Jan 10, 2024 - Sports

College football wrestles with player opt-outs

Illustration of a sad football with the laces making a frowning mouth.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Player opt-outs shook up college football this season, with some bowl games losing their hype and underdogs pulling off upsets due to sidelined players.

Why it matters: Athletes who opt out of postseason appearances to stay healthy for the NFL Draft or to enter the transfer portal force their teams into games that can be more difficult to win.

The latest: When Florida State was routed by Georgia in the 2023 Orange Bowl 63-3, they were missing over two dozen players, some due to injuries, others due to the transfer portal or draft eligibility.

Of note: Georgia has been one of the most dominating teams in college football the last three seasons. The Bulldogs were back-to-back national champions and defeated a full roster TCU in the 2023 title game 65-7.

Yes, but: It's safe to say that a number of FSU opt-outs had more to do with their College Football Playoff bracket snub despite finishing the regular season 13-0.

Catch up quick: The Seminoles were left out of the playoff and ranked below Texas and Alabama, who each had one loss during their regular season.

What they're saying: After the Orange Bowl, Georgia's head coach, Kirby Smart, said the situation "needs to be fixed."

  • "We had our guys, and they didn't have their guys," Smart said. "College football has to decide what they want. I know things are changing. But there's still going to be bowl games outside of [the playoff] … It's really unfortunate for those kids on that sideline that had to play in that game and didn't have their full arsenal. And it affected the game, 100%."

Before the Orange Bowl, former Florida State offensive coordinator and Georgia head coach Mark Richt revealed his thoughts on ACC Network ten days before the game:

  • "I understand why those Florida State kids decided not to play for a lot of reasons," Richt said. "If they're playing for the National Championship, I don't think any of them leave."

The other side: Ahead of the CFP National Championship, Nick Carparelli, the executive director of Bowl Season, told Yahoo Sports that "the problem is not bowl games or the bowl system."

  • "The problem is all the unregulated circumstances around it now, with transfer portal and NIL and early signing period all happening at the same time. That doesn't occur in any other sport. That's what has to be fixed."

What's next: The college football playoff will expand from four to 12 teams starting next season, giving more teams the opportunity to compete for the National Championship.

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