NCAA Group of 5 Playoff – Sport Management

Background in Sport Management

One of the elements of content that I have incorporated into my blog are matters of Sport Management. In 2015, I graduated with a master’s degree in Sport Management from Wingate University, and I have been trying relentlessly to get on the fast track to becoming an Athletic Director for a Division I school in a non-Power 5 conference.  I honestly feel I have a lot of fresh ideas that could turn around an athletic program.  However, the issue is I do not bring a large book of business containing donors, nor am I a famous former athlete or friends with a famous former athlete (Peyton Manning, give me a shout out).

So instead of waiting for a door to open, I’m going to bust my own door, and let my expertise shine without giving away my trade secrets.

I wanted to become an athletic director for one reason: Boise State

Boise State

I loved how Boise State went from being unheard of, to a dark horse for BCS bowl games.  Boise St moved up from FCS (Formerly Division I-AA).  They enjoyed success in the WAC conference, going 122-20 between 2000-2009, including a 31-1 record between from ’06-’09; they continually scheduled difficult games against teams from major conferences, most of the time on the road.  From 2000-2005 Boise St was 1-8 against schools from major conferences.

Their fortunes changes in 2006 when Chris Petersen became head coach.  He led the Broncos to an undefeated season, including a thrilling Fiesta Bowl win against Adrian Peterson’s Oklahoma Sooners. To this day, that is probably one of the best games I have ever watched.



Boise State went from 1-8 against Power 5 schools from ’00-05, to 7-3 from ’06-’13.  Chris Petersen had 2 undefeated seasons, 2 Fiesta Bowl wins, and were consistently in the Top 20.

I always felt like those Chris Petersen lead Boise St teams could have beaten anyone in the country on a neutral site.  They were good enough to contend for national championships but, sadly the system wasn’t set up for them to succeed.

Chris Petersen at one point was the hottest coaching name in College Football. He didn’t have to stay in Boise as long as he did.  He ended up leaving to coach at Washington, a Power 5 school in the Pac-12 conference.  Granted, I’m sure the increase in salary played a factor in him leaving, but I feel like in the back of his mind, he knew he couldn’t win a championship at Boise the way the current system was set up.

Kids (and kids trapped in adult bodies) around the U.S. played EA’s NCAA Football, selecting a team nobody heard about, and building the program to eventually win national championships.  It was a fantasy because the way college football is set up, it will never happen.

But Boise State came the closest to doing it.  Chris Petersen and Boise’s athletic directors did something special, building a brand.

Building something from nothing.

Group of 5 Playoff

I recently read an article towards the end of 2016 stating that a growing number of Group of 5 officials have started some conversation around a playoff specifically for Group of 5 schools.

Those of you who are not privy to the NCAA landscape let me explain.  The NCAA is split up by divisions: Division III (lowest), Division II, FCS (formerly Division I-AA), and FBS (formerly Division I-A and highest).

For a large part of college football history all the divisions had a playoff except for FBS (D I-A).  FBS’ postseason consisted of bowl games with the top #1 and #2 team being selected in the best bowl game to play in the national championship game.

However, now that FBS (D 1-A) has a 4-team playoff system, bowl games seem to have diminished in significance.  It used to be the dream scenario for a lower to mid-major team to play in the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, etc.  Now it seems to be that, the postseason bowls are an afterthought; merely filler before the ‘real’ playoff begins.

The Power 5 conferences (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12) have a system that once again divides them from the Group of 5 conferences (AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Independents).

It has been over 30 years, since a non-Power 5 school, won a national championship.  Since the 4-team college football playoff started, a school from the Group of 5 has never been in the Top 10.

But according to the article, athletic directors from Group of 5 schools seem opposed to creating a playoff, as in their eyes it would be secondary in nature.

These are a few of the quotes from Ads disagreeing with the idea:

“Absolutely would not want a separate playoff,” said a Group of 5 AD, “and I can’t put enough exclamation points behind that.”

“The answer is an emphatic no,” AAC commission Mike Aresco said.  “We compete for national championships like anyone else in FBS including the Power 5, and have no interest in any kind of separate championship”.

“You mean compete for a junior varsity championship?” One Group of 5 AD said, “no thanks”.

I found these comments to be hilarious, especially the commissioner saying “we compete for national championships like anyone else does”.

These Group of 5 officials are possible hanging on to the possibility of an expansion of the playoffs, from 4 teams to 6 or even 8.  While an 8-team playoff is something most the country is hoping for.  I am just sick of the Group of 5 conferences waiting for table scraps that the Power 5 leaves them.

“We compete for national championships. . . .”

“Junior varsity championships. . . “

Nobody is thinking about your schools NOW as is.  The Group of 5 schools need to do something innovative for a change. Something that will catch the attention of casual fans and NCAA officials to make them want to care to watch you in the postseason.

You know what I thought of when I read this article?  The events that led to the NFL-AFL merger, the AFL formulating a product that just couldn’t be ignored and eventually led to the NFL that we love so much today.  In hindsight, the Group of 5 probably should have been more proactive in creating a playoff first, while the Power 5 were formulating their super conferences. Again, that speaks to the Group of 5 waiting to see how the landscape play out, instead of formulating their own vision.

If the Group of 5 creates a successful playoff product, still being able to monetize from the bowl sponsors, the Power 5 school will have no choice but to acknowledge it. If the Power 5 does expand to 6 or 8, they could include the top 2 ranked Group of 5 schools, to make it interesting.

The best the Group of 5 schools can hope for now, is a New Year’s 6 bowl game, half the nation is going to ignore anyway.

Build something that can expand the brand of Group 5 schools. . .

Or continue to fade in irrelevancy.

Weather Your Storm, Maintain Inner Reign  -E

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