Mike Leach thinks college football took a step in the right direction in recently announcing the change to a playoff system at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. He simply wishes that step would’ve been a much larger one.
The four-team playoff system is scheduled to go into effect in 2014, a move that Leach — the new coach at Washington State — says is like dipping a toe in the water. Leach hopes they eventually expand it to more teams, and he’s not talking just eight. Leach wants 16, or better yet even 64, teams to go into the playoff bracket.
Mike Leach joined KJR in Seattle to discuss the excitement surrounding Washington State, the new playoff system, how it would work in terms of scheduling, why it would work for the fans and why he doesn’t think it would necessarily hurt anyone academically.
Does the excitement you’ve seen from the fans since you took over exceed even what you thought it might be like?:
“I think that’s what makes sports special. I think that’s why it’s on TV more now than ever before. I think that’s why fans get bigger. Coaches and players, that’s certainly a significant part of it, but what really makes the experience big is the opportunity to share it with fans. … Even people that want you to go down, that’s exhilarating, too. I mean, just the whole collection of people taking interest in a specific game, that’s what magnifies it. … It’s really fulfilling for my staff and my team and everyone’s working hard and doing the best job that they can.”
Where do you stand on the new playoff system?:
“I’d do some stuff different. First of all, I think the thing’s very positive and I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think that everybody, five years ago, [they] thought this playoff thing would be over in a couple months. The thing is, it’s lasted, it’s withstood, all those things. … I think that it’s good. The NCAA doesn’t typically plunge into the pool, they’ll dip their foot in first. And that’s basically what they did. If this works out well, I think they’ll expand it. I do think it’s positive. If you have a bigger field that goes into the playoffs, then it reduces the politics as far as who gets in. And then, of course, if you make it through the gauntlet … you deserve to be national champion. … I think it should be 16 teams or more. I’d like 64. I think, in the end, if you play in the finals, you should play 16 games.”
More on that playoff idea:
“The other thing I think is important on this thing is that period from mid-November to mid- to late-December has literally been a free for all to the NFL, to the point where they scatter their games all over the week. That’s a huge market and there’s a huge interest in football that time of year. I think it would be good financially for the colleges to capitalize on that a little more and I think if you expand the playoffs, that’ll give you the opportunity to do that.”
Comparing Gonzaga’s basketball situation to what could happen in football with his system:
“I think people would take an interest in it. Regardless of the team’s in a playoff game or location with the promise that the winner advances. … For example, Gonzaga. Gonzaga, in basketball, has thrilled America by what they’ve done basketball-wise as they’ve won games and beat people they shouldn’t and advanced through things. All over the country, there are people who don’t even know what city Gonzaga is in, they don’t know how to pronounce Gonzaga necessarily, but in their mind, they’re Gonzaga fans … because of the exposure they’ve had in this setting and the opportunity to advance.”
Would you be concerned about academics with a schedule like that?:
“I think academics always comes into play and I think with all these people getting into this, pay players and this, that and the other thing. … Let’s educate America and give people opportunities in that fashion and they’re already getting opportunities in the NFL if they measure up. … Academics is always vitally important. … The thing with the academic stuff is football is the least intrusive sport, academically. Football is one game. You spend very few days on the road. You’d have to make the two blend together, but I think it’s easier to do with football.”