Q1: Would a 1-A playof need to be held at neutral sites?
Size of the playoffs would be a factor here, as would the make up of the participants. Consensus appears to favor a 3-4 rounds (8-16 teams). If every game were held a neutral site, that's a lot of traveling to be asked of 15-30k fans. This might drive down ticket prices and revenue a bit. If you have any games played at host fields, however, that seems like a punishment for the lower half of the field compared to the idea of those teams filling half the stands of a bowl game. "Congratulations on that 9th seed at large bid, Ohio State. You'll be opening AT Auburn!"
Q2: Would the playoffs HAVE to replace the bowls?
If it's a semifinal game, call it a semi final. Don't call it the Rose/Sugar/whatever Bowl. Scheduling and logistics suggests playoff games won't include the full array of parades, visits to touristy attractions, etc. As a team you're focusing on the mission and less the "reward for the season." Get in, win, move on.
That being said, I think that since a football playoff would essentially HAVE to be small then there is room to have both the bowls and some bowls. If anything, this would weed out some of the less glamorous locations/bowls by virtue of having fewer headliners available.
Moreover, by not trying to work the bowls into the playoffs you can involve other cities and locations that might not be top tier in the bowl ranks (Atl, Dallas, SD, Saint Louis) but logistically might have the better means for accomodating a playoff game. Keep in mind in some places you're working around NFL schedules, conventions, etc. Former bowl sites can be accommodated, but they don't have to be, IMO.
Q3: If there is a 1-A playoff, might that attract more schools from AA?
IMHO, you bet. If there is a playoff at the highest level, then you can bet it will feature NCAA management (or heavy involvement) and thereby include some form of general payout to EVERY conference and/or school. Even if the playoff itself doesn't have a rep from every conference, I imagine the revenue sharing structure will mimic that for every other sport.
Thus, for those programs and conferences able to take on the extra scholarships 1-A requires, there'll certainly be more revenue available to them then if they remained in AA. How much is the AA postseason access worth to schools in the CAA? I can't imagine they get $2M out of it, if that. If a 1-A playoff does indeed provide the windfall many suggest, then that might include enough money to entice several more 1-A newbies to join the fray. Especially considering that, once classified as 1-A schools, these programs become more attractive to name programs looking to pay out for more easy home wins. This means there might be the need to address more than just the current 11 conferences and their champions in any playoff scenario.
Some other factors I think a playoff MUST work around:
- Championship to be played no later than first Saturday after NYD. NFL would not look to kindly on having it's own post-season thunder suffer anymore damage.
- Must be a bye-week in December to accomodate exams and/or Christmas. Now, maybe there are plenty of factions suggesting that a national semi-final might be worth playing on Christmas Eve or something, I don't know, but otherwise I know of several schools that woulo (and have) taken arguably weaker postseason bowls just to accomodate this need. Would also ensure some rest for schools that might otherwise be playing for the Nth week in a row.
- Semi-finals should find a way to avoid conflict with New Years Day. The week after Christmas up through New Years Day should provide the type of Bowl week we all envision. Fewer games with better match-ups that are simply a celebration of the sport and reward for the other teams. Possibility exists for 18 bowls to comfortably fit from the 12/17 to 1/1, especially if New Years Eve becomes another large day of games free of NFL competition.