Philadelphia, PA – There is only one more season until the national championship at the FBS level is decided by a playoff.
The format that many college football fans had been clamoring for since the inception of the BCS in 1998 was officially given the go-ahead last year when the BCS Presidential Advisory Committee and the Group of Commissioners voted unanimously for a four-team playoff beginning with the 2014 season.
Since that time, the details and structure of the aptly named "College Football Playoff" have come to light, including venues and how teams will be selected.
While the system is certainly an enormous step in the right direction for those fans who grew tired of the computer-generated champions of the BCS era, there is still a large contingency of fans that would prefer an even larger pool.
It's not just the fans who are voicing those sentiments anymore.
In a radio interview with SiriusXM College Sports Nation recently, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis stated his belief that the four-team system may just be a solution right now but not further down the line.
"I'm not so sure four (teams) is the right answer," Hollis said. "I think it's our answer for the short term, but I think you're going to have more teams feel slighted by not being part of the process than when there were two."
Hollis' comments echo those made just a couple weeks earlier by Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson in an interview with the same radio network.
Now it is one thing for a representative from the Mountain West Conference to feel the field of four is still too limited. After all, the MWC is not considered one of the power six conferences, a group which will undoubtedly still receive more favorable treatment even in the playoff system. Add in the fact that such fabled MWC teams like the 2006 Utah Utes and the 2010 Texas Christian Horned Frogs went undefeated and still didn't get a shot at the national title, and it's easy to see why Thompson would feel that way.
However, Hollis is not a representative from the "have-nots" of the FBS world. Hollis is very much in the "have" category with the Big Ten, arguably the second-most prestigious (and favored) conference in the country outside the vaunted SEC.
Having someone like that on the side of expansion makes the idea that much more interesting and plausible for that matter.
As it stands, the College Football Playoff will be instituted for the 2014 season. Based on the contracts that have been set up, the four-team format is set to run until 2026. With how slow-moving the powers at be were in even putting forth a playoff, raising the number of teams could take a while.
Obviously, based on Hollis' and Thompson's comments, the possibly will take time.
It is likely the commissioners who voted to put in this playoff will want to see how it runs for a few years. They will want to gauge fan interest, TV ratings and, above all, the bottom line in terms of income. If the playoff proves successful, and there is little indication that it won't, then the conversation of moving up to an eight-team system could become considerably louder.
Eight teams would be an ideal spot for the playoff system. In such a structure, it would be logical that the champions of the power six conferences (if the American Athletic Conference is still considered in that category) would get six slots and the final two would go to at-large bids.
That would allow the power brokers of the major conferences to still retain the bulk of the shares in the playoff while giving conferences like the MWC and the Mid-American Conference a fighting chance at a national championship.
Using last year as an example, the eight-team field would consist of Alabama (SEC champ), Ohio State (Big Ten champ), Oregon (Pac-12 champ), Kansas State (Big 12 champ), Louisville (Big East champ), Florida State (ACC champ) and Notre Dame (at-large), with Stanford, Northern Illinois and Georgia taking aim at the other at-large spot. Who says no to that?
Obviously, eight teams still has some drawbacks. One is attendance, but that is not exclusive to an eight-team format. Any expansion could be affected negatively as games in back-to-back weekends give fans and students much less travel time than under the current system and thus could lead to emptier stadiums.
Attendance aside, from a purely structural stand-point, the eight-team system could still be considered not inclusive enough. There will still be teams that feel left out. Texas A&M or Oklahoma, for example, in the mock 2012 scenario.
However, expanding to 16 teams would mean overkill. The regular season, which many of the detracting commissioners to the playoff system want to protect, would become less meaningful. On top of that, there would need to be four separate weekends for the playoffs, with the two teams making it to the end likely playing 16 games in a season.
Unlike basketball, football teams just can't play every other day. Plus, a 16- team playoff, using 2012 as an example again, would have teams like Michigan (8-5) and Oregon State (9-4) in contention. That dilution of the pool is a little too much.
Right now, all of this is still speculation because just a few grumblings from some higher-ups in the college football world does not guarantee expansion. However, just the fact that someone other than the fans is tossing the idea around provides some hope for those who want more.
For now, let's just be happy there is a playoff at all.