Nick Saban Shares Concerns About College Football Playoff Expansion: ‘There’s Only So Many Games in These Guys’

When Nick Saban talks college football, you better believe everyone in the sport will listen. While rumors abound about a potential expansion to the current four-team college football playoff, Saban let his feelings be known. Let’s look at the rumored expansion, what current Alabama and former Miami Dolphins coach thinks, and how more playoff teams would impact the sport. 

Rumors of more college football playoffs are swirling

CBS Sports reported that a change to college football’s current playoff system may be imminent. The report stated that the playoff format will expand to at least eight teams with further expansion remaining a possibility as well. 12 teams are more likely. 

What would a playoff structure look like? Each Power Five conference championship winner would receive a bid, as well as one team from the Group of Five conferences. In addition, a 12-team field would leave six at-large bids. This would give the top four teams automatic byes in the first round, with the remaining eight duking it out to see who advances to the quarterfinals. 

On its face, this sounds like great news for college football fans. Who could say no to more football, right? But Saban provided a sobering reality of what a playoff might mean to the sport if it actually happens. 

Nick Saban’s concerns about more college football playoff expansion

According to 247 Sports, Saban appeared on The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss the potential of more college football playoffs, and he is strongly against it. In Saban’s view, you can have too much of a good thing. 

“I know there is a lot of interest in the playoff, but the other thing I would be concerned with is how many games do we need to play? The SEC Championship Game, if you look at it, most of the years we played in those games were playoff games.  Are we going to play less games in the regular season so we can have more playoff games?”

To many college football fans, Saban is saying the quiet part out loud: the SEC and Alabama’s dominance is so entrenched by college football’s powers that be that many times, the SEC title game acts as a de facto playoff. In Saban’s view, the SEC champ already does play in an additional playoff game.

Saban also said that you have to take into account the physical toll on the players’ bodies: 

“I think there’s only so many games in these guys. They’re student-athletes. They’re not just football players. I think some of that has to be taken into consideration as well.”

Saban’s opinion should hold significant weight. As reported by The Spun, Finebaum has pointed out that Saban’s reign of success makes him the most underpaid coach in college football history. When you look at his track record (seven national titles, with Finebaum predicting he’ll win three more according to The Spun), it’s hard to argue that. 

What more playoffs would mean for college football

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban watches the 2021 Masters
Football coach Nick Saban in 2021 | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So what would more playoffs mean for college football? A few realities that the sport and fans would need to consider:

  • It would keep student-athletes out of the classroom. This will get many people waving their hands dismissively, saying that college football players are there for sports and not academics. Until they’re paid for their time and talents, academics still need to be given weight. 
  • It could lead to more injuries. To Saban’s point, more injuries equal more wear and tear. 
  • It compromises the value of the regular season. One of the best aspects of college football is that every game matters. Adding additional playoff decreases the impact of those games. 

Despite the fact that every other division within the NCAA uses a playoff for football, it doesn’t seem like it would work as well for college football.

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