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College Football Fans, Please Say “Thanks” To The SEC For Your New Playoff

That was fast.

Relatively speaking, of course.  The first college football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers way back in 1869.  A scant 143 years later and university presidents have finally approved a playoff for college football that will begin in 2014.  (It should be noted that this is still not an official NCAA-run playoff and therefore the champion still won’t technically be “official” like in other sports, but that’s semantics.)


ESPN coverage

More ESPN coverage

Sports Illustrated coverage

The Sporting News coverage coverage (which says the new playoff won’t help the have-nots) coverage (which says the new playoff won’t solve the old BCS issues)

Numbers-guru Jerry Palm says the same


Two weeks ago today, media members covering the conference commissioners’ meeting in Chicago emerged from the Windy City with tales of woe and worry.  The playoff push had slowed.  Sources said there was still “a long way to go” before a consensus on any format was reached.  The pure Plus-One favored by the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents (just tacking on another game, rather than a seeded Plus-One) suddenly came back into the conversation.

Doom, meet Gloom.

But last evening — even after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had said warned that a playoff might not get presidential approval for a few more months — the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee gave an almost immediate rubber stamp to a playoff system that was so far off the radar this time a year ago that it might as well have been in the Bermuda Triangle.

College football fans can thank the SEC for finally providing the impetus for such a remarkably fast about-face.  Oh, some folks out there may be sick of hearing about the SEC, but that dislike is exactly what got us to where we now stand.

Let’s look at a quick timeline, shall we?


* 1869 — The first college football game is played in Princeton, New Jersey.

(Fast-forward 123 years…)

* 1992 — The Bowl Coalition is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC, and Notre Dame.  It involved the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Gator and John Hancock Bowls.  The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl would not take part.

* 1995 — The Bowl Alliance is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC, and Notre Dame, but it involved only the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls.  The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl still would not take part.

* 1998 — The Bowl Championship Series is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC and three FBS independents.  It utilized the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowls.  Eventually, the BCS Championship Game was created as a fifth, stand-alone game in order to allow non-AQ teams a better shot at reaching a BCS game (and to fend off lawyers and legislators representing the plankton of college football’s food chain).

* 2008 — SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford push a four-team, seeded playoff idea to their fellow commissioners.  They were shot down immediately.

* January, 2011 — The SEC wins its fifth BCS Championship in a row.  Conference commissioners and university presidents remained dead set against a playoff of any kind.

* December 5, 2011 — Immediately following the announcement that LSU would play Alabama in an all-SEC rematch in the BCS Championship Game, we wrote:  “A rematch in the title game.  A possible split championship.  A non-conference (and non-division) champion with an opportunity to grab the brass ring.  With enough controversy, a seeded plus-one format might begin to gain some traction among schools.  It wouldn’t be tough to do.  In this year’s case, #1 LSU would face #4 Stanford in a bowl game while #2 Alabama met #3 Oklahoma State in another.  The winners would advance to a national title game the following week.  And for those who’ll say that wouldn’t solve all the issues, a fifth-ranked team has a lot less reason to moan than a third-ranked team.  This is clearly the best plan for college football and it’s remarkable that the powers-that-be refuse to embrace the obvious.”

* December 5, 2011 — Later that same day, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas became the first person of power outside of Slive and Swofford to say a seeded, Plus-One system should be considered.

* January, 2012 — SEC champion LSU faces SEC West runner-up Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.  Ratings are lower than expected.  The SEC wins its sixth BCS crown in a row.

* July 26, 2012 — The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee approves a four-team playoff which is pretty much the same seeded, Plus-One model Swofford and Slive presented years ago.


Notice how that timeline sped up just as the SEC’s dominance reached a crescendo?

There has always been big television money on the table for a college football playoff.  But a playoff wasn’t in the offing.

The majority of fans have always wanted a college football playoff.  But the P-word remained a dirty word to conference commissioners.

Debate has always raged over a “true” national champion, whether decided by polls, Coalition, Alliance, or Championship Series.  But a playoff remained a non-starter.

Yet now we’re getting a playoff.  And the only thing that changed was the SEC winning six titles in a row and — more importantly — the league landing two teams in January’s BCS Championship Game.

College football fans of America, you might hate the SEC.  You might not have been interested in watching a title game rematch between Alabama and LSU.  But it was the SEC’s dominance and that very rematch that angered every college football power broker outside the South enough to change their post-season system after nearly a century-and-a-half.


Southeastern Conference

2201 Richard Arrington Blvd. North

Birmingham, AL 35203


For those of you who want to send “thank you” notes, that’s the address to use.


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Tracer Round

What I would like to see is COMPLETE TRANSPERANCY in the selection process. That being open, televised hearings of all interested parties making petitions for certain teams selection. Open, televised coverage of the deliberations of the selection process and accountability of all those voting, so we all know who voted for whom. This would make for great TV, would have outstanding ratings and there would be no charges of "fixes" in the "smoke filled room". Your mileage may vary.


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