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Slive Opens Up About Playoff, Scheduling, “Super-Division”

mike-slive-smileSEC commissioner Mike Slive will appear before the media on Thursday — along with ESPN representatives — to finally shed more light on the soon-to-come SEC Network.  Yesterday, he met with Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast members and opened up about just about everything else currently making news.  You can read more on his Q&A session here (or here, here and here).


Topic:  Playoff selection committee


“We want a committee that has football expertise.  We want integrity, and we want transparency, because this is our opportunity to make sure that not only are we comfortable but you’re (the media) comfortable and all the fans are comfortable that this process is the way it should be.  It’s not going to be easy…

When you come into the committee as a member of the basketball committee, the concept is you leave your hat at the door.  If you come in and you’re there to represent football and what’s in the best interest of football, what’s in the best interest of the playoffs.  There’s a foundational culture from which we can work.  Now we need to adjust it to football and the fact that we’re not picking 68 teams, we’re picking four.”

Our Take:  What’s transparent to one might not be transparent to another.  Take the NCAA Tournament selection committee, for example.  Each year the NCAA hosts a short mock selection session with media from across the country to explain their process.  And after the field is chosen each year, the head of the committee does a couple of quickie interviews with CBS/Turner and ESPN.  Yet many still are left scratching their heads about why Team X got in over Team Y.  In the end, the NCAA makes the basketball process about as transparent as possible, but questions remain.  Can the FBS presidents — remember, it’s not the NCAA that’s putting this playoff together — come up with a more transparent manner of picking the four teams for their system?


Topic:  Multiple teams from the same conference getting playoff bids


“It was an important piece.  It took us about a year to put all this together, and one of the foundational pieces of it was that there wouldn’t be a limit.  We’re looking for the best teams to play in the playoff.  We didn’t want to create (an) artificial limit.  That was basically an artificial limit in the old system.”

Our Take:  The ability to put two or three or, technically, even four teams from the same league into the playoffs makes sense.  But that doesn’t mean it will happen.  As we’ve noted in the past, the playoff came about as soon as two SEC teams met in the BCS title game.  There is “SEC fatigue” across the country and it’s still possible — we believe very possible when you factor in human motivations — that a deserving SEC team could be blocked from the playoff in favor of a good team from another conference/region… just for the sake of inviting someone from another conference/region.


Topic:  The ACC’s grant of rights agreement


“Looking at it from the outside looking in, it looks like it may create some stability.  And I do think at this stage of where we are stability will be constructive so we can move ahead in some other ways.”

Our Take:  As we reported numerous times, the SEC was not going to be the league making the next expansion move.  The SEC’s presidents want to fully absorb Missouri and Texas A&M, count the benefits and drawbacks, and then — if forced — look at further moves.  If the ACC and Big XII grant of rights are as ironclad as advertised, then men Slive and most of his fellow presidents can kick the expansion can down the road to the SEC’s next generation of leaders.


Topic:  The creation of a new “super-division” of the richest programs within the NCAA


“When there are certain things that many of us would like to come into play, it’s our hope that those things can all occur in the current system.  Obviously, if things like that don’t get accomplished, then it may be appropriate to talk about some alternative or division or something like that.  But that’s not our desire.  That’s not our goal and that’s not something we’re trying to get to.”

Our Take:  But “they” are trying to push for “certain things” within the NCAA structure.  While the ultimate goal might not be what we’ve tabbed a “super-division” of 70-80 schools, we still believe that is the most likely outcome.  A breakaway from the NCAA just isn’t feasible and not every school in the current FBS can afford the “certain things” — ie: full-cost-of-tuition scholarships or stipends for athletes — that the big boys can afford.  We still firmly believe that a new division will be created within the NCAA to accommodate the wealthiest athletic programs.


Topic:  A $2,000 stipend for athletes


“It’s a disappointment that it’s not taken care of yet.  We truly believe that we ought to do more for our student-athletes than just the room, board, books and tuition.  We’re hopeful that we can continue to make that work… I think it’s fair to say it’s an idea that’s not going to do away.”

Our Take:  Read our take above.  Again, it’s very clear that the biggest schools want to offer more cash to athletes and most schools can’t afford it.  The line between those haves and have-nots will eventually serve as the lowermost boundary of a new “super-division.”


Topic:  The SEC’s ability to land just three teams in last season’s NCAA basketball tournament


“Yes it is a concern and yes it is something that the league office is thinking about and should be thinking about and we’ll have some discussions in the coming months about basketball.  How we schedule, how there’s an interrelationship between our schools in terms of how one school schedules, it does impact other schools.  No school’s on an island when it comes to scheduling basketball, and we’re going to take a very hard look at the importance of who our people play in non-conference.  We’re in the process of doing that now.  It’s my hope that the conference office can play a larger role in scheduling in basketball.”

Our Take:  This is a biggie, but it’s also a goodie.  Coaches, beware.  A number of SEC coaches — knowing they face rebuilding jobs last season — scheduled very, very poorly out the league.  Their schools’ strength of schedule numbers reflected that.  In turn, a number of SEC bubble teams got kicked off the bubble because their strength of schedule numbers were hurt by the numbers posted by their conference mates.  College sports is a big boy game.  Coaches (and a lot of fans) might be happy to get 20 wins against a laugher of a schedule, but the SEC office shouldn’t stand for it if it hurts league members who are actually trying to play good opponents and reach the NCAA Tournament.  Ultimately, those teams that scheduled poorly last season cost the league — and themselves — money in terms of NCAA Tournament payouts.


Topic:  The SEC’s football schedule


“Obviously the playoff impacts how we think about scheduling.  Strength of scheduling will be a significant component in the committee’s analysis.  As far as I am concerned, I am open-minded about how we should schedule and I anticipate continued discussions about how we schedule in the future.”

Our Take:  Regular readers of this site already know our take.  The SEC will eventually go to a nine-game conference slate for two reasons: strength of schedule and television revenue.


Other topics:

*  What types of data might the playoff selection committee use:  “I would expect with this committee that we would develop metrics, the committee would develop metrics, and that they would be able to use whatever they deem appropriate in come to the conclusion as to what four teams ought to be in the playoffs.”

*  Will the SEC use the Big Ten Network as a model: “I think we can but I also think that we have the most passionate, loyal fan base of any conference in the country.  We’re excited.  We believe that we have a very significant opportunity to be successful beyond what’s happened so far.

*  Whether ESPN has grown too powerful in college athletics: “I can’t control what other people think.  They have been a very important partner of ours, and we’re excited about the future.”

*  On a new rule that can lead to the ejection of a player who makes a helmet-leading hit on a defenseless receiver: “If a player knows that he’s going to be ejected and he’s gone, that is the most effective way of modifying behavior.  Waiting until Sunday or Monday or Tuesday is not the most effective way.”

*  Slive said “serious conversations with current and prospective bowl partners” will take place in the coming weeks as the SEC looks to create a new bowl lineup to start the 2014 season.

*  Slive would not comment on the accusations and allegations facing Auburn’s football program.

*  Slive would not comment on the league’s decision to replace Gerald Boudreaux as its head of officials.





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