You’ll never guess who was the earliest advocate of an eight-team college football playoff

Intransigence by corporate interests, media interests, and Big Ten leadership all have been the objects of blame for college football’s failure to move away from the BCS-based postseason format, and many of those same interests will continue to face blame when dissatisfaction builds with the newly proposed “plus one” system set to begin after the current BCS contract runs out in 2013. Particularly in SEC and Big XII country, Jim Delaney, commissioner of the Big 10, has played the role of lightning rod, the embodiment of resistance new college football’s new competitive order

Interestingly, though, it appears that it was from Delaney’s Big 10 that the vision of college football’s yet-unrealized future first emanated. From The Milwaukee Journal, November 1, 1966:

Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State football coach, proposed Monday that postseason bowl games be abolished, and immediately found a champion in Walter Byers, executive secretary of the National Collegiate Athletic association.

Daugherty, beaten in the Rose bowl in January and ineligible to go next January, said an eight team NCAA play-off, similar to the basketball tournaments, would better determine a true national champion.

Byers, when advised of Daugherty’s proposal, said in Kansas City, “I don’t see any reason why college football cannot follow the same national collegiate play-off pattern as all other intercollegiate sports enjoy.”

Under Daugherty’s proposal, two leading independents would join champions of the Big Ten, Big Eight, Southwest, Southeastern, Pacific and Atlantic Coast conferences in the play-offs.

“The television revenue from an NCAA play-off would be tremendous,” Daugherty said. “I would cut in all 120 NCAA member schools on the television receipts and let each school do with the money what it wants. It would bring each school in the NCAA at least $20,000.”

(Daugherty, presumably, referred only to NCAA schools that play major college football schedules. The NCAA listed 561 member schools Apr. 1, 1965.)

Daugherty’s plan apparently goes back, at least partially, to last season, when the Spartans were ranked first in major news service polls most of the season but then lost the mythical national championship in one of them.

“I felt we deserved the national championship last year,” he said. “But one poll (the Associated Press) waited until after we lost the Rose bowl, played not in 1965 but in 1966, to tell us we weren’t national champions.” Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose bowl, 14-12, and Alabama then was named the top team in the nation by AP voters.

Daugherty also said that a play-off would eliminate faculty complaints about over-emphasis.

“They (faculty members) are right. If there are a dozen bowl games, 24 teams have to extend their seasons upwards of six weeks,” Daugherty said.

He said his plan would mean an extension of no more than four weeks for any one team.

Byers, however, was careful not to stir up promoters of the various bowl games. “It would be critical that the very legitimate interests of the traditional friends on intercollegiate football, who through the years have conducted the various bowl games, would be adequately protected.”

Given that all of the challenges that are keeping college football from a pure eight-team playoff today– the various monied and institutional interests– were present and recognized in 1966 makes it at least a little less surprising that there was no significant development towards a playoff in the past forty-six years, a period that saw the stand-alone bowl system do nothing but expand while the NCAA and the schools ceded more and more control to corporate and media sponsors and, eventually, an entity like the BCS.

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2 thoughts on “You’ll never guess who was the earliest advocate of an eight-team college football playoff

  1. Pingback: Equal Justice Under College Football Playoff | ALDLAND

  2. Pingback: No, ESPN, this very much could be someone’s granddaddy’s top five | ALDLAND

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