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Football Playoff Update: From Sad Face To Happy Face In A Snap

There’s a line in the popular Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” that deals with a group of guys getting ahead of themselves.  I can’t quote that line in this story — it’s a fam-friendly site — but Harvey Keitel’s words bounced around my noggin this morning as I perused wave after wave of reports on college football’s new playoff system.  (And if you think you’re going to post said comment in our comment boxes, just know that it will be deleted and you will be banned from further posting.  S0 please don’t try it.)

Since I’m still trying to take a bit of a mini-vacation this week — PS: thanks to Mike Mitchell for his headline help this week — I’ll keep our wrap on yesterday’s “We have a consensus!” news somewhat short:

 

Slive’s Happy…

Yesterday, the 11 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director got together in Chicago and surprisingly reached a consensus on what form a new college football playoff should take.  It was just a week ago, remember, that sources inside the group were saying they still had a long, long way to go before something was decided upon.  They passed the buck to the college presidents who’ll ultimately make the call.  Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said things could stretch on into September (maybe he was just talking about television negotiations).

Well, Wednesday was a total flip-flop. Though the commissioners will still send multiple proposals to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee for review, they stand unanimously behind a four-team plan that would feature four best teams in the country chosen and seeded by a selection committee.  Extra weight of some sort will be given to conference champions.  The commissioners reportedly want to play the semifinals on or around New Year’s Day — for Gosh sakes, 4:30pm ET and 8:30pm ET on January 1st makes the most sense — in the existing BCS bowls (Sugar, Rose, Fiesta and Orange) with a rotation set-up in advance.  The title game would then be bid out to cities like Detroit, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville who’ve already expressed interest.

That all represents the potential for major change in college football and some still have concerns about the ramifications.  The commissioners, however, seem good to go with their current vision.

The Big Ten’s Jim Delany said: “We’re very unified.  There are issues that have yet to be finalized.  There’s always devil in the detail, from the model to the selection process, but clearly we’ve made a lot of progress.”

The Pac-12′s Larry Scott added: “I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone.  Until you have an eight-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t satisfied.  We get that.  But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, the academic calendar.”

One man who seems satisfied is SEC commish Mike Slive.  “I’m delighted, very pleased with where we are… My hope is we’ve done 26 (miles).  My hope is we have .2 to go,” comparing the current situation to a marathon.

The general takeaway from most writers?  Slive and the SEC are thrilled by the “best four teams” aspect of the top plan.

Ed Aschoff of ESPN.com says SEC power will grow with the coming playoff.  Steve Greenberg of SportingNews.com says it was the SEC (and Big 12) who steered things away from a conference champs-only model.  In fact, he said Slive and interim Big 12 boss Chuck Neinas “were quietly leaning into one another and laughing while Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was answering a tough question about his league not getting what it wanted.”  (And to think, less than a year ago the two most successful leagues in the BCS era were dueling over Missouri and Texas A&M.)

So Slive’s a happy man…

 

But Should He Be?

Andy Staples of SI.com has a solid Q&A on what’s been revealed — through sources — about the playoff plan right here (’cause the commissioners weren’t giving details).  In it he writes that it’s a great thing that a selection committee will chose “the best four teams” and not the current BCS formula.  But that depends on who’s on the committee, what the committee uses for criteria in making its selections, and how fair a job it does, doesn’t it?

As we’ve pointed out before, no one likes the NCAA basketball and baseball selection committees and those folks welcome in a heckuva lot more teams than this football committee will (or “would” if the presidents approve things).

At MrSEC.com, we believe the best bet would be a three-pronged selection process involving a human poll (with votes made public each week), one computer ranking (with a transparent formula), and a selection committee (made up of individuals who would be required to make their votes and views known).

A selection committee by its lonesome is not great news for the SEC, in our view.  Much of the current push for a playoff has been fueled by a “let’s end the SEC’s dominance” wave of emotion.  Commissioners who were once steadfastly opposed to a playoff are currently backing one because the SEC has won six BCS titles in a row and actually had two teams meet in January’s title game.

If there’s that much anti-SEC sentiment out there, who’s to say there won’t be anti-SEC bias among the members of a selection committee?  Do you put an ex-coach like John Cooper on the committee, for example?  He recently suggested the SEC is a bunch of cheaters.  Or do you fill the committee with ADs from across the country… ADs who might be tired of seeing one league take the crown each fall?

You see, there’s no guarantee that “the best four teams” will really be “the best four teams.”  Example: Depending on the committee’s make-up and those persons’ criteria for picking teams, it’s very possible that a 5th-ranked conference champion might get a playoff invite while a 3rd-ranked SEC runner-up gets left at home.

CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd disagrees.  He says college football remains in an “SEC stranglehold.”  Why?  When it comes to a selection committee, “Name a candidate on that committee who won’t have the Strength Everywhere Conference’s accomplishments burned into his frontal lobes.”

Uh, any committee member who has any ties at all to another league vying for a bid against an SEC runner-up.  Or how about any committee member who’s just plain sick and tired of hearing talk of Slive’s league.  And don’t forget, if it comes down to a #5 some-other-league champ versus a #3 SEC runner-up, someone would still be able to throw out the “Slive’s league plays fewer BCS foes” card, too.

Just listen to the words of ACC commissioner John Swofford:

 

“There’s a tendency to say if it’s ’1, 2, 3, 4,’ then it’s not conference champions.  I think you can reasonably mesh those two issues, whether it’s a committee or otherwise, if you have as a strong part of the criteria that has to be considered, winning conference championships.  They don’t have to be exclusive.”

 

See what we mean?

So the computer element is apparently out and the human element will be stronger.  If that’s not a good thing in March or May, why will it be a good thing in December?

Dodd is jumping to conclusions, in our view, anyway.  Today he believes a playoff is duzno.  But a week ago he was beating the loudest drum for low expectations after the last commissions’ meeting.  Heck, on Tuesday he wrote that the college presidents would botch everything.  Now it’s all systems go again.

Forgive me if I don’t slide from one end of the spectrum to the other so easily.

Slive got what he wanted in the fact that a new playoff — if there’s a new playoff — won’t involve conference champions only.  But that still doesn’t mean the top four-ranked teams in various polls will be invited to play.  For now, we think SEC fans should keep their champagne on ice until everyone knows who’s on the selection committee and what data those people will use in making their sure-to-be-criticized decisions.  Oh, and until…

 

The Presidents Have Their Vote

After the commissioners — again — reminded everyone that the presidents would have the final say, the Big Ten’s Delany was asked yesterday if the presidents might “trip over the same divides” that have hounded the conference commissioners.  “No, they’re smarter than us,” he said.

That sounds good.  But it’s the presidents who’ve been more staunchly anti-playoff over the years than anyone.  They’re the ones who’ve passed on television revenue in order to protect the regular season, the bowls, the student-athletes, the “amateur” status of the sport, etc, etc.  Being smarter doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll get things right.

In fact, it’s believed a majority of Pac-12 and Big Ten presidents still favor a pure Plus-One system to a playoff.

Matt Hinton of CBSSports.com believes that whatever the presidents arrive at will surely be better than the current BCS system:

 

“We do know what comes next: A meeting of the BCS’ Presidential Oversight Committee in Washington, D.C., on June 26, where university presidents will discuss various options for a four-team format – and a “plus one” format, just to say they discussed it – and take a vote to begin bringing the plan into some kind of practical focus. They’ll compromise on a few issues and stubbornly cling to their own biases and interests on others. And whatever they eventually come up with, as long as it still resembles a playoff, will be an exponential improvement on the status quo.”

 

Echoing Hinton’s “done deal” view is Stewart Mandel of SI.com:

 

“… Looking up at the ring-around the podium Wednesday, there was a collective sense of relief and completion on the faces of a group that’s held at least six rounds of meeting since January comprising more than 100 hours of discussion.  Their playoff will come to fruition, through maybe not as immediate as next week.” 

 

Mandel then quoted Delany as saying the commissioners will now brief the presidents on how they arrived at their top proposal.  “They will give our advice appropriate weight,” the Big Ten commish said.

Here’s hoping so.

 

What About The Money?

Depending on the source, a four-team playoff is expected to generate a $400 or $500 million television deal for all the leagues and teams to split in some form or fashion.  Obviously, the biggest leagues — and there are now five: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – are expected to get the lion’s share of greenbacks.

But Delany put forth a new idea on Wednesday:

 

“There ought to be a recognition somehow (of academics).  There’s recognition de-facto in the sense that nobody’s going to be playing in this event if they don’t have a 930 (APR score), if they’re not predicting a 50% graduation rate.  The question is, is there something beyond that? … I think it ought to be considered.”

 

Spoken like the head of the best academic FBS league in the country.  But could APR scores and graduation rates really be used to divvy up the cash from a football playoff?  Not likely at all.

That said, if such a plan does get play, Vanderbilt will have never looked better to SEC fans.

 

What About The Champions Bowl?

If the current plan is to use the existing BCS bowls as the semifinals sites, then that means the new “Champions” Bowl cooked up by the SEC and Big 12 can’t be bid out as a semifinal.  That means a little less cash in the leagues’ coffers.

Obviously, the game isn’t likely to feature the actual winners of those two leagues anyway, something we’ve all suspected from the get-go.  The SEC and Big 12 have owned the BCS standings for the past 14 years.  Their champs should practically be automatic selections for a new playoff.  That will leave the next best teams from each league to meet in the game.

While that kind of matchup won’t generate the dollar bids from host cities that a potential college football semifinal would have, there will still be considerable money to be made from the new game.

 

What About Expansion, Realignment And Notre Dame?

The fact that Irish AD Jack Swarbrick announced the commissioners’ consensus should be telling.  His school — and every other school at the FBS level — still has a shot at making the playoff (as it’s currently designed).  Depending on how the money will be handed out, it appears there will be no need for Notre Dame to finally put its football team into a conference.

In fact, with an open door policy to the playoff as well as some sort of extra weight being given to conference champs, this plan has made it less likely that we’ll see massive realignment or conference expansion this summer.

But again, let’s see if the presidents rubber stamp the commissioners’ preferred plan.  And then let’s see what type of television revenue can be negotiated in the months ahead.  And how that cash will then be divided.

There still might be some rumors of expansion this summer — those sites who’ve claimed Florida State and Clemson are done deals to the Big 12, for example, aren’t likely to back down — but it sure looks like there’s less reason for those schools to jump the ACC’s ship today.

 

So Why Was Slive So Happy?

First, Slive wanted a four-team playoff years ago.  It looks like we’re one step closer to such a plan.

Second, Slive did not want a system locking in conference champs only.  That type of plan did not come to pass (even though a selection committee could still lock out higher-ranked non-division-winners in favor lower-ranked conference champs if they like).

Third, the SEC stands to make more money.  While Delany can push for APR scores to influence the distribution of playoff revenue, it’s far more likely that past BCS performance will determine who gets what.  That’s definitely good news for the SEC.

 


2 comments
farmerl21
farmerl21

Jim Delany wants APR scores to influence the distribution of playoff revenue. Give me a break, why not take the best four teams and have a spelling bee to decide the national championship. Delany also wants to raise the academic requirements for high schoolers entering into college athletics. For most these kids athletics is their only way out, to take away or limit scholarships from that group of young men should be a criminal offense. College and college athletics should be inclusive not exclusive.

Lupin
Lupin

It looks like the importance a teams out of conference schedule has just raised a lionesque head.



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