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Flip-Flop: Swofford Now Says ACC Prefers Conference Champ Model For Playoff

Well, you can’t say we didn’t see this one coming.

A week ago Monday, Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com made the case for a college football playoff involving the four best teams in the nation, period.  In that piece — which, as you know, we totally agree with — included this quote from ACC commissioner John Swofford:

 

“I’m a big believer in conference championships and that resonates with me.  But if you’re selling a four-team playoff, and it’s not 1-2-3-4, then the credibility of the system is undermined.”

 

To date, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have been the leagues trying to limit the number of non-conference champs who could reach a playoff.  The ACC and SEC have been in favor of inviting the top four teams regardless of league silverware.

But between last Monday and this past Monday, Florida State’s Andy Haggard opened his mouth and sent shockwaves across the landscape of college football.  He put FSU on the auction block.  That put Swofford in a tough spot.

On Monday — in a post titled: Did An FSU Trustee Just Cost The SEC A Playoff Partner – we wondered if Swofford might change his tune regarding a playoff for political purposes.  We wrote:

 

“(Faced with losing FSU) Does Swofford suddenly switch sides in the current playoff talks?  If the ACC were to suddenly join the Big Ten and Pac-12 in pushing for a champs-only or champs-mostly style of playoff, he’d be exerting pressure in two places.  Faced with a champs-only plan, Notre Dame might be forced to actually join a league and the ACC would have a one-in-three shot at grabbing them (along with the Big Ten and the Big 12).  In addition, Florida State might suddenly view the ACC, Pitt, Syracuse and all those other ‘basketball schools’ as looking pretty good.  What’s the easiest path to a national title and beaucoup playoff dollars: Besting Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU in the Big 12 or beating, well, uh, the field in the ACC?  The ACC would clearly be the easier path at the present time (even though FSU has only one its league once and it’s division twice since 2005).  In that scenario, it might make greater financial sense for Florida State to stay put.”

 

So guess what Swofford said earlier today:

 

 

Well, whaddya know?

This will most likely be seen as a tit-for-tat deal with the Big Ten and Pac-12.  ”You stop pushing for on-campus semifinals and we’ll go along with your plan of taking any conference champs ranked in the top six.”

But don’t think for a second that this isn’t also being driven by Swofford’s need to either a) lure Notre Dame into the ACC or b) hold on to Florida State.

 


18 comments
College Football Lover
College Football Lover

It's starting to look like the +1 or four team playoff is about to blow up.  The Big 10 and PAC 12 are looking out for their own interests and the ACC is ready to make a deal with the devil to save their conference.  The SEC and Big 12 are flexing their muscle and Big East is disappearing.  Notre Dame is starting to feel the need to join a conference or get left out of the conversation, though I doubt that will happen.  I wouldn't be surprised if we see the conferences taking over control of the bowls and things end up looking a lot like the pre-BCS.  This could have all been avoided if the University Presidents had elected to cap football conferences at 12 teams and agreed upon a  +1 when it was first proposed.  But that doesn't matter now.  Things are going to get ugly.

MoKelly
MoKelly

Not a suprise decision to me. The ACC is relatively weak in football. Th echances of that league landing 2 teams in the Top 4 are nil. So, their best chance to participate is the Conference Champion scenario. The SEC's last chance is to get the Big 12 on board here. The BIG 12 MAY still have enough self-confidence and pride to go with the Top 4 teams vs. Conference Champions. It is clear the Big 10 and PAC have thrown in the towel of ever being the best Conference again.

viciousdawg
viciousdawg

A 16 team playoff is the ONLY fair way to go.

one90
one90 like.author.displayName 1 Like

USCTraveler..... That's why I suggested compromise below.

USCTraveler
USCTraveler

 @one90 I like Top 6 better because it gives you more room to overcome human bias in the polls and computer programs if you've won your conference.

 

I'd also be fine with Top 3 Conference Champs (not dependent on ranking, but historically, they would almost always be Top 5 teams) plus 1 Wildcard (whoever is the next highest ranked team: non-champ, indy team or the next highest ranked conference champ).  Wildcard could either be based on rankings or chosen by committee, but the only thing that sounds worse than the BCS system is a committee.  

USCTraveler
USCTraveler

John-   You keep talking about "taking the best four teams, period".   Best four teams according to who ?  

 

A corrupt coaches poll that's filled out by SIDs who don't have time to watch all the games and just vote for their conference ?  

Computers programmed with secret formulas that no one knows ?  

A system that promotes scheduling cupcakes instead of strong out of conference opponents ?

 

Why do people want to use the rankings ?  Aren't the rankings what everyone hates about the BCS in the first place ?  The polls and the computers ?

 

 

The problem with having a Top 4 BCS model last year is not that Alabama would have gotten in.  Bama deserved to be in.

 

The problem last year would have been that Stanford (ranked 4th)  would have gotten in over Oregon (ranked 5th).  The same Oregon that beat Stanford in Palo Alto by 3 touchdowns.

 

Oregon lost to LSU and to USC (a team Stanford needed help from the refs to beat in 3OT).  Oregon beat Stanford badly head to head, and won the PAC12, but because they played LSU out of conference while Stanford played Duke, the geniuses voting in the polls and programming the computers ranked Stanford higher, even though Oregon had proved ON THE FIELD that they were better than Stanford.

 

Winning your conference should mean something.  It protects the regular season, and makes CCG games more meaningful.  Delaney's plan is a good one because it minimizes the polls and computers, and puts the emphasis on proving it on the field.  

 

If the BCS rankings are so great, why does the SEC bother to play a championship game ?  By the logic of "just take the Top 4 teams", the SEC should cancel their CCG and award the SEC Championship to whichever SEC team is ranked highest in the polls, because the BCS Rankings tell us who the best teams are.  Sounds ridiculous, right ?  

 

But that's the same logic being used when Slive argues for "just take the Top 4 teams" for a playoff.  

 

The SEC determines their conference champion on the field because they want to see the Champion prove it on the field.  That's the way it should be for a playoff as well.

 

There's not enough OOC games between top teams during the regular season to really know who the top teams are, so unless you see Conference Champions playing each other, there's no way to truly prove who the best team is.  

 

Delaney's plan is a good compromise between "Conference Champions Only no matter what their ranking" and "just use the Top Four".  We know MIke Slive is never going to agree to Champs Only, and it looks like the Champs Only side is gaining momentum, so the two sides are going to need to make a deal.

 

With only four playoff slots, in many years there will be enough strong conference champions to fill all four slots, but in the year's that there aren't, the unfilled slots will go to strong teams that didn't win their conference.  Delaney's plan guarantees that they will all have to be Top 6 teams, so the matchups are always going to feature strong teams, and we will get a truly "National" Champion by seeing the best teams from 3 or 4 different conferences playing each other.

 

If there were 8 teams in the playoffs, which would be a much better system, I could see doing the top 6 conference champs and two wildcards, but with only four playoff teams, there's not enough slots to put in teams that didn't win their conference if you have four strong conference champions.

 

Put more emphasis on what happens on the field.  Use Delaney's plan or say Top 3 Conference Champs + Top Wildcard.   If the fourth team is a conference champ- great.  If it's a team like Alabama last year, that's fine too.  

 

Either one of those compromises would be a huge improvement over what we have, as it would minimize the influence of polls and computers as much as it can be done under a four team format.  

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @USCTraveler I would like 8 teams as well.  I don't see in any given year that there are more than 8(at the most) deserving teams that have a legitimate shot of winning a title.  Hopefully, we'll never go to a 16 team playoff because #1, I don't want the Sun Belt champion or someone like that to have an auto-bid.  I just think that's ridiculous.  #2, that's an awful lot of games especially with a bunch of undeserving teams. 

 

I would break it down like this:

 

Top 4 conference champions...in most years this will be SEC, B1G, PAC 12, and Big 12 champs.

 

The other 4 would be the top 4 wildcards according to the rankings.  These teams MIGHT be conference champions elsewhere, but it's not required in order to make it.  And I think there should be maximum opportunity for multiple teams from the same conference to get in.  There will always be many times where a particular conference's #2 or even #3 team is better than another league's champion. 

 

I don't want to emphasize conference championships in all circumstances because that implies that all conferences are equal in strength and that's not true, has really never been true, and probably won't ever be true under the current dynamics.  Whether the SEC is strongest now doesn't mean that the PAC 12 won't be the strongest in 30 years and if so then I say give the deserving teams a shot no matter where they come from.  At the same time I don't think it should be purely subjective in voting on the top teams even though most of them never play each other.  I do agree that a major conference championship should mean something.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @USCTraveler 

 

Question for you:  When you say the "Top 3 conference champs" should be invited into a playoff, how would you determine those squads?

 

Surely not by... how did you put it?  Ah, yes:

 

"A corrupt coaches poll that's filled out by SIDs who don't have time to watch all the games and just vote for their conference ?  

Computers programmed with secret formulas that no one knows ?  

A system that promotes scheduling cupcakes instead of strong out of conference opponents ?"

 

Unless you've come up with a totally new plan on your own, the same formulas and rankings used to rank teams now will still be used to rank which conference champs are best.  You've just added an unnecessary level of confusion and debate to the equation.

 

Instead of those systems giving us a simple top four, it now appears they'll give us a top six from which up to four conference champions would be selected.  If you have to explain a four-team playoff to someone... you've butchered it for the sake of butchering it.

 

Whether a playoff is 1-2-3-4 or 1-3-5-6, those involved are still going to be determined by polls and/or computer rankings of some sort.  Therefore your argument, in my view, holds no water.

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @John at MrSEC  This is a related topic, but I wanted to make sure to tag you in hopes you would see it. 

 

What exactly are the rules on how the BCS leagues vote for these changes?  Is it a simple majority?  Super majority?  Who gets a vote?  I assume the big 6 leagues still get one vote each right now.  Is there anyone else?

 

I'm curious just how strong a PAC 12, B1G, and ACC coalition would be in all this and if there would be a way to override them.

USCTraveler
USCTraveler

 @John at MrSEC Thanks for the response, John.

 

The Delaney idea is far from perfect, because it does rely on the BCS rankings, but the unfortunate reality is we're stuck with some kind of ranking system or committee for the forseeable future.  Delaney's plan minimizes the polls and computers as much as possible in a four team playoff, outside of going with a strict Champs Only format, which would minimize the polls even more, but would leave a team like Alabama out last year.

 

We know Mike Slive is never going for a strict Champs Only model, and with the other conferences lining up, it seems something either like Delaney's plan or a Top 3 Conference Champs + 1 Wildcard model will be the likely compromise.  And that's fine with me, as there should be a way for a team like Bama last year to be in a playoff.

 

Unless CFB goes to a 16 team playoff where every conference winner and 5 wildcards get in, the polls and computers (or a committee) will unfortunately always be with us.

 

But using Conference Champs in the Top 6  or a 3 Champs + 1 Wildcard model minimizes the influence of the polls and computers to a much greater extent than simply saying "Just take the Top 4" because you are making it harder for voters to stack the deck and maintain credibility.

 

If I had my choice, it would be an 8 team playoff with four auto-bids for the SEC, PAC, B12 and BIG, the next two highest-ranked conference champions would get in and two non-champs would get the final two slots.  At that point, there wouldn't be any deserving teams left out.  There might be one or two weak teams let in, but that's better than one or two strong teams being left out.  Auto-bids for the power conferences and using an 8 team format would reduce the influence of the polls and computers even more, but that's not happening this time around.

 

So for now, I would get the coaches/SIDs out of the BCS formula and beg the AP to come back.  Let the AP vote for whoever they want to vote for at the end of the year, but allow the BCS to incorporate their poll.  Their poll still has problems, but it's better than the coaches and the Harris poll.

 

Make the computer programs open to the public and include SOS and scoring margin (limited to maybe 21 or 28 points or something similar) in the programming.  

 

The concept of Conference Champs in the Top 6 isn't hard to understand.  Top 3 Champs + 1 Wildcard is even easier to understand.  People will figure it out very quickly either way.

 

It's a lot better than what we have now, and would have given us of a better field than a "Just the Top 4" model last year, when we would have seen Stanford in the playoff instead of Oregon.

 

Winning you conference should mean something, and both the Conference Champs in the Top 6 and the Top 3 Conference Champs plus a wildcard models would minimize the influence of the polls and computers more than "Just take the Top 4".

 

What do you think of a Top 3 Conference Champs and Top Wildcard model, John ?

 

Do you like it better than the Delaney plan ?  It is simpler to explain.

 

And you do there will have to be some sort of compromise, right ?

 

Keep up the good work.

 

Best,

 

Traveler

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @USCTraveler 

 

Back on March 21st we wrote that we expected a 3 champs, 1 wild card compromise in the end.  We did not envision the conference commissioners coming up with something even more complicated and convoluted.

 

We overestimated them.

 

http://mrsec.com/2012/03/bamas-saban-no-surprise-is-agaainst-a-league-champs-only-playoff/

 

And yes, 3 champs and a wild card -- if necessary -- makes more sense than this Top 6 idea.  But 1-2-3-4 is still the simplest, most sensible option.

 

John

10Vol85
10Vol85

 @USCTraveler  @John at MrSEC

I agree with Traveler's assessment.  The one thing I would like to see different, regardless of system used is to make the ranking system better by applying metrics.  Score the polls and compters to determine which ones are more reliable at predicting outcomes.  Utilize the ones that score well.  Throw out the ones that score poorly.  Using past performance isn't a perfect metric but it's far better than just taking what's available and popular. 

ChrisWynes
ChrisWynes

I honestly can't see the ACC having even a 1 in 3 shot at landing Notre Dame football. ND's interest if it were forced to join a conference would be to keep as many of its traditional rivals as possible. ND has three of their biggest longtime rivalries in the Big 10: Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State. In the ACC they would have only BC and occasional-rival Pitt, with the opportunity to revive the "Catholics vs Convicts" series against the U. It should be obvious which of those options ND would prefer. Probably the Irish's best case outcome would be to play a 9 game Big 10 schedule with guaranteed yearly games against their current Big10 rivals, plus USC, Navy, and BC as the non-con. As long as the Irish get to control their own fate, that's where they'd land. And don't tell me they still coudn't pick up the phone and get Delaney talking anytime they like.

GeoffDawg
GeoffDawg

@ChrisWynes Tradition does favor the B1G but if ND is thinking strategically long term, they can't ignore the fact that population shifts are favoring the south and that the rust belt keeps shrinking, demographically and economically.

USCTraveler
USCTraveler

 @ChrisWynes Agreed.

 

If FSU and Clemson go to the B12 and the playoff format is Delaney's plan, I think ND goes to the B12.

 

They'd still play USC and Navy OOC and have recruiting exposure in CA, TX and Florida, as well as a ton of high profile matchups on their schedule that would generate a ton of national interest.  Plus, they'd keep their 3rd tier rights, which would not be possible in the BIG. 

AllTideUp
AllTideUp

 @USCTraveler As of right now, it doesn't appear that anyone is willing to force ND's hand.  Making every participant in the playoff have to be a conference champion would force ND to join a league, but I seriously doubt anyone is willing to go that far just yet.  ND already schedules games and recruits on a national level and being independent probably helps them do that more effectively as they aren't limited by any conference setup.  With that said, they will probably have to join a league one day as between playoffs, TV money, and other factors they will be severely behind the curve one day if not already.

 

I'm still not convinced that ND would ever seriously consider the Big 12 regardless of the future realignment.  They seem to have a different set of priorities up there than many schools.  Their situation is very unique.

 

If I could be king of college football for a day though then I would put ND in the B1G.  ND would fit perfectly in the B1G and not just for football, but for all their other sports as well.  Their travel time and costs should go down significantly as they are smack in the middle of B1G country.  Not to mention they would never have to worry about conference stability again...at least not anytime soon.

one90
one90

I think a good compromise would be taking any conference champs ranked in the top 5 (not 6).

Tyler B
Tyler B

And when the ACC/PAC-whatever make enough people mad the Big Boys are simply going to say "we don't need any of you" and will create a "division" of college football that has about 48 select teams and will take all the lunch money. Some of these AD's best settle down.



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