College Football Playoffs: Why Off-Campus Games Would Be A Waste Of Space

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 17: Fans attend the game between Eastern Michigan University Eagles and the University of Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Eastern Michigan 31-3. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

College football stadiums aren't big enough for college football, BCS commissioners seem to think.

Now that it seems all but certain we're getting a college football playoff beginning in 2014, the main item for haggling is where to play the games. If it's a four-team model, the two most likely options are to play semifinal games at the home sites of the top-seeded teams and a championship at a neutral site, or to play all three games at neutral locations.

The latter seems to be the favorite, with the Chicago Tribune reporting that smaller campus stadiums worry the BCS conference money people, and CBS Sports reporting that the off-campus plan is the most likely. The SEC also doesn't like the idea of flying all around the country, but maybe that's another issue*. There's also the luxury box angle -- NFL stadiums have them, while many college stadiums would need several years worth of playoff revenue to upgrade there.

* Probably not.

If basic stadium capacity is actually a concern, and not just a desire to appease the influential (RRRICH WITH CASH) committees behind the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls, then somebody hasn't crunched the numbers yet. This is where we come in!


Related: More Coverage Of The College Football Playoffs Debate

Let's say a college playoff was limited to cities that currently host BCS games, as Pete Thamel reports could happen. The average capacity of the Rose Bowl, the Superdome, and whatever we're calling the Arizona and Miami NFL stadiums these days is 77,363.

Add in, say, the Georgia Dome, Lucas Oil Field and Cowboys Stadium, all of which have collegiate bona fides, and we're at 78,128. Get crazy and use all 32 NFL stadiums as potential destinations. The average capacity? 71,093.

Now let's average together the home stadium capacities of every team that would've hosted a college semifinal since the BCS began in 1998:

College Stadium Capacity College Stadium Capacity

Tennessee, 1998 102455 Auburn, 2010 87451

Ohio State, 2007 102239 FSU, 2000 82300

Ohio State, 2006 102239 FSU, 1999 82300

Ohio State, 2002 102239 FSU, 1998 82300

Alabama, 2009 101821 Oklahoma, 2008 82112

Texas, 2009 100119 Oklahoma, 2004 82112

Texas, 2005 100119 Oklahoma, 2003 82112

USC, 2005 93607 Oklahoma, 2000 82112

USC, 2004 93607 Nebraska, 2001 81067

LSU, 2007 92542 Miami, 2002 75192

LSU, 2003 92542 Miami, 2001 75192

LSU, 2011 92542 Virginia Tech, 1999 66233

Florida, 2008 88548 Oklahoma State, 2011 60218

Florida, 2006 88548 Oregon, 2010 54000

Average 86709.6

From Pacific Takes: An Off-Campus Playoff Setup That's Not So Bad

An average of 86,710, with only three games in 14 seasons winding up at relatively small stadiums. Those three games would've sold out in minutes anyway, which we can rarely say about neutral-site games under the current arrangement. Most of the time, school stadiums will allow better attendance than NFL stadiums can.


Spencer Hall on the BCS vs. March Madness

That's not including the home stadiums of Michigan (109,901 capacity), Penn State (107,282), Georgia (92,746) or Texas A&M (82,600), all of which are bigger than every NFL stadium save Jerry Jones'. That's also not factoring in the endless facilities arms race -- LSU's Tiger Stadium, for one, is set to approach 100,000. Notre Dame's, Wisconsin's, South Carolina's and Clemson's home fields all already exceed 80,000, with about another dozen at the NFL average or bigger, depending on whether we really want to count, like, the Superdome in Tulane's name.

Almost by definition, successful programs make more money, which they use to make room for their growing fan bases. Therefore, teams with bigger stadiums are going to be more likely to host playoff games. And speaking of more money, a playoff could mean another $150 million or more for football programs to split up, which translates to bigger buildings across the board.

In summary, we can hope the powers don't try and sell college football fans on the idea that college football stadiums aren't big enough for college football. We can think bigger for college football's playoff system than mere NFL stadiums.

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