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A decade-plus history of Mike Leach calling for a 64-team playoff

Yes, he’s been saying this forever.

Mike Leach Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society illustration.

Once every few months, Washington State coach Mike Leach calls for the College Football Playoff’s expansion from four teams, often all the way up to 64 teams. The college football internet then acts like he’s never said this before.

A timeline!

October 2018

October 2017

Leach notes state high school playoffs can have dozens of teams.

“The thing that is indisputable is that at the end of the gauntlet, this team came out #1, and there’s no debate whatsoever who’s state champion,” he says.

Leach filters that argument upward, noting that Division III, Division II, and FCS (which he still calls “I-AA,” because he doesn’t want to be “politically correct”) all use larger systems too.

“They play it and they figure it out,” Leach says. Even the NFL has a 12-team playoff, leaving the FBS college ranks’ as the smallest one out there.

July 2015

“We’ve gotta add more teams,” Leach said, after the Playoff debuted at four.

“How many teams?” a reporter asked him.

“Sixty-four. Why not?” he replied.

Leach’s argument was the same as always. Other football leagues have big playoffs, so the FBS can too.

March 2012

Same deal:

"The minimum should be 16 teams,’’ Leach told Fox Sports' Lisa Horne. “I think 32 is better than 16, but I think 64 would be ideal.

"You could cut the regular season down to 10 games, but guarantee everybody 12 games. In the end, the champion would play 16 games."

But what about school?

"That's a bunch of foolishness. Basketball players go to school, volleyball players go to school, baseball players go to school and they play a lot more games than football [players do]."

August 2009

Leach was at Texas Tech at this point. His defense of his 64-team idea:

"There’s always a lot of, ‘We’ve never done this — we’ve never heard of such a thing. How can you suggest this?’” Leach said. "Hey, everyone else does it this way. There’s nothing unique about what I’m saying.

"I’m the mainstream. Everyone thinks I went into a cave and carved this all out.”

May 2009

Yep:

This business of a four-team playoff or an eight-team playoff is just stupid. I think you have to cut the regular season to 10 games. Then I think you need to invite a lot of teams (maybe 64) into a playoff, but you’d let the rest of the teams continue in an NIT-type deal so that they could play another six games or so, which they need to fund their programs.

December 2006

Leach was advocating for a 64-team playoff as early as this point, according to reporting by the Austin American-Statesman. He wanted the playoff to involve 32 bowl games, “not a squirrely little one extra-game system, which is a joke,” he said.

Leach’s idea would only work if the sport changed.

Leach thinks major college football could sort out a 64-team playoff and have it conclude by New Year’s Day. That would require structural changes — either a shortening of the regular season, a shortening of time between games, the elimination of conference championship games, moving the start of the season into the middle of August, or a combination.

The current Playoff wraps up around January 10 every year. Going much later than that is unlikely, because coaches prefer to have the last few weeks of January to recruit during the run-up to National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February. The NFL also takes up extra oxygen during January.

The powerful people who run college football can change it to their liking. But they can’t add more months to the year, and fitting in a 64-team playoff would demand drastically altering systems that have been in place for years. But since it’ll never happen, that means Leach can just keep proposing it.