Obama's Support for College Football Playoff is Not Just Right, It is Also Good Politics

01/11/2009 01:06 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"I think a football playoff system makes sense. I've spoken about this quite a bit, and I think if you look at knowledgeable sports fans, they agree with me."
Barack Obama, January 7th, 2009

Set aside for a moment the fact that President-Elect Obama's support for a college football playoff is the right position*, it is also good politics. Obama has brought up his support for a playoff on several occasions, and there are two good reasons for him to continue to do so--his position on the issue is supported by a large majority of college football fans, and college football fans are made up of groups that Obama underperformed with in the presidential election.

In the most recent poll I could find on the topic, Gallup recorded overwhelming support for a playoff among college football fans. In this January 2007 survey, 69% of college football fans supported a playoff that would involve at least four teams while an additional 16% favored a one-game playoff among the top two teams after the bowl games. Thus, only 15% of college football fans want to keep the present BCS system.

As the chart below indicates, support for a college football playoff is nothing new; college football fans have consistently supported such a system at least over the past two decades. In 1994, 72% of college football fans expressed a preference for a playoff system. And despite the fact that the BCS was designed to reduce such clamoring, support for a playoff remains high (and is increasing). Thus, Obama's position on this issue puts him in-step with well over over two-thirds of college football fans; politically, announcing his support for a playoff is as difficult a decision as coming out in favor of ice cream and sunny days.


Not only is Obama's position on the side of the vast majority of college football fans, but these fans also tend to be the kinds of voters that Obama would like to make inroads with in 2012. According to Gallup, College football is America's third most popular sport, with 53% of Americans reporting that they are college football fans. College football fans tend to be married men, and they are more common in the South and Midwest than in other parts of the country. As the chart below indicates, these are precisely the types of groups that Obama under-performed with in the 2008 presidential election.


Of course, aside from Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, and Kyle Whittingham, there aren't very many people out there who are going to be evaluating the Obama presidency based on this issue. But Obama's public statements have sparked a lot of conversation about a playoff on ESPN and other sporting outlets (in addition to the regular news media) and it doesn't hurt to have his name frequently linked to a position that is this popular, particularly among groups who don't exactly make up his base. So it won't be surprising if we keep hearing Obama speaking up for a playoff whenever he has a chance.


*Full Disclosure: I'm a University of Georgia grad, and we would've won a playoff last year (though, public opinion might not back me up on that one).