09 Nov

Rick Horrow’s Final Take for the week of November 7, 2016

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

Now that the election is over, Americans need something else to debate about. Luckily, our discourse about the College Football Playoff rankings is not as rancorous, nor serious as the 2016 election. But the idea of who’s in and who’s out in college football will dominate the next seven weeks, until right after the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

While there’s no right answer – unless you’re a fan of overlooked Western Michigan – the polls are always subjective, which is their beauty after three years. With only four playoff berths to fill, at least one of the NCAA’s five power conferences will be on the outside looking in. If the playoff format had included eight teams, we’d debate over nine; it may soon comprise six teams instead of the current four, in which case we’ll debate over seven.

In any case, the CFP is a welcome respite from the ominous, acrimonious debate of America’s presidential election season. When we have four super-conferences, and the winners automatically go to the playoff, it will be much easier. Until then, we’re replacing gut-wrenching election controversy with a political football.

Look at Texas A&M. They shouldn’t have been in the first week’s top four ranks in the first place, and received their fair amount of derision from pundits and fans accordingly. After they got blown out by Mississippi State last Saturday they’re out of the picture – and we’ll face this same scenario, albeit with different players, from now ‘til halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the final rankings are released.

Then, of course, we’ll get into the inevitable annual debate about whether there are too many bowl games. This year, there are a record 41, including the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl on December 20 and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville on December 30.

With college football at $9 billion annual revenue, there’s little debate about its financial stability. There IS, however, much jawing about coaches’ pay. Buoyed by rising revenues, 36 of the sports’ top coaches are earning $3 million or more this year, up from nine in 2011, and at least 33 coaches have guaranteed buyouts of at least $8 million, according to USA Today. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh leads the list, at just over $9 million; rounding out the top five are Alabama’s Nick Saban, $6.9 million; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, $6 million; Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, $5.55 million; and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, $5.25 million.

It’s no coincidence that three of the names on the list – Saban, Harbaugh, and Meyer – coach teams ranked in this week’s CFP Top Five.

At the end of the day, here’s something that we can all likely agree on: a new NCAA policy will financially reward schools that meet academic expectations for athletes, starting in 2019. Helping our kids succeed is something we can all get behind.