What Could Have Been: How the CFP Robbed Us of Cinderella

Dec 6, 2023

There is much debate today about the treatment of Florida State University and its absence in the College Football Playoff, a decision made by 13, apparently partial, judges. Some blame the decision to dis one of three undefeated Power 5 teams over loyalty to the SEC, recently on the verge of being eliminated from the CFP for the first time.

Others defend the decision, arguing Florida State University isn’t the same team they were earlier in the season since quarterback Jordan Travis went down with a horrific injury. As if that wasn’t enough adversity, FSU would lose its backup, Tate Rodemaker, soon after to a head injury, leaving the rest up to redshirt freshman Brock Glenn. Glenn would, of course, pull off an ACC Championship win on the eve of the Seminoles essentially being relegated to a bowl game.

Relegated is an interesting term, made commonplace in the American lexicon thanks to shows like Ted Lasso. In “futbol,” relegation is the practice of promoting or demoting teams to different leagues based on their performance. Suffer too many significant losses, and a team can lose its league status. FSU didn’t lose, but college football fans certainly did, whether they know it or not.

Is FSU as good without Jordan Travis? History tells us probably not. Is this the first time an undefeated college football team has been stripped of a chance at being crowned a national champion? Absolutely not. The sidelines are filled with undefeated, uncrowned winners – Boise State in 2006 and 2009, Utah in 2004 and 2008, Auburn in 1993 and 2004, Penn State in 1973 and 1994, and so on. But isn’t that why we changed the system yet again, so 13 educated, impartial minds could right the wrongs of history?

Some will argue we don’t want another Georgia-TCU massacre. It’s bad for college football. Bad for the ratings, they say. What they are really saying is we won’t risk revenue for the sake of sportsmanship. Make no mistake, if FSU won the national championship with a third-string redshirt freshman leading the way or even its backup, it would have been the latest in a short line of memorable Cinderella stories. The kind of game grandparents tell their grandkids about.

Where would sports history be without the 2007 New York Giants, 10-6, going up against the 16-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and changing history with a 17-14 win? Then there was the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, the #8 seed who would record the greatest upset in college basketball history on their way to a national championship. The 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, which made history by defeating the USSR, is considered the greatest Cinderella story in sports. The 1969 Miracle Mets. And soon to be released by George Clooney, The Boys in the Boat, about the 1936 Olympic Gold Rowing Team from the University of Washington.

What’s in question now is certainly not the reputation of Florida State University, but rather the brand called the CFP Committee.  Yes, as important as it may be for those other teams to be in the college football playoff, those 13 members robbed America of the chance at a fairytale. For it’s the Cinderella stories that we remember, the ones that people write books about, produce movies, reference in speeches, and talk about in classrooms. All we can do at this point is wonder what could have been and remember them through a few meaningful hashtags: #cfprobbedus #cfpminuscinderella #cinderellarobbed #fsucinderellanottobe.