Coastal Carolina emerged as the darling of this college football season, with mullets flowing from their helmets, a swashbuckling ethos and an undefeated season that captured the country’s attention.
Coastal Carolina is in just its fourth season of FBS football. And the school will play in its first-ever bowl game, the Cure Bowl, against Liberty in Orlando on Saturday.
But the conclusion of the Coastal Carolina’s 11-0 season brought with it some of the cruel realities that accompany the top levels of college football. Despite its record and a high-profile upset of BYU, Coastal finished No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings and got boxed out of the New Year’s Six Bowl games in favor of more traditional teams.
Incoming Coastal Carolina president Michael T. Benson wrote an open letter to the College Football Playoff Committee and its chair, Iowa AD Gary Barta, criticizing the “lack of fairness” and “absence of character” in the current college football postseason that “must be addressed.”
The letter calls for an “equality of opportunity” for schools from the Group of Five and criticizes the “flawed logic” that ended with Coastal’s No. 12 ranking and Cincinnati (9-0) finishing No. 8, which he said left them “absolutely flabbergasted.”
“I can’t help but think what might have been this season had all FBS programs been given the same equality of opportunity,” Benson wrote in a letter obtained by Yahoo Sports. He added: “Just think about that: Football is the only sport where the deck is stacked insurmountably against those who have the inevitable classification of “Group of Five” before toe hits the leather each fall.”
Benson acknowledged in the letter the reality that finances play in judging teams for college football’s postseason: “The [power] five” have worked to ensure that a different kind of Golden Rule remains firmly in place at the highest level of Division 1 football: those with the gold make the rules.”
Benson’s letter adds to the growing chorus of frustration about the college football postseason. The announcement of the rankings on Sunday came with an unprecedented level of criticism in the College Football Playoff’s seven-year history, as calls for playoff expansion came from the media and beyond.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been one of the most vocal critics, and he said in a phone interview with Yahoo Sports that he’d continue that. "I will be an adamant proponent of expanding the playoff going forward,” he said. “I have been [an advocate] in the room, but we haven’t been talking about it publicly in deference [to the CFP]."
In a phone interview with Yahoo Sports this week, Benson furthered his position on the inequities in the current system. He maintained that he’s a huge fan of the sport and understands from working at Utah early in his career the power that football has to transform a university.
When asked for actionable solutions, he mentioned being sure that the Group of Five is guaranteed access to an expanded College Football Playoff.
“If you expand the playoff to eight teams, they’re talking about a Group of Five representative or maybe two,” Benson said. “Just give us a chance to have access like these other schools.”
One of Benson’s points about the College Football Playoff and current bowl system’s inequity is that it lacks some of the intrinsic qualities that make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament great.
“For all the drama that March Madness basketball presents each and every year with the Cinderella stories of Butler or Loyola of Chicago or George Mason making the Final Four, what is currently in place for football is completely devoid of any comparable suspense and excitement,” he said. “Or, for that matter, fairness.”
Regardless of how the college football postseason changes, Benson said that Coastal’s emergence on to the scene will not be a one-year flash.
“I hope people get accustomed to the mullets,” he said. “We’re here to stay.”
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