Mark Emmert has been the president of the NCAA since 2010, but he apparently hasn’t followed the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs closely during his presidency. Emmert (seen above at the 2019 Final Four) spoke to ESPN’s Heather Dinich for an interview published Tuesday about the state of fall sports amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which featured him saying he’s “very concerned.” He also spoke about the advantages he sees in conferences moving to fewer games and schools arranging longer breaks between games. But the most remarkable comments there may be Emmert’s complete misstating of how the FCS playoffs currently work. Here’s that, via College Football Talk’s Bryan Fischer:
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) July 28, 2020
Emmert’s base premise of the FCS playoffs involving more teams and more games is correct, and there are unquestionably additional challenges there as opposed to the current four-team, two-game format of the Football Bowl Subdivision’s College Football Playoff. But Emmert is wildly wrong on the particulars; the FCS playoffs expanded from 20 to 24 teams in 2013, and even more importantly, they’re not “round-robin” at all, but single-elimination (with the top eight seeds getting a first-round bye). And a single-elimination tournament involves far less games than a “round-robin” one (where every team plays every other team, which would take forever in a football tournament of any significant size). So this incorrect citation of the FCS format is not a good reason not to hold those playoffs.
Of course, those playoffs may not happen anyway, and the whole FCS season may not happen. The FCS-level CAA and Ivy League have already cancelled fall sports, as have other conferences that don’t have football or have lower-level football. And while the Ivy League doesn’t take part in the FCS playoffs and the CAA has said its schools can explore competition as an independent if they want, the future of the 2020 season doesn’t seem bright for FCS football right now.
But it’s still certainly quite something for the NCAA president to be wildly wrong about the FCS postseason format in a high-profile interview. And it fits in with the long-standing gripes about the NCAA organization mostly working for its most powerful members, such as Jerry Tarkanian’s “The NCAA was so mad at Kentucky they gave Cleveland State two more years of probation” line. In this case, it’s more “The NCAA was so desperate to make the cash cow of the CFP look safe that they dramatically overstated how many playoff games the FCS has.”