Group of Five teams considering their own playoff after feeling jilted by the CFP
Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier told ESPN.com on Wednesday that the Group of Five schools are contemplating forming their own playoff.
“It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of Five,” Frazier told ESPN. “Why not?”
As it stands, the Group of Five schools, which include programs from the American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences along with independents BYU, UMass and Army, have little chance of making the College Football Playoff.
This season, Western Michigan was one of two undefeated programs (Alabama) with wins against Big Ten foes Northwestern and Illinois and still only ascended to No. 15 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Broncos ranked behind six Power Five teams with three losses and one Power Five team with four losses. Memphis notched the highest-ever Group of 5 ranking (in the CFP era) at No. 13 in 2015, but no team among the Group of Five has won a national title since 1984.
“There is absolutely no ability for us (teams in the Group of Five) to be in that national title conversation,” Frazier said. “That’s just reality. Anyone that says we can: That’s a flat-out lie.”
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While Frazier and other athletic directors in the Group of Five are exploring the idea of a separate playoff, especially with ESPN reporting that NBC, CBS and ESPN have expressed interest in televising the event, several other Group of Five athletic directors aren’t thrilled about the idea.
“You mean compete for a junior varsity championship?” one Group of Five AD told ESPN.com. “No thanks.”
Currently, the highest ranked Group of Five team plays in a New Year’s Six Bowl, which is a financial boon to that school’s conference. Would this separate playoff be worth enough to offset that? Or would the highest-ranked Group of Five team still play in the CFP while the remaining conference champions and some at-large teams formed a Group of Five playoff field?
“Every division of college football has a national championship — Power 5, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA — every division, that is, except the Group of 5,” Frazier said.
Teams from the Group of Five have been treated like second-class citizens in terms of the national championship for decades. It took Boise State’s 2007 Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma for many to realize Group of Five teams could compete with the Power Five, and it took Utah’s undefeated season, which was capped with a thrashing of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, for the BCS powers that be to realize that the current system wasn’t adequately rewarding deserving teams. While the CFP was supposed to address those concerns by allowing every team a fair shake by an independent panel of voters, it’s clear the chasm still exists.
So it’s no surprise that some programs are getting a little antsy about where they fall in the college football hierarchy and whether there’s really any place for them in the system at all.
While a separate playoff would accentuate the divide between the haves and have-nots of college football, it might be the only way for teams from these conferences to get a chance to lift a national championship trophy. The only other possible solution would be to have an impossibly difficult nonconference schedule and then go undefeated to force the CFP committee’s hand. But the fact that Group of Five teams are held to such a higher standard when it comes to their schedules — while Power Five teams can lose three games and still be in contention for a playoff spot — is just another part of the problem.
What do you think? Should the Group of Five break away and form its own playoff?
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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter!