The website CollegeFootballPlayoff.com exists; and it is not a joke, or the product of a political action committee; or referring to the NCAA’s FCS, Division II or Division III football playoff. It’s the web presence of a real thing that’s going to happen less than two years from now, and it still doesn’t seem like reality, after the very same people who are now charged with running it spent years and years disparaging the very idea.
On Tuesday, the powers that be in college football revealed that their four-team playoff would literally be called the “College Football Playoff,” which wouldn’t be weird — NFL playoffs, NCAA tournament, etc. seem to fit just fine — if it hadn’t been for the buildup to the announcement, and the fact that a marketing firm was hired to help with branding. I’m not sure why I’m a sports writer when you can apparently be paid to think of names like “College Football Playoff,” but college football wouldn’t be college football without the wrong people cashing big checks for little work.
Again, the name’s … fine. It’s not loaded with sponsorships or anything, and it’s simple and to the point. Still, it’s almost unexplainably funny. The big reveal turned out to be the exact same name we’ve used forever, only capitalized: College Football Playoff. As colleague Emma Span suggested, Sports on Earth missed the boat by not naming itself Sports Website.
Of course, Bowl Championship Series would actually make a lot of sense for the name, but those words are so stigmatized that they will never be used again, which is a good thing, if only because we will never again have to deal with people thinking they are clever by saying “BCS … MORE LIKE the BS, amirite?!?” We are all much smarter now because of this, although angry people will surely attempt to find annoying ways to alter CFP.
Nobody is ever happy with a name, of course. This website is called Sports on Earth, and people have poked fun or complained about it — everyone from your average Internet commenter to Mike Krzyzewski — just as they did with most any other new website. Yahoo! surely sounded like a ridiculous name many years ago. Nobody cares anymore. The Super Bowl is a pretty ridiculous name at its core, but nobody ever thinks about it; it’s just an enormous brand. In this case, avoiding the stigma attached to the BCS and disasters like Leaders and Legends, the commissioners opted for no creativity at all, just the most straightforward name imaginable, complete with a surreal introduction video that actually opens with a countdown clock and a voiceover that says, “College football’s new playoff is coming soon. The name for the new postseason? The College Football Playoff. You can’t get more straightforward than that.”
The video has the unmistakeable feel of a parody, but, well, there is no wink involved, no irony. It’s spoken like this is some grand new name, when it’s actually just plain SEO-friendly words that can offend nobody, which perhaps was the point.
Really, the name and the new website — where you can vote for the new logo out of four choices that could have been drawn using MS Paint — are all just fun distractions. They don’t actually matter to anybody except the people who have to market it. Fewer things are more marketable than a college football playoff, so altering it to College Football Playoff is quite logical, in fact.
Somewhat more important are the bowl sites, which we know even though they haven’t all been revealed yet, thanks to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy: a rotating championship game that will first be played at Cowboys Stadium, and six rotating semifinals at the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Chick-fil-A Bowls, mostly being played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. All of these are fine developments. And the most important thing, in terms of actual football, is the selection committee and the selection process, which we will undoubtedly complain about incessantly, but it doesn’t matter because the fact remains that four is better than two in just about every way — progress has been made.
So even though we’ve known about it for months, the biggest takeaway from Tuesday was simple: There is actually a playoff to make fun of. It is here, and there’s even a website to prove it. This isn’t some elaborate prank by Jim Delany. Executive director Bill Hancock, who spent so much time over the years telling us why a playoff would be the end of the world, then sidestepping the word playoff by saying “event” before the system was finally official, is now telling us that we will “settle it on the field once and for all” and that “a four-team playoff doesn’t go too far; it goes just the right distance.” There’s no penalty for flip-flopping in college sports.
So it goes. A logical name probably would have been the Football Four (there’s already a Final Four and a Frozen Four, and who doesn’t like alliteration?), but that would mean a name change would be necessary when the playoff inevitably expands to six or eight in the next 10-20 years. When that happens, the College Football Playoff will be even better, and Bill Hancock, or whoever runs PR for the College Football Playoff, will once again say that it goes just the right distance. We’re used to this game by now.
Whatever. Call it whatever you’d like. Pick whatever logo you’d like. Prepare for the selection arguments to continue. It’s all good. There is a playoff in college football, and a good fight has been won. I’ll happily hit the shift key three times.