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SEC Meetings Recap: League Coaches Want Top 4 Teams In Playoff, But A Playoff May Not Even Come

Coach after coach.  Comment after comment.

The men in charge of the SEC’s football programs made it clear yesterday that they’re in favor of the four best teams in America taking part in what most football fans hope will be a four-team playoff come 2014.

Unfortunately, other folks in other leagues have other ideas.  The ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 like the idea of conference champions getting more slots in a playoff than non-championship teams.  Big Ten commish Jim Delany feels teams — like Alabama — that don’t win their own division shouldn’t even be allowed into the conversation.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said last week that a Plus-One model is back on the table again.  And Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman has reiterated his view that a playoff isn’t really a given at all at this point:


“A four-team playoff might happen, but I do not think it is a done deal.  There are many issues to be resolved — i.e., (playing playoff games) inside or outside the bowls, revenue distribution, governance issues, access issues…

I can only speak for the Big Ten and am familiar with what the Pac-12 presidents are thinking.  I don’t think any of us feel like being rubber stamps, and I don’t think our respective commissioners believe that to be the case.

(Going the Plus-One route) avoids selecting between numbers 4 and 5.  It allows access to bowls from a variety of teams.  Allows the bowl games to gain significance and excitement while remaining an important part of college football…

If you think controversy surrounds picking two teams, wait until it’s four teams.

Which four would have been chosen last season among LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Stanford?  The four-team (playoff) seems to me just a ‘nose in the tent’ to go to eight teams or larger and frankly, I think that would be the end of college football as we know it.”


That’s what a playoff is going to have to overcome, folks.  People who with a straight face can say “It’s too controversial to choose between Teams 4 and 5… but picking between Teams 2 and 3 is okey-dokey.”  Yup.  That makes sense.

You can guess what SEC coaches said about the matter.  Or you can read their views here, here, here, or here.

For what it’s worth, no one was stronger in tone than Alabama’s Nick Saban who lost his division last year, but won the national crown:


“It’s self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what’s best for college football who would want to do that.  It’s not what’s best for the fans because they’ve made it very clear what they want it to be.

“People want to see the best four teams play in a playoff.  The problem in college football is there’s not equal parity in the leagues.  Some leagues are stronger than others in different years.  It’s not always going to be where the SEC is stronger than another league.  There’s going to be years when other leagues are stronger than the SEC.  It’s not an SEC thing.  History in recent years would say that, but that’s how it’s been all the way through. 

I think you’re going to get a lot of real complaining if we have a four-team playoff and we go through all this that we’re going through to try to implement this and execute it and, all of a sudden, next year we have the #1 team, the #3 team, the #7 team and the #11 team being the four teams in the playoffs.  There’s going to be a mutiny on the ship, there’s no question about that.”


Preach on, brother.



This whole argument is based on the statistically ignorant assumption that you can make a good assessment to determine the 4 best teams.  Both statistics and history strongly say otherwise.  Usually, there are very few meaningful pre-bowl games with which to gage the relative strength of conferences.  You will know absolutely who is the champion of each conference.  Because of this, you have a much more reasonable chance to determine the top 3 or 4 conference champions than top 3 or 4 teams.


You are right on with your comment about picking between teams #2 and #3 in a plus one situation.  The SEC needs to hammer home that a top four scenario is the fairest way for any team to make the playoff regardless of conference affiliation.  It provides much more access and takes away much more potential controversy. 


The whole "playoff" discussion started up again because the SEC had 2 teams in the championship game.  But a plus one model does not fix the situation if a team ranked #1 or #2 is left out.  That will only allow the possibility of a split poll.


What if the #1 team in the polls happens to not be a conference champion?


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