2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Air Force coach wants 16-team playoff; doesn’t feel bowl system would feel an impact

Published: November 27, 2013, 3:03 pm, by Brent Briggeman

Troy Calhoun has not shied away from controversial topics this season – provided, of course, that the topic was not one of his players, one of his coaches or his program in general.

The Air Force football coach in the past months has talked at length about his desire to bring a ninth-semester for cadets, allowing his program the opportunity to redshirt. This has been met with great backlash from those who feel the prep school already serves that purpose. Calhoun obviously feels otherwise, perhaps because those at the prep school are still recruitable and not fully under the academy’s watchful eye to be developed as they see fit. No year is more difficult at the academy than the first, and Calhoun would prefer to let his cadets deal with those issues first and play football in the years that follow.

It’s no surprise that Calhoun finds every opportunity to mention that teams like Utah State and Colorado State are thriving with fifth-year seniors, particularly up front.

Calhoun has also talked at length about infrastructure improvements he’d like to see to the stadium and academy grounds that might provide easier access and a better game-day experience for fans. He’s mentioned that he doesn’t care for Friday night games – which he feels should be left for high schools – and he’s really no fan of his team playing on Thanksgiving week. That’s the top request he makes to the conference every year and the first thing he checks when he gets the schedule. As for the string of strange game-times that has included a pair of Thursday night and two Friday night games, those are out of Air Force’s hands as long as they belong to the Mountain West.

He used his final Tuesday press conference of the season to sound off on a topic that is always a touchy one in college football – a playoff system. This is the final year of the BCS before a four-team playoff begins next year.

Is Calhoun happy with this?


“Should be a 16-team playoff,” Calhoun said. “It’s America.”

The Falcons coach thinks there should be opportunity for any program to work itself into position to win a title, not the elite few who might be included in such a small field (a field that will be determined, in part, by former Air Force superintendent and future College Football Playoff selection committee member Mike Gould).

“You look at any other activity, any other in college or professional sports, it’s the only one where there’s really a block,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun then showed off his encyclopedic knowledge of college sports, noting College World Series appearances by Stony Brook, Kent State and the Citadel, as well as Final Four appearances by George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Wichita State.

“In track and field, just because you go to school at Idaho State doesn’t mean you can’t be a national champion,” Calhoun said. “In every sport that’s there; except for there’s one that’s not.”

A common argument against an expanded tournament is the damage it might do to the bowl system, one that’s been particularly kind to the Falcons as they have made postseason appearances in each of the past six seasons.

“I don’t think there would be a difference,” Calhoun said. “The reason I say that is, look, everyone said when the NCAA Tournament went from 48 to 64 in basketball then the NIT is going to be dissolved. Now there’s an NIT, a CIT and a CBI. You look through in the middle part of 2000s, it was a pretty rough stretch in the U.S. economy, but the bowl games didn’t go away. For some reason we keep adding bowl games. These bowl games must be doing OK solvency wise. It wouldn’t change.”

He clearly has a strong opinion. However, Calhoun closed his remarks with this disclaimer: “But we have enough on our plate that we need to be doing except for maybe these 3 or 4 minutes talking about that.”