Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday he's not ready for any serious talks about expanding the playoff, and that the current four-team College Football Playoff system is fair to undefeated UCF because the Knights likely wouldn't be undefeated if they played a Power 5 conference schedule.
"It's fair because playing in the American Athletic is not the same as playing in the Big Ten or the SEC or the Big 12, it's just not," Bowlsby said. "They have some big games, but they don't have an Iowa State who can beat a second-ranked Oklahoma. The depth of those leagues and the quality at the top, getting ready for one game against Auburn, that's a lot different than playing Auburn every week.
"It's fair because playing in the American Athletic is not the same as playing in the Big Ten or the SEC or the Big 12, it's just not."Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby
"UCF is a good football team," he said. "They're a very good football team. Did they do the things throughout the season in terms of who they played that Penn State and Ohio State and the four that were in there? TCU, if TCU and UCF played 10 times, I defy anybody to convince me that UCF would win the majority of the games. Of course I've only been looking at it for 35 years."
Former selection committee member Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the former superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, has a background in the Mountain West Conference, but he too agreed that UCF was ranked "where it deserved to be."
"You've got 13 people in that room, and the results speak for themselves," said Gould, who paid attention to UCF's season this year because he is close friends with one of the program's biggest donors, Tony Nicholson. "If somebody on that committee, on that penultimate week, if somebody said, 'I think UCF ought to be No. 1, 2, 3 or 4,' then they keep voting until they resolve the thing, and clearly they didn't do that. UCF was 12th. That speaks for itself. Everybody has a voice, everybody has a vote, and that's where they ended up. I don't think it's an unfair bias, it's just reality based on the objective view of the people in that room.
"There's no question in my mind that there's a difference between going up against the big bodies week in and week out," Gould said. "In the Mountain West, American Athletic Conference, C-USA, it's just not the same as playing against the Power 5 big, human beings week after week. ... If they had to play Georgia next week, and Alabama the week after that, I just don't think you'd see the same results. I think others on that committee probably share my feelings on that."
Bowlsby is one of 10 FBS commissioners who comprise the CFP's management committee, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. When the playoff was created, Bowlsby said, there were compromises made between them that still exist today -- including a fear of devaluing the bowl system with an expanded playoff. He said if the playoff expanded to eight teams, it would likely push the Cotton, Peach, Fiesta and Orange Bowls to the week before Christmas -- a move that wouldn't exactly go over smoothly with those bowl officials. It would also require the players to go through a grueling 16-game schedule that included a conference title game, quarterfinal, semifinal and national championship -- also a huge financial undertaking to fans of those teams to attend the games.
Still, Bowlsby said he realizes that UCF's undefeated season coupled with two SEC teams in the title game will fuel the fire of playoff expansion talk -- just not enough within the powers that be.
"It probably makes a more compelling case than has been made in the past," he said. "There were lots of compromises that went into this, and those compromises are still valid today. I'm not prepared to take that leap just yet, but I'm sure it's going to get some conversation."