By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Not surprisingly, the selection of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff prompted as much or more fervent discussion as did the Bowl Championship Series in years past. With a number of deserving teams edged, including Baylor and TCU from the Big 12 Conference, the idea of expanding the playoffs has gained traction.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said he is not sure whether or not that should happen.
“It’s probably not great for anyone to talk in December about what football postseason should look like because everyone’s coming off either a positive or a negative experience relative to the postseason,” Hollis said. “I do feel there’s a lot of great football teams out there in the country right now that feel like they’ve had a failed season or a down season, and that’s because they’re not part of the four-team playoff. I’m not sure if the solution is to expand the field or to reduce the field. I do know that institutions had great experiences with bowl games in the past, but at the same time, I think we need to look at how is the process working. It’s one year in. I think it’s probably a little bit too early to throw judgment on the process.”
The Spartans are one of the teams that would have been included this year in an eight-team playoff. Michigan State finished the regular season with a record of 10-2, and both of the team’s losses came against teams that made the playoff – Oregon and Ohio State. Baylor and TCU – whom many considered deserving of a berth this season after winning 11 games each – would also have made the cut.
“I do think we need to all understand what happened this year a little bit better, especially in that selection process, but no matter how you do it, we said this beforehand, when you have two teams in a championship game, you’re going to have one, maybe two teams that are a little bit upset,” Hollis continued. “When you have four, you’ve going to have three to six that are upset, and I think that exponentially will go out into the future. I’m comfortable where we’re at right now, but I’m also going to watch the temperature of not only Michigan State but also other institutions and what the conclusion of those seasons look like. We have to be very cautious as schools that we’re not being reactionary in the employment process, in the value of a team, based upon making or not making the playoff, and I think that’s going to be a tough challenge for everyone.
“I’m not going to vote tomorrow one way or the other, but I am concerned about teams like Michigan State finishing the year 10-2 and some thinking it’s a failed season,” Hollis added. “It’s not.”
Hollis said that in evaluating the possibility of expanding the playoffs, administrators should consider what student-athletes want, what is in the best interests of the universities and what is good for the fan base. Hollis said he plans to get feedback from student-athletes around the country on whether they would want the longer season a larger playoff would require.
“That’s an important component for me,” Hollis said. “Do you want to play 12 games, 13 games, 14, 16? How many is too many? Do you want to play two in December and two in January and have a four-week process? Those are all good questions, and yet I still think it’s a little bit premature to step away from this four-team process, but ask TCU, ask Baylor, ask a few others what they think right now.”
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s first reaction to expanding the playoffs was positive, given the Spartans finished No. 8 in the playoff committee’s rankings.
“I guess it would include us this year – absolutely,” Dantonio said.
Dantonio said expanding the playoffs would be positive in that it would give opportunities to a greater number of deserving teams, and once the teams are included, any team can beat any other. On the flip side, Dantonio likes the infrastructure of the bowl system and does not know how that would be impacted by a larger playoff.
Both Hollis and Dantonio expressed a sense of concern over the perception that teams finishing outside the playoff had a poor season.
“I do think that what has happened is you get this final four mentality that these four teams have had success and these 124 teams have not,” Dantonio said, “and I don’t think that’s the case.”
Michigan State plays Baylor in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day.