It looks like Southeastern Conference football fans who’ve been hoping for some form of college football playoff system will soon be getting their wish. But the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” might apply.
When Alabama and LSU were locked in to play in this year’s BCS Championship Game the stage was set for change. The SEC had simply gotten too powerful for other leagues to stomach.
First, Big 12 interim commish Chuck Neinas said a Plus One system needed to be discussed. Then word leaked from the Big Ten that Jim Delany — long an anti-playoff guy — was suddenly considering a four-team system that would feature semifinals played at campus locations and a title game played at a neutral site.
Last week 11 conference commissioners and the AD at Notre Dame met to further discuss possible replacements for the BCS when it runs its course in 2014. By the end of the week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had given his support to the Big Ten’s four-team, on-campus semifinal plan.
“There’s a reason that in the NFL they only play the Super Bowl as a neutral site game,” Scott said. “There’s a reason they play playoffs and AFC and NFC championships with home hosting.”
In addition, Scott spoke of just who might be invited to take part in such a four-team system. “What more clear way to have intellectual consistency with the idea of a playoff than to earn it as a conference champion? It would de-emphasize the highly subjective polls that are based on a coach and media voting and a few computers.” (Scott doesn’t mention if polls or computers will be used to determine which conference champions get to play.)
Add it all up and it looks like there will be two voting blocs when it comes to choosing the new system.
One group — made up of at least Pac-12 and Big Ten officials — will champion a four-team, seeded Plus One system that will feature the higher-seeded teams hosting semifinal games, with only the championship game put up for bid. This group will want only conference champions involved so a league like the SEC won’t be able to land two or even three teams in the final four-team mix. Ironically, former SEC commish and BCS founder Roy Kramer pushed the “champs only” idea just last week.
The second group will — we imagine — be driven by the SEC’s current commissioner, Mike Slive. As the Grand Poobah of a league that entered the final week of the regular season with the top three teams in the BCS standings, he might no be so keen on a one-team-per-league cap. After all in 14 years of BCS play, 10 times a team that did not win its conference did wind up in the top four of the BCS standings. This group will likely also fight to keep a new Plus One system anchored to the existing bowl games in some form or fashion. Good Southern weather never hurt anybody, ya know.
So which bloc will gain the most support? What compromises are there to be made and which side is best equipped to present them and get them passed?
For now, stay tuned.
But it sure seems that this whole Plus One plan is actually a take-down-the-SEC plan. And its structure, location and composition may all be designed with that very goal in mind.