Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh on expanding CFP field: ‘16 would be ideal’


By Nick Baumgardner - Detroit Free Press



Jim Harbaugh’s said it before.

And with the Big Ten’s absence from the 2017 College Football Playoff, Michigan’s head coach took the opportunity to say it again.

The idea of a playoff is correct. But he believes the execution should be tweaked.

“There should be more than four teams in the playoffs,” Harbaugh said this week when asked for his reaction to Ohio State’s absence from the playoff. “Just to reiterate: Eight teams, 12 teams, 16 teams.

“Sixteen would be ideal.”

Harbaugh’s long been a fan of the way the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) handles its postseason system. It started with a four-team format back in the late 1970s, then increased size over the years. In 2013, it moved to a 24-team playoff.

Some have advocated for a playoff that features automatic bids from each of the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences; others have pushed for automatic bids for the Power 5 leagues (Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12) with three other at-large bids.

The common thread, though, remains the same.

“I think what hurts it is the mind-numbingly short-sighted notion that four teams for a playoff somehow establishes something and that’s a very clever approach. … Nobody does it that way,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said earlier this season. “If we were so smart, wouldn’t all the other sports say ‘let’s have a committee, why not, we’re America and we love committees.’ … There’s people on the committee that don’t even have remote associations with football … other than being a fan.

“We should just ask them at the beginning of the season: Go ahead and vote on it, figure out 1, 2, 3 and 4 and let’s just not (bother). That’s not a playoff. How can you call it a playoff when there’s four teams and conference champions don’t even necessarily make the playoffs?”

Harbaugh’s not necessarily against a committee or some sort of selection organization, but he does believe the situation needs to be expanded.

This season, for the first time since its creation in 2014, the CFP committee selected two teams (Georgia and Alabama) from the same conference. The Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide were joined in this year’s field by Clemson and Oklahoma.

The 2017 playoff will mark the second straight year the Big Ten champion (Penn State last year and Ohio State this season) has been excluded from the playoff. And for the first time since its inception, the CFP will move forward without a Big Ten representative.

Harbaugh’s touched on the idea of expansion throughout his three-year tenure at Michigan, as he looks at other major sports and sees a larger postseason field to determine a true champion.

Some have countered that adding teams to the CFP would increase the number of games played, though Harbaugh and several other coaches quickly point to the fact that this year’s two CFP finalists will either be on game No. 14 or 15.

Keep the idea. Just add to it.

“It would make us more like every other sport, every other collegiate sport that has a playoff,” Harbaugh said. “Every league in sports that has a playoff and a championship that does it through a playoff format … .

“I think it’s the ideal way to do it.”

As far as his own team is concerned?

Harbaugh was clear about that, too. Right now, they’re not good enough. Not for a four-team playoff, an eight-team playoff or any type of playoff.

“We look at it right now, we’re not good enough. Not good enough to win all our games,” said Harbaugh, whose Wolverines (8-4) will close the season against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. “We need to be better. We need to be good enough. That starts now. It really started last week.

“We’ll go forward building and attacking, using our meeting time, training time, practice time and this next bowl game to motivate us and improve as a football team.”

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By Nick Baumgardner

Detroit Free Press