Lloyd Carr’s play-calling throughout this football season put him at odds with many fans. Now his opinion regarding the college football postseason has him disagreeing with University President Mary Sue Coleman.

Angela Cesere
Angela Cesere

In a press conference on Dec. 14, the head football coach announced he had changed his opinion on a Division 1-A playoff system.

“I never thought I would say this – I think we should go to a playoff,” Carr said. “I think we should play the top 16 teams and do it on the field because I think that’s only fair to the guys that play the game.”

Carr supported his new stance by citing the Outback Bowl, which offered Iowa a bid instead of Michigan – despite the fact that the Wolverines had the same record and had defeated Iowa in the regular season.

In the past, Carr opposed extending the regular season to 12 games, saying it would be detrimental to the health of his athletes.

But the University’s position on the postseason is not in Carr’s hands. President Coleman is staunchly against the playoff system, and it is her opinion – not Carr’s – that the NCAA considers. After hearing about Carr’s recent change of heart, Coleman reiterated her disfavor for a playoff in college football.

“I am not in favor of a playoff system,” Coleman said. “I am firmly, firmly against it. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of universities.”

Many opponents of a playoff system say they believe that the longer schedule will be detrimental to the academic development of student athletes.

Carr is not the only high-profile figure concerned with the bowl system.

The issue of the bowl selection process has incited controversy in recent years – especially since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 – and it was the topic of a congressional hearing last month in which the Big Ten registered its opposition.

During the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection hearing, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) expressed concerns similar to Carr’s.

“What I don’t understand is, how did Iowa get a better bowl than Michigan when we beat them in the regular season?” Upton asked.

While Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, a witness in the hearing, did not answer Upton’s question, Assistant Big Ten Commissioner Scott Chipman explained in a later interview that a clause in the conference’s agreement with the bowls allowed the Outback Bowl to offer Iowa this year’s bid.

The only time a bowl is prohibited from offering a certain team a bid is when another team within the conference has two more overall wins than that team, Chipman said.

At the hearing, Delany – one of six witnesses – disputed claims that the only roadblock to a playoff system in Division 1-A football is the economic interest of the major conferences and corporate sponsors. According to Delany, a playoff system would generate “many times” more money than the bowl system produces.

Delany also cited the long-standing relationship between the Big Ten and bowls like the Rose Bowl in his stance against a playoff.

The Big Ten already distributes several million dollars to its member schools from bowl appearances. According to Chipman, the conference received about $23.5 million this year from the selection of Penn State and Ohio State to BCS bowls. The Big Ten evenly distributes this money, along with the payouts from all the other bowl games, to all 11 schools in the conference.

Division 1-A football is the only sport under NCAA jurisdiction that does not use a postseason playoff to determine a national champion.

Crissy Schaluep, a spokeswoman for the NCAA, said she does not expect the NCAA to organize a Division 1-A playoff anytime in the near future.

“The NCAA is a membership-led organization,” Schaluep said. “Our members have not conveyed interest in a Division 1-A football playoff.”

Despite the odds against a playoff at this time, Carr is confident that a playoff system will someday produce the national champion.

“I think, eventually, we’re going to have a playoff system,” he said. “How soon that’s going to be, I don’t know. But I think it’s inevitable. Whether it will be in my lifetime or not, remains to be seen.”


– Ian Herbert and Jason Z. Pesick contributed to this report

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