Tramel: Mike Holder, Joe Castiglione give 12-team College Football Playoff positive reviews

Berry Tramel

Mike Holder is like most of us in the college football sphere. 

When the OSU athletic director first heard of the proposed 12-team playoff, he thought of runaway inflation. From four to 12 seemed a steep hike. 

"I was skeptical," Holder said. "But as I learned more about it, I'm really a big fan of it. Huge step in the right direction for college football and student-athletes and just college athletics in general." 

The plan, developed by three conference commissioners, including the Big 12's Bob Bowlsby, and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, was made public a week ago and presented Thursday and Friday to the other commissioners of major conferences. 

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said the plan was well-received by the commissioners but that more feedback is needed.  

"Remember, the four people have been in this for two years, and the other seven commissioners have been in it and the discussion and in the know for about a week," Hancock said. "And I think the biggest thing that kept coming up was we just need time to review this with our folks back on campus. That was probably the biggest thing, just we need time for more input." 

But we're long past carrier pigeons and the Pony Express. News travels fast. The 12-team idea has flooded campuses where football is king. 

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is not as bullish as Holder on the 12-team format, at least not yet, but still was quite positive. 

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione has said that full capacity is expected for the football season at Owen Field.

"I think it’s largely good," Joe C. said. "Overall a great move. Still some elements of it that we don’t yet know, so the reason I’m having a little bit of hesitancy in just saying it’s flat-out great, without understanding any of the elements, I want to wait and see." 

There are unknowns. How will the Rose Bowl, which can be standoffish, fit into the plan? Will the Pac-12 politick for an automatic berth? The initial proposal promises automatic berths to the six highest-ranked conference champions among the 10 leagues that make up major college football, with no special dispensation to the Power 5 conferences. 

But there is much to like in the 12-team format. 

Holder is most pleased with the increased access. In the seven-year history of the playoff, four schools (Clemson, Alabama, OU and Ohio State have accounted for 20 of the 28 slots). 

"Eight sounded good, but 12’s even better for all the reasons that are out there," Holder said. "More is better. The only thing better than 12 might be 16. Who knows how many it could be?" 

Holder said tripling the size of the playoff gives hope to all kinds of programs. 

"Hope is a powerful force," Holder said. "I think we’ll see something different than we’ve had in the past. You get in that tournament, I think there will be more upsets." 

Outgoing OSU athletic director Mike Holder is no fan of the games against Division I-AA opponents, but rather than replacing them with better opponents, he suggested reducing the season.

Access to the playoff has not been an issue for the Sooners. OU has been in four of the seven playoffs. 

But Castiglione is pleased that the plan gives weight to the conference championship and thus doesn't necessarily detract from the regular season. 

"The most important impact is the way it continues to value the regular season," Castiglione said. "To me, while everybody keeps talking about the post-season, and I understand why, because that's the ultimate end goal, but the most important part of the season is the regular season.  

"We have to get that right. Any move we make only should enhance it, never take away from it. And so the move to 12 keeps more teams in the race for a playoff spot deep into the regular season." 

Castiglione said he is concerned about a potential 17-game season for a team. A squad that makes a conference championship game, makes the playoff with a seed 5-12 and then wins three in a row would reach a 17th game in the national finals. A longshot, sure. But possible. 

"That was one thing that caught my eye," Castiglione said. "I know when teams qualify, they’re going to be thinking of the great opportunity to play for a national championship. They’re not going to be thinking of 17 games. But that gave me pause.  

"Now, there could possibly be any number of things that could be done to consider the best way to navigate that many games. Time between games. Appropriate rest and recovery." 

Holder said an easy fix is to shorten the regular season. 

"I think the regular season’s too long," Holder said. 

Holder probably is in the minority on that idea, with his peers. 

And maybe that's the point of the campus feedback that Hancock is talking about.  

Not whether the 12-team playoff is a good idea and should be implemented. But that the 12-team playoff is such a good idea, how can it be made to work. 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.