TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There has to be a point when college football says enough.
When the College Football Playoff became reality during the 2014 season, proponents and critics alike claimed that no matter how many teams were included, there would always be the desire to make it bigger.
The Football Championship Subdivision is a perfect example. The playoff system was created in 1978 and initially had four teams. It is now 24 teams following a 10- or 11-game regular season.
The chances of the CFP adding a quarterfinal round in the near future aren’t very good since there would be scheduling issues, more damage would be done to the bowl structure and ESPN has paid $7.3 billion for the broadcast rights though 2025.
But there are two groups of people who should be against it happening, the ones usually the most overlooked.
- The players
Anyone who followed Alabama last season knows just much of a physical toll the season can take, as the Crimson Tide still won the title despite scores of injuries, especially to the linebacker corps.
Add another game, which would essentially bridge the gap from the conference championship games (when finals are going on) and there would be less recovery time and more risk of concussions and knee injuries. A 16-game season, the same as the NFL, would take a toll, especially considering some of the players are just 18 or 19 years old.
- The fans
This isn’t referring to the average college football fan who loves to sit before a television with the remote control every Saturday, but the core fans, the ones who pay to see the team play its games.
Ask any Crimson Tide fan about the past decade and they’ll gush with pride. But he or she will also tell you that it’s been expensive, requiring them to pick and choose more than ever.
“It’s a lot,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said.
Playing in a state that isn’t on par with many others economically (U.S. News and World Report has it at No. 38), Alabama doesn’t have the highest ticket prices, nor should it. Moreover, when Bryant-Denny Stadium was expanded the last time, Mal Moore made having one of the largest student seating per enrollment ratios in college football a priority.
Nevertheless, things add up, especially once you start factoring in extra games.
This year, season tickets at Bryant-Denny Stadium cost $460 each, plus a per-seat donation requirement that ranges from $60 to $4,000 every year.
The waiting list for season tickets is at approximately 34,000 people. Anyone who wants to a chance to be included in the Alabama-Notre Dame home-and-home series set for 2028-29 needs to sign up now to have a chance.
So, at minimum, two season-ticket seats will cost about $1,000 not including parking, hotel rooms, tailgating or traveling to any games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium — all of which can be incredibly expensive.
Crimson Tide fans gained a bit of financial break this past season by Alabama making the College Football Playoff without playing in the SEC Championship Game. The semifinal and title games also were within driving distance of Tuscaloosa.
But have you ever tried to get a hotel room in New Orleans for New Year’s?
For the Sugar Bowl, tickets at face value were $175 reserved and $275 at the club level. The prices jumped to $475-$675 for the National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide also played there to open the season against Florida State, which was billed as being like a bowl game on Week 1. Alabama having played so many neutral-site games of late was another reason fans were so excited to see it sign to play Texas (2022-23) and Notre Dame.
“You want to make sure you find that right balance,” Byrne said. “You look at the secondary market at times, they’re charging a lot more than what we charge. The goal is not to maximize that.”
That secondary market is where fans really take a financial hit even though in 2016 CNN Money called Alabama tickets a “relative bargain” as the 21st-most expensive on average in college football.
Yet according to StubHub, the average ticket price to see Alabama-Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game was $845.
With Alabama playing the hometown team, Georgia, for the title, there were upper-deck seats selling for $3,000 as the game drew comparisons to 2013 BCS Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama, StubHub’s highest-selling college title game.
Tickets cost more than most Alabama fans homes are worth. https://t.co/ZQ4x78Npfq
— Eric Parkila (@ParkilaSports) January 3, 2018
According to TicketCity.com, the last BCS National Championship Game, played in January 2014, had a ticket average at a low price of $84. The first year of the playoff it was $623. The demand has fluctuated based on the location and teams, but the average ticket price for the title game last season was a record-setting $1,909.
Incidentally, the cheapest ticket on the site for the next title game in San Francisco is $1,400.
The average fan is already getting squeezed out, something that college football has to be extremely concerned about, but adding another round to the playoff would only alienate them even more.