Imagine a world where the college football season ended with this.
16 teams. 11 conference champions and 5 teams chosen at large. On December 18, Boise State travels to Norman to play Oklahoma in a rematch of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Arkansas goes to East Lansing to take on Michigan State in a Big Ten SEC clash. The Orange Bowl matchup between Stanford and Virginia Tech becomes the first game in a march to the championship game on January 10. No longer would an undefeated team like TCU get shut out of playing for the national championship. The tournament would make $750 million in revenue by conservative estimates, far more than the $220 million the current bowl system pays out to schools.
So why isn’t there a playoff? No one knows for sure, but we can make an educated guess. Currently, the Big Ten makes more in television revenue than any other conference, even the SEC. Obviously, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has an interest in keeping this powerful position. A playoff would open a second revenue stream of equal magnitude to the current television deals. Instead of showing up at a single game and getting paid, teams can now earn more money by winning. With an estimated $25 million for each game, the conferences with the strongest teams will take home the most money. Over the 12 year history of the BCS, the Big Ten is 10-11 while the SEC is 14-5. With a playoff, everyone gets more money overall, but the relative amounts of revenue might change, potentially drastically. Jim Delany has an interest in keeping the status quo.