In his most recent article, the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen wrote that the 12-team College Football Playoff outlined on June 10 by the four-person working group was a "perceived net gain for Notre Dame." That was followed up with, "That is, unless your media literacy quotient is exclusively shaped by what you see on someone's uncle's Facebook page."
Memo to my nephews Matt and Mason: you don't have to go to my Facebook page to find out that I completely disagree with the longtime Notre Dame beat writer.
The decision to go to 12 teams in and of itself, in my view, is a wonderful idea. Schedules will have to be worked out and there is a question of how many games is too many. But going to eight, with six automatic bids, creates a very narrow field for at-large bids. Twelve teams also allow for the opportunity of more than one Group of 5 representative in the playoff. That would have been the result in 2020, as both Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina would have made the field.
But the provision that only the conference champions can receive first-round byes is extremely damaging to Notre Dame's future championship hopes. As an independent, Notre Dame cannot receive a bye, so no matter what the Fighting Irish do, no matter who they beat, the best seed they can receive is No. 5.
In the words of Remus Lupin, "Riddikulus!"
The new format could begin in 2023. That year, the Irish have a schedule that features Ohio State, Clemson, and USC. If Notre Dame were to win all of those games along with the other nine, they would be the fifth seed. For those that ask, "Well, how likely is that?" keep in mind that the Irish made the playoff in both 2020 and 2018 and also finished the 2012 season ranked fourth after falling to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
Making this proposal even harder to digest is that one of the members of the four-man working group that devised this plan is none other than Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. And he seems good with it.
When asked about the Irish having no shot at a bye, Swarbrick said, "I look forward to never hearing again about playing one less game or don't have a conference championship." So, lessening the criticism from outsiders is better than putting the school you represent in a better position to win? Lovely.
He then went on to say that Alabama and Oklahoma are assuming a risk by playing a conference game where Notre Dame does not have that extra game, essentially mimicking the criticisms the Irish have heard from outsiders for decades. So instead of defending his program from the detractors, he's now agreeing with them.
Swarbrick insinuated that not getting a bye is equivalent to playing a conference title game. Of course, if Alabama loses the SEC Championship Game, the Crimson Tide will still be in the playoff. If Notre Dame loses round one of the new 12-team tournament, the Irish's season is over.
Swarbrick also said that giving up the bye was a "fair trade-off to get a model that I thought was the right one for college football." Again, his role as the athletic director at Notre Dame — a position for which he is paid handsomely — seems less important to him than his volunteer work.
Hansen states that one benefit to Notre Dame is that the Irish now have more access to the field with six at-large bids instead of four or perhaps the two had the playoff been expanded to just eight teams. But you know who else has more access? Everyone. There is no greater advantage for Notre Dame as compared to Florida State, Washington, Texas A&M, or any other FBS team.
But the toothpaste is out of the tube now. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey or Big Ten counterpart Kevin Warren is not going to wake up tomorrow and say, "You know, I don't think this system is fair for Notre Dame." Swarbrick was in the room. Notre Dame had a voice. And it just didn't matter. Maybe, this was all part of a plan to eventually have Notre Dame join the ACC, which in many ways is even more unforgivable. But the end result is in no way beneficial or even neutral for the Irish.
One of the big benefits of establishing the byes was to maintain interest in the regular season late in the year. It's a valuable carrot to dangle in front of the top programs. Sankey and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby — two other members of the committee — knew its importance. Swarbrick either didn't know, didn't care, or wanted to appease others rather than stand up for his school.
Regardless, Notre Dame gets the short end of the stick.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.