not pretend the CFP is open to all, although Hancock tells you otherwise.
He’s trying to sell the CFP as something that’s good for the FBS as a whole, when in reality it’s good only for select members of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10, and SEC).
“For the College Football Playoff, things are simple: Play a good schedule, win your games, and you’re going to be in the hunt,” Hancock said. “That holds true for UCF and Houston and Northern Illinois, as well as Alabama and Ohio State and Texas and Washington.”
I call B.S. on that.
There’s no way UCF, Houston or Northern Illinois is going to earn one of four playoff spots; there’s not even enough room for all the Power 5 schools.
The CFP website perpetuates the myth in its overview section where it states, “The College Football Playoff preserves the excitement and significance of college football’s unique regular season where every game counts.”
Because Auburn beat Alabama in the final week of the 2017 regular season, denying the Crimson Tide the SEC West title and a spot in the SEC Championship Game.
Still, Bama was invited to the CFP and went on to beat Georgia to claim the crown.
You’ll have a hard time convincing me the Iron Bowl counted to the CFP committee members. In terms of postseason pairings, one of the most meaningful rivalries in all of sports was meaningless.
And as long as only four teams are invited, schools from Group of 5 conferences (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) have zero chance of making the field.
Perhaps that’ll change one day, because with the money the CFP generates you have to figure the field will expand to eight teams in the foreseeable future.
Some will think that’s terrific, while others will lament the expansion.
But if Hancock is still the executive director then, I’ll bet he’ll say it’s the greatest thing to ever happen to the game.