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What The SEC Needs As Playoff Talks Commence

Let the games begin.

Today in Chicago, commissioners from the 11 FBS conferences and the athletic director from Notre Dame will meet to discuss the future of college football’s postseason.  Lines of battle have already been drawn with the Big Ten and Pac-12 on one side, the SEC and Big 12 on the other, and the other eight entities all falling somewhere in between.

Heading into today’s get-together, Mike Slive has made it clear that he’s only interested in a system that welcomes in the four highest-rated teams in football into a new playoff.  He’s willing to discuss the idea of a selection committee, but he knows — as we’ve written — that a selection committee might not necessarily mean “the best four teams” get invites.  Depending on who’s on such a committee, conference champs only might get nods while higher-ranked teams stuck in — oh, let’s say — the SEC West might get denied.

ESPN’s team of bloggers have spent the past month simply taking the positions of their respective conferences and kissing up to their readers.  The back-and-forth-and-back again between the Big Ten and SEC writers has actually gotten a bit nasty at times, no doubt spurred on by the management of the four-letter network.  Pac-12 writer Ted Miller yesterday took up the argument of the conference he’s supposed to cover (not root for) when he said:


“The SEC folks were just ridiculous with their ‘four best teams’ chicanery.  When SEC commissioner Mike Slive kept repeating ‘One, two, three, four’ to reporters last week, what he was really saying was, ‘The SEC’s priority is maintaining subjectivity as the key component of the college football postseason.’

Understand: There is no ‘one, two, three, four.’ There are only opinions and computer formulas. You might note that no — zero — pro sports use a ‘one, two, three, four.’  They all have divisions.  To advance to the playoffs, you must win your division or win a wild-card spot.  In no case is there a subjective voting process or selection committee.”


Miller then goes on to promote the “Delany Model” which is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s “four-champs-if-they’re-ranked-in-the-top-six” overly-complicated plan.

Now, what’s unbelievably silly is the fact that Delany’s plan and any other plan involving conference champs only will be just as subjective as a 1-2-3-4 plan.  In all cases, some form of ratings will have to be assigned.

Which conference champs are best?  Does the Sun Belt champ equal the Big Ten champ?  If not, why not?  Who says?  They’re both conference champions after all.

The argument against using rankings is such mind-numbing drivel that it annoys the pants off anyone who can actually use logic to step all of one step down the road.  “We don’t like rankings.  Now, let’s rank the conference champions.”  You’re… still… using… rankings!

That’s akin — not to go all “Prometheus” on you — to saying: “A-ha, there is no God because we were created by a race of aliens!”  Well, who created the race of aliens?


All that said, we don’t do a lot of kissing up or rooting around here.  According to our inbox, we’re supposedly “haters” of all 14 SEC squads and we’re not quick to support every Mike Slive move (cough, cough, the league’s new football and basketball schedules) the way ESPN’s writers often fall in line behind their assigned leagues.  So…

Here’s what SEC fans should be hoping for when it comes to the next month of playoff talks.  No, it’s not exactly what Slive wants, but if compromise is necessary then he should be willing to yield in some areas.   (He should be used to that after allowing ADs and coaches to hijack the bus on the SEC’s new scheduling plans.)


1.  A four-team playoff

Duh.  The SEC would probably do quite well in an eight-team playoff world, but that’s not even on the table.  What’s back on the table, though, is a pure Plus-One model that would simply take the two best teams after the bowls and put them together in a title game.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and the Big Ten presidents supposedly favor such a plan or — in the presidents’ case — the status quo.  This would solve nothing, of course.  Instead of picking two teams before the bowls, college football would just pick two teams after the bowls.  A third team would still scream and the sport would still lack a true champ.

Therefore, anything Slive needs to do compromise-wise to insure a change to a four-team system, well, that’s what he needs to do.  If he’s interested in the fans’ desires.

If he’s interested in what’s best for the Southeastern Conference, then he should be A-OK with the status quo.  Slive’s league has won six BCS titles in a row, it’s had the only two-loss team invited to a BCS title game, and it’s the only league to have both combatants in the BCS title game.  In 14 BCS seasons, eight times an SEC school has been crowned king.  The BCS works for the SEC.  Ironically, this is what so many writers are missing.

Those who say Slive is only interested in what’s best for his league fail to grasp the fact that the current system has actually proven to be what’s best for the SEC.  But Slive isn’t pushing the status quo.  He’s pushing what’s best for the game and fans — a four-team playoff.

So if he really wants what’s best for the fans — a playoff — then he needs to be willing to consider a compromise model that would include the top three ranked conference champs and the next highest-rated team in the nation.  Such a plan could have landed Alabama a spot in last year’s playoff (depending on whether or not a selection committee would have done the picking and who would have served on said committee).


2.  Semifinals tied to bowls with the title game bid out

This, too, looks like a probability.  If so, SEC fans should be alright with such a result.  The highest-seeded teams — uh-oh, there’s that subjectivity again — would host the semifinals in their “anchor” bowls.  According to most of the chatter, the current BCS bowls would make up those anchor bowls.  So if a Pac-12 or Big Ten team were ranked/seeded #1 or #2, yes, they’d host their opponent in the Rose Bowl.

For the SEC, their current BCS bowl partner is the Sugar.  The Big 12′s is the Fiesta.  But those two leagues are creating a so-called “Champions” Bowl that will likely be bid out to different city every year.  Would the “Champions” Bowl then become the SEC’s anchor bowl for a semifinal game or would the Sugar continue to host the SEC’s top-ranked team?

Money-wise, the league would be better off if the “Champions” Bowl replaced the Sugar.  Once a city has won the bidding war for the national championship game, the SEC and Big 12 could then put their game up for bid.  For those cities who lost the title game, the “Champions” Bowl could be their entry into the three-game playoff mix.  That would be worth a lot of cash to a lot of cities.  Therefore, that would also be worth a lot of money to the SEC, the Big 12, and their member institutions.

As traditionalists, we at would hate to see the Sugar Bowl/SEC tie die away.  But if money’s on the table — and money’s driving this boat, folks — the SEC should hope the semifinals wind up as anchor bowls and that their own “Champions” Bowl can somehow end up as their league’s anchor game.


3.  A hybrid selection process

Everyone loves a good selection committee right up until they actually do their selecting.  Every March, the NCAA hoops committee is crucified.  Every May, the NCAA baseball committee is keelhauled.

We’ve already made our case for a selection process that would use three different components — committee, poll, and computer formula.  It can be transparent.  It can be weighted to favor conference champs or strength of the schedule.  Most importantly, it would play the same for everyone and negate the issue of bias.  With three equal components, one single person’s bias would have much less of an impact on the overall selection process.

SEC fans should hope that computers or polls somehow play a role in determining the four-team field.  As noted above, that system has favored Slive’s league for 14 years.  So fans of SEC teams need to cross their fingers and pray that the polls and computers aren’t chucked altogether in favor of a pure selection committee.


4.  Presidential approval

Once the commissioners reach a deal on a playoff plan, it will ultimately be a group of school presidents who’ll give that plan a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.  The goal was for the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee to study and vote on the plan by June 26.  We don’t see any way in the world that that happens unless some of the big boy leagues cave quickly or everyone walks in to these meetings with their phasers set to compromise (and that ain’t likely).

According to Mark Schlabach of, Virginia Tech’s president is the committee’s chairperson.  Also on the committee are presidents/chancellors from Florida, Fresno State, Louisville, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Texas, Tulane and Western Kentucky.

Florida and Texas will be pro-playoff.  Notre Dame will be pro-playoff so long as the Irish have a clear route of entry.  Nebraska will likely be against a playoff.  As for the rest, it will all come down to self-interests.

And just because there’s lots of cash to be made doesn’t necessarily mean the presidents will go along with the commissioners’ recommendation.  There have been millions of television dollars up for grabs for years and no one’s pushed a playoff through.  We’re a lot closer to that happening now, yes, but nothing’s guaranteed.


So to summarize, if you’re an SEC fan you should be hoping for:

1.  A four-team playoff taking the four highest-ranked teams or a “3 champs, 1 wild card” compromise, if necessary.

2.  The semifinals to be tied to anchor bowls and for the “Champions” bowl to become the SEC’s new anchor bowl (so it can be bid out for enormous cash)

3.  Any selection process that involves polls or computers rather than a straight selection committee

4.  Presidential approval of all of the above.


Good luck.  And let the games begin.



PLEASE - one or the other: either college football goes to 6 Super conferences/12 divisions with regular season champs playing in the conference championship games and then the conference champs playing it out on the field in the playoffs (like EVERY other champion in EVERY other sport, at EVERY level of competition) or we just go back to the Bowl Games and in the end, let the sports writers/coaches vote - just like it was done for the last 100 years.


So Delaney's four champs if they are in the top 6 is overly complicated but your proposal for a selection committee combined with a poll and a computer model is not? Huh? We all agree that the four teams from last year would have included Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma State. So the only question is Oregon or Stanford. Slive and most SEC fans say Stanford (#4) in spite of the fact that they lost to conference champion Oregon (#5). I agree that we are going to have subjective elements but should we really ignore questions answered on the field when they are right in front of us? Please explain what's wrong with top 3 ranked conference champs plus highest at-large. The SEC still gets 2 of 4 teams almost every year. Other than chanting 1-2-3-4, what exactly is wrong with that? It is a thousand times simpler than your proposal.


Why have the semifinals tied to the bowls?  Lots of great teams would be on the outside of the 4 team playoff.  Let the Bowls be the exhibitions that they are.  Rose Bowl gets the Pac 12 Champ and Big 10 Champ unless those teams are in the playoff.  If the champ is in the 4 team playoff, Rose Bowl gets to select another team. If there is a qualified Pac 12 or Big 10 team, likely the Rose Bowl would select them.  Last year it would have been Oregon or Stanford (depending how you do the 4 teams in) against WI. 


Year before that two Pac 10 teams in the playoff (Oregon and Stanford).  Rose Bowl would have WI against another team left out of the top 4.  The actual Rose Bowl that year was TCU vs. WI anyway.  Ratings would still be good.  Americans love high quality football. The Orange Bowl may want to reexamine its relationship with the Big East.  Big 12 and SEC would make even more money this way.  Money from the playoff, from the Champ Bowl and whatever other top bowl they would get into.


"The argument against using rankings is such mind-numbing drivel that it annoys the pants off anyone who can actually use logic to step all of one step down the road.  “We don’t like rankings.  Now, let’s rank the conference champions.”  You’re… still… using… rankings!"


Nobody should like being dependent on the rankings.  We've got 75 years of evidence to support that.  Limiting it to 4 teams is what all but forces the use of rankings regardless of which model is used.


Being anti-rankings isn't the sole motivation for people supporting other plans.  I hope you know that and that you're rationale isn't as shallow as that statement makes it seem.  Many valid points have been made about the pros and cons of the various proposals.  Those who have a strong argument usually aren't afraid to argue the points and counterpoints on merit.  Those with a weak argument often resort to name calling and baseless insults.  If your mind is numb, it's because it isn't open.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



I am often called "overly sensitive" whenever I respond to someone's insults.


But who is being overly sensitive when he refers to "name calling" (which didn't appear in the line he quoted) and "insults" in a post that singles neither him nor any other reader/commenter out?  Ironically, you then suggest I'm not open-minded... which is an insult.


If you took offense to my opinion -- and the logic I used to back it up -- that's on you.  And to say "rankings are bad... now let's rank the conferences," well, sorry, but that is drivel.


Thanks for reading,



 @John at MrSEC


I respect that you're willing to engage in conversation with the readers.  You also provide good information and I appreciate that.


As to this thread, don't worry - I didn't get anything "on me".  Of course, you're welcome to your opinion (and it's wrongness).  You're logic is flawed.  You ascribe an oversimplification to the opposing viewpoints in order to cast it as "drivel".  I simply submit that you would do well to argue for/against the asserted merits of each proposal lest you appear as one who either lacks confidence in his position or is indeed ignorant of the details.  I respect that there would be differences of opinion.  I don't respect someone calling my position drivel.


BTW, I wasn't aware that someone has to be singled out to be insulted.  I would think membership in a group that is insulted would qualify as being insulted.


As for calling you closed-minded, I did.  I hope, however, that you didn't take great offense to my using a play on your words to call you close-minded in regard to a very specific subject where you absolutely refuse to even discuss specific merits of opposing viewpoints.  As to the irony, sure, but I don't shy away from the arguments.  I'm not hurling insults to skirt any argument.




I agree.  I'm curious about point #2 though.  If the semi-finals are tied to bowl games then it would certainly be profitable for the "champions" bowl.  I don't really see how this would work though unless the Big 12 champion and SEC champion are somehow officially tied to each other every year as a part of the 4 team playoff. 


Theoretically, one or both of these teams could be left out in any given year.  Theoretically, both could be included, but would be matched up with other opponents because of the seedings.  Being that the playoff will belong to all the leagues I don't see how they could configure things to ensure the "champions" bowl will fit into that model. 

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator



Theoretically -- and you're right to keep it in those terms -- if the two leagues co-own the game and split the profits, they'd split the money from a city's bid regardless of who played in the game.  So if Dallas wanted the game would pay $50 million for it -- just a round number, not a guesstimate -- then the league's would each get $25 million regardless of who played in it.


But in truth there's no way in the world of knowing how all this will shake out.  Could be anything from the SEC tied to the Sugar and Big 12 tied to the Fiesta... to both leagues tied to Champions Bowl (with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten tied to Rose Bowl... though that set-up would be lawsuit city from every other league and team in the country)... to the Champions Bowl simply serving as an anchor bowl.


The game is two years away and it will no doubt be shaped by whatever playoff format is finally agreed upon.


But our point is this -- from a money standpoint, both leagues would stand to make huge cash if they were to bid out what would amount to a national semifinal game when an SEC or Big 12 team is ranked/seeded #1 or #2.


Thanks for reading the site,


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