Every year it seems the debate escalates on how to determine the national champion in college football. Bowl games or a playoff? One thing that is certain, everyone has a strong opinion. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the legendary Hall of Fame coach, Grant Teaff, and get his pulse on the current system, and if it should be kept intact. Grant Teaff is a signature name in the state of Texas and recognized for building the foundation of the Baylor football program. He quickly changed the level of expectation and as a result is the winningest football coach during his 21 years at Baylor University.
Today, Teaff is still playing a major role in college football. He is the Executive Director of the American Football Coaches Association, and one of the most powerful administrators in college football. Daily he addresses a number of key and controversial issues concerning the sport.
EWC: Earlier this month you were in Nashville, Tenn., for the annual meetings with the American Football Coaches Association. Let’s quickly recap the event and your objectives — as you had a strong turnout. Can you share a quick overview?
GT: We had just under 7,000 coaches attend and during that time we had educational venues that were totally outstanding. Each year we come together as for the education of our constituents, which is vast, and also the handling of the business. There is awards recognition among other things. It’s a full four days and we have around 140 events.
EWC: Anytime you get a group of coaches together, I would anticipate the conversation will lead to discussing the current format of college football system. What type of feedback did your receive from the coaches?
GT: Most of that particular conversation is with the media and the fans. In fact, I noticed last week in USA Today where a congressman in Washington, D.C., is going to see to it that college football has a playoff system. I certainly hope at the same time they will do a few things about our economy while they’re at it. What you have is a lot of people very interested in a playoff. They see the NFL playoffs, but it was determined a long time ago, by presidents, commissioners and the leaders from the academic world that for the football bowl, a playoff was not the way to go. The bowl system is something that is favored by just about everybody that is involved. Yes, there are each year controversies, because there are good teams that do not get to play for the so-called championship. I know President Obama said in a recent television interview, that we should have an eight-team playoff. I actually chuckled when I heard that because, I was at my desk working at the time and going over the fact that there were 12 teams that were either undefeated or had one loss. OK, so you take out eight teams and then you would leave out four. There is no true formula that appears to work. And you certainly could not do the 64 teams like in college basketball.
EWC: The Bowl Championship Series has been in place since the 1998 season. When the founders put the system into play, what were some of the main goals of the series?
GT: The founders wanted to make the regular season the most important thing. And as a result, this is what has happened. College football has never been more popular, more attended, more viewed than it is right now. And so things are really spectacular. Those issues regarding a playoff come up every year. Unfortunately, a lot of people have ideas, but no one has a plan.
EWC: Obviously, this will be a hot topic that will always be debated. What is the future of college football?
GT: Well, when you look at it from a logical standpoint for Division I FBS, a playoff is probably not going to happen. Here is the thing you have to remember. There is already a new contract that has been signed — and the way it is set up now with the BCS, it will still be around for another five years. Now, unless something dramatic happens — say the Congress of the United States, in some way, somehow sticks their nose into college football and say, “OK, you’ve got to have a college playoff.” I’m sure the first thing the commissioner will say is, ”You guys run it, but just be sure and duplicate all the money we’re making now. And when you get through with it we’ll be happy to continue to take it over and go from there.” The bottom line is in the long run there is nothing innately wrong with it. It’s by far better than the system we had for all those years.
EWC: Tell us a little bit about your family. You and your wife, Donell, have three daughters. Do all the Teaff women have a love and passion for the game of football like their father?
GT: Absolutely. My wife, Donell, was a cheerleader at Texas Tech and has spent her life in and around the game of football with me. And so have our daughters. Each year, our youngest daughter, Layne, produces the convention for the American Football Coaches Association. She has worked with me for the past 15 years. The entire family is immersed in it. Football is such a great game. And, it teaches so much that it truly is hard to just step away from it.
EWC: Football has been a big part of your life and the Teaff family. When spring and fall practice rolls around, do you miss being on the sideline coaching?
GT: Not really. There are certain aspects of it that you really love. For me, mine was the relationships with the players. Today, that has now transferred beautifully to the relationships with the 12,000 members of the American Coaches Association. I’m still so immersed in football — more even then when I was a coach. There is nothing that I’m not a part of with the college game today. In fact, I tape about 22 games each weekend, just in case I need to go back and look at them. I love to watch the great games and I always review officiating. I will be around the game of football as long as I can make a difference.