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10 Reasons Why 4 Is Better Than 8 When It Comes To A Football Playoff

Over the weekend, NCAA president Mark Emmert made a stunning comment.  After weeks of talk centered on a potential Plus-One (four-team) playoff model coming to college football, the NCAA’s Numero Uno Honcho made this declaration:

“The momentum seems to be — and I’m just reading the tea leaves, pretty much like you — the momentum seems to be toward an eight-team playoff.”

Cue the sound of a needle scratching across a record.  (Readers under 30, Google “record player.”)

Eight teams?  For the past month word has leaked from various conference commissioners that it was proving difficult to arrive at four-team model, much less an eight-team plan.  Could going to eight really just be the easiest means of compromise?

Here’s hoping not. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the current BCS system.  And if it takes an eight-team plan to insure that all the best teams in the country get in — rather than just the four highest-ranked conference champions — then I understand the logic.  There’s no question television dollars would be greater for an eight-team, seven-game system, too.

Heck, I once proposed an eight-team plan and then allowed a sports marketing/television guru to dissect it.  But as time has passed I’ve come to believe a four-team model would be far better than an eight-team model.  More importantly, I find it hard to believe that an eight-team plan could be the outcome of current talks between the conference commissioners.

Below are 10 reasons why I have a hard time believing what Emmert has suggested:

1.  For decades, university presidents have steadfastly been against a playoff of any sort for college football.  Now — with the SEC stockpiling championships year after year — more presidents and commissioners are interested in creating some sort of new model in order to help spread the wealth.  But would those longtime anti-playoff folks really go from zero teams to eight teams so quickly?  Wouldn’t a four-team plan be the easiest way for these guys to dip their toes into the playoff waters without taking a complete, full-on plunge?

2.  One major worry for college football muckety-mucks has been the likelihood that a playoff would undermine and lessen the regular season.  Well an eight-team playoff would put a lot bigger dent in the regular season than a four-team model.  Basically, one out of every 15 FBS teams would reach the postseason in an eight-team playoff.  That’s a bad thing and here’s why…

3.  More undeserving teams would get a shot to play for the title.  Sure the Cinderella factor would increase and that would make for great spectacle and tremendous ratings — as is the case with the NCAA basketball tournament.  But would the best team in the nation truly be crowned as champion?  And isn’t that the goal?  If the four best teams are selected to play for a title, it’s likely a team with a darn good resume would capture the NCAA’s flag.  However, by the time you get to teams ranked #7 and #8 each year, you’re talking about teams that no one even considers a first-place contender on paper.  NC State over Houston and Villanova over Georgetown were great stories.  But were Jim Valvano’s and Rollie Massimino’s teams really the best teams in the country in the years they won the NCAA’s hoops tourney?

4.  If the regular season is lessened, college football would become even more television-driven.  That money is great, yes, but attendance at football and basketball games has already taken a hit in recent years.  Television has no doubt played a large role in that as more and more games have been broadcast.  Recently we’ve seen that when a team struggles, fans stop going to games.  With an eight-team playoff, you can bet many more fans would begin staying home just as soon as their favorite squad fell from playoff contention.  Whereas with a four-team plan, it’s more likely only the uber-elite programs would even expect to get a shot at the title each year.  More fans would continue to set the realistic goal of a good bowl game.

5.  With an eight-game plan, more fans would expect/demand their coaches reach the playoffs.  Heck, it would be easier to make an eight-team field than a four-team field.  So more fans would dream of popping champagne at year’s end.  That would result in even more pressure on college coaches.  Already we’ve seen an increase in the yearly turnover of college football coaches.  With an eight-team playoff, coaches would be more susceptible to “he never even made a playoff” cries than they would be in a world with a four-team playoff.  Again, four would reward the elite, the best of the best.  Eight would give more little guys shots.  Coaching turnover would increase.  Bank on that.

6.  More games equals more injuries.  If a college football playoff consisted of four teams and three games, only two squads would be forced to play an extra game (compared to those teams going to bowls).  With an eight-team plan, four teams would play an extra game and two would go on to play a second additional game.  The sport has a 12-game regular season now — and that’s not going to change because no one would want to give up extra home games or give back television money.  Toss in a conference title game and you’re looking at a 13-game schedule for several teams.  Then come the bowls which bring the total to 14 games.  An eight-game playoff would mean that two squads would probably have to play a grand total of 16 games… which is the length of the NFL regular season.  Are college-age bodies built to hold up for that long?  You’d better be ready to see your favorite squad hobbled by the time it reaches the final game of an eight-team playoff.

7.  According to conference commissioners, travel has been a sticking point in their recent playoff conversations.  Can fans travel to two different sites a week apart?  Now ask yourself if fans would be able to travel to three sites over the span of two weeks.  When we initially suggested yes — in the post linked to above — college attendance was still on the rise.  That’s no longer the case.

8.  If an eight-team playoff comes to pass and presidents and commissioners decide to use on-campus games to offset the issue of travel for higher-seeded teams, that results in fewer teams being rewarded for a good season.  As it stands — while I’m no bowl-lover — players do get to enjoy some sunny weather, a new iPod, and a steer-ropin’ or orange-squeezin’ contest at some bowl site in Florida, Arizona or California.  An eight-team playoff would likely mean that seven very good squads would get no reward other than losing on some other team’s home turf in late-December or early-January.  “Congratulations for a job well done.  Hope you enjoyed a freezing beatdown in Ann Arbor.”

9.  When would these games be played?  The NCAA wants its football postseason to run between finals (around December 22nd) and the first week of January.  In a perfect world, the four first-round games of an eight-team playoff would be played on New Year’s Day, marking a return to excellence for a day that once featured only the very best bowls.  But if that were the case, the playoffs wouldn’t end until mid-January and that’s been viewed as a no-no up until now.  We think that would be a sticking point for planners.

10.  Finally, what of those major bowl games?  In a four-team plan, major bowls could still maintain their traditional ties to conferences or even be featured as part of the Plus-One (depending on the travel decisions discussed in Point 7).  An eight-game model would totally displace the traditional power bowls — unless fans are asked to travel from bowl site to bowl site to bowl site over a three week period as part of the playoff.  If that’s not the solution and games are played on campus sites, how would the Sugar Bowl — for example — feel about getting the SEC’s third- or fourth-best team, depending on how many squads its partner league would place in a playoff?

I’m not an anti-playoff guy.  I just believe a four-team model would be easier to pull off — for schools and for fans.  It would reward truly excellent teams that deserve a shot at the title belt.  Such a plan would also do less damage to a regular season that currently tops all other NCAA sports’ regular seasons.

Emmert is privy to a great deal more information than the common reporter, talk show host, or blogger.  So if the NCAA prez says he thinks there’s a move for an eight-team playoff, there probably is.

But, boy, creating such a plan would force conference commissioners and university presidents to jump through a helluva lot more hoops than a four-team plan would.

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Oh, Good Lord… The Gruden To LSU Talk Has Started

Les Miles isn’t out the door yet but speculation about LSU’s next coach has already begun.  Take a big blond guess who’s at the center of the speculation.

Yep, according, “Several people of influence at LSU would like for AD Joe Alleva to contact Jon Gruden if Les Miles accepts the Michigan job.”

It was just a matter of time before Gruden’s name came up in connection to Baton Rouge.  It’s already come up regarding Miami — who he teased — Florida and Michigan this offseason.  But here’s the thing, if Gruden wasn’t interested in Florida’s job, why would he be interested in LSU’s.  Sorry, Tiger fans.

LSU is a tremendous job, but Gruden has turned into a Sunshine State man.  If a college job were in his future, it would likely be a college job in Florida.

Had this Miles-to-Michigan talk come up in early December, the man at the top of the LSU wish list might have been Will Muschamp.  But Jeremy Foley of Florida landed him (rather than Gruden). 

So where might LSU actually turn if Miles jets for Ann Arbor?  Folks in Starkville are probably asking that question right now.

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Miles-Michigan Rumors Heat Up

The facts: Les Miles met with Michigan officials last night.  That much has been confirmed by LSU officials.  A UM-painted jet landed in Baton Rouge yesterday afternoon and remained on the ground for five hours.  At that point, Michigan AD David Brandon returned to Ann Arbor.  Without Miles.

According to USA Today, LSU AD Joe Alleva met with Miles last night.  “LSU officials are talking with Coach Miles,” said associate AD Herb Vincent.  “They’re trying to keep him.”

Alleva said in a statement: “We continue to work with Coach Miles, and we remain committed to keeping him as the head coach of the LSU football program well into the future.”

The rumor: ESPN’s Joe Schad — who seems to run with a lot of one-source stories — reported that Miles would take the Wolverines’ job if it were offered.  (You might have heard that one a few dozen times during last night’s BCS Championship Game.)

It is still unknown whether or not Miles was offered the Michigan job last night. 

Yesterday he apparently told his players that he would listen to his alma mater out of respect, but he also told two of them, “I’m probably staying.”

“A high-ranking LSU official” told The New Orleans Times-Picayune, “Don’t worry, he’s not leaving.”

Asked by The Shreveport Times if LSU’s negotiations with Miles might kick into another gear — as they did in 2007 when Michigan was an option for the coach — Vincent said, “It’s similar to that.”

Reports indicate that Michigan is holding a team meeting for its squad this afternoon.  Whether or not they will meet their new coach at that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Times-Picayune reports that LSU is offering to extend Miles’ contract past 2014.  The school is also willing to increase the coach’s buyout should he be let go.  Miles’ buyout — a massive figure once worth in the ballpark of $15 million — decreases after each season.

Tiger fan reaction to Miles’ possible departure has been split.

Meanwhile, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel declined an interview request from Michigan yesterday.  This could mean that he has no interest in the job… or that he knows the job is likely going to someone else.  The Detroit Free-Press lists Chris Peterson and Jon Gruden (of course) as candidates but says both are staying in their current jobs.  No mention of UM alum Brady Hoke of San Diego State by The Free-Press.

Miles is scheduled to be in Dallas today to speak at the American Football Coaches Association convention.  It’s possible that he could reconvene with Michigan reps there.

Former Tiger coach and current Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo told The Baton Rouge Advocate that the Michigan job has changed since Miles was last in Ann Arbor.

“This coach will have to win a division, the conference championship game, the Rose Bowl and the national championship game,” DiNardo said.  “The new Michigan coach will be under more pressure than any other coach in its history.  That being said, it’s still a great job.”

Exchange Rose for Sugar and Michigan sounds exactly like LSU… minus the great recruiting base.

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Richt And Miles Should Move If Possible

Some call it “staying one step ahead of the posse.”  Some say it’s just a matter of “getting while the getting’s good.”  Either way, Mark Richt and Les Miles should both have leaving on their minds.

In December, we wrote that Richt should pursue the then-open Colorado and/or Miami head coaching jobs.  The Dean of SEC Coaches, Richt has almost worn out his welcome in Athens.  His team finished 6-7 in 2010 and laid a major egg in the Liberty Bowl against UCF.  Last week his new boss — athletic director Greg McGarity — had to ask UGA backers to keep making donations to the athletic department for the sake of all the Bulldogs’ other programs.  In other words, don’t hurt the track team just because you’re mad about the football team.

That’s a bad situation for Richt.  Good luck finding another coach not named Paterno who’s lost a comparable amount of fan support only to survive, rebound and become popular again long-term.  It doesn’t happen.  So at this point, Richt is likely just delaying the inevitable.

Ron Seibel of The Macon Telegraph seems to agree:

“Unless Georgia can get some things done and seriously contend for the SEC East title, things likely will get ugly in Athens at the then end of the 2011 season.  A coaching change likely will be forced upon the program should the Bulldogs turn in another mediocre season, and nobody comes out looking good in that situation.

And while very few are saying that Richt needs to leave right now, would it be better for all involved for Richt to take one of the high profile positions that are currently available and leave Athens with his reputation and image intact?”

Seibel mentions a couple of schools that might welcome Richt should he take an interest in them — Stanford and Michigan.  Unfortunately, Richt’s best escape route might have been at Miami.  As an alum, if Richt had raised his hand it’s likely The U would have tabbed him as its new head coach. 

You tell me, who would Hurricane fans have felt better about: Richt or Al Golden?

But Richt elected to remain loyal to Georgia.  He’ll probably pay for that next season.

Emerson mentioned the Michigan job as a possibility for Richt, but that job is expected to go to either LSU’s Miles or San Diego State’s Brady Hoke.  Both are Michigan men.

If his alma mater tries to call him home, Miles should jump at the opportunity to exit Baton Rouge on a high note.

Despite a rich recruiting base and a gaudy contract, things will never be as good for Miles on The Bayou as they were in 2007.  Never.  Miles followed up that BCS championship season with a 17-9 two-year stretch.  As a result, The Hat found himself on a warming seat entering 2010.  A bungled near-loss to Tennessee cost him even more fan support in October.

An 11-2 finish and a big Cotton Bowl win have cooled the anti-Miles wolves for now… but how long before they start howling again?

Unless he expects to beat Nick Saban each year and compete for SEC titles every single season — and that’s tough to do, folks… ask Alabama and Florida fans — Miles should re-start his coaching clock by heading home to Ann Arbor.

In the current environment, coaches can’t afford to spend too many years in one place.  It’s become common for coaches to be hired and fired in laughably short three-year cycles.  Fans want big victory totals year-in and year-out in exchange for hikes in ticket prices, parking prices and concession prices.  So if a successful coach has a chance to move from one good job to another, he should take it.  End of story.

Richt blew his chance to go back to his alma mater.  If given the choice, Miles should avoid making the same mistake.

(SIDENOTE — We originally attributed the column from The Macon Telegraph to Seth Emerson… as it appeared in a spot usually filled with Emerson takes.  However, this particular column was penned by Ron Seibel.  Our mistake and our apologies to both Seibel and Emerson for crediting one with the other’s views.)

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Miles: “I Am Told That We Will Speak”

Only Les Miles could make a routine statement sound so bizarre.  LSU’s coach said today during Patrick Peterson’s “I’m going pro” press conference that he will meet with Michigan officials regarding the Wolverines’ head coaching job.

“To this point in time I have not talked to anybody from Michigan, nor has my representation had anything but distant conversations with representatives who represent the school.  I am told that we will speak, but that time and place has not been identified.”

A tip of the hat to the coach for being honest.  That’s rare in the coach-search game (more on that in a minute).  But his wording is as amusing as ever.  He could’ve just as easily said, “I haven’t talked to anyone from Michigan but I’ve told my agent to set up a meeting so I can hear them out.”

At any rate, Miles would not classify the meeting as an interview.

“It’s hard for me to speculate as to the substance of that meeting,” the coach said.  “The only thing I can tell you is I spent my day today with a number of underclassmen.  I am extremely happy here.  There’s a real comfort with my family in Baton Rouge.  I think it’s best left that way.”

The Detroit Free-Press reports today that Miles and Michigan AD Dave Brandon will convene in Dallas tomorrow.  Both will be in town for the American Football Coaches Association convention.

For now, it sounds as if Miles is simply trying to be courteous to his alma mater.  It’s quite possible that he took the unusual route of being completely honest about the scheduled meeting because he wants everyone to know just how highly he thinks of UM.  When was the last time a coach came out an publicly stated, “Yep, I’m going to talk with School X?”  Usually said coach is already out of town before word of his job switch leaks. 

Miles may well land in Ann Arbor, but this seems a little too public to us.  Almost like Miles is doing a PR favor for his old school.

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Miles Not As Hot A Candidate At Michigan These Days

Even before Michigan axed Rich Rodriguez yesterday, there was speculation that Les Miles might be the next man to take over in Ann Arbor.

But Miles doesn’t seem to be as sexy a pick for Michigan fans now as he was in 2007.  No wonder.  In ’07, Miles was on his way to a BCS Championship.  But in 2008-09 he mustered just a 17-9 which was poor enough to rile up many Tiger fans.  Also, for each brilliant fake kick or great fourth-down call, Miles has had more than his share of late game meltdowns — at Ole Miss last year, almost against Tennessee this year.  Yes, he has rebounded with a “damn strong” 10-2 season in 2010, but he’s just not the draw he was three years ago.

Jim Harbaugh was Michigan’s first choice to succeed Rodriguez.  But Harbaugh supposedly turned down a $5.2 million offer because he’d prefer to coach in the NFL if he leaves Stanford.

Miles may not even be the Wolverines’ second choice.  San Diego State’s Brady Hoke — another former UM assistant coach — wants the job.  Many speculate that he will actually be the man in charge when the smoke settles.

But Hoke is 13-12 in two seasons at San Diego State.  Miles is 61-17 with a BCS title at Baton Rouge.  How could Hoke possibly land the gig over Miles? 


Hoke will be 53 in 2011.  Miles will be 58.  That’s five years closer to retirement age — unless you’re Joe Paterno — and five years closer to having to go through the hiring process again.

Even (which is the Rivals site for Michigan) makes mention of Miles’ age:

“There’s still a faction in Ann Arbor that’s not crazy about the hire (of Miles), and he’s not old (58), but older than he was three years ago.  He’s won in the SEC, but LSU fans… well, aren’t fans of Miles, for the most part.  His in-game management has been questioned, and ESPN questioned his recruiting practices in a recent ‘Outside the Lines’ segment.”

(For the record, also reports that Miles wanted the Michigan job “badly” the last time around “but didn’t get a sniff” due to some bad relationships in Ann Arbor.  But — the Rivals site for LSU — claims that Miles was “ready to remain at LSU” even if Michigan had offered.  Funny how the story changes depending on the writer’s location.)

Whether Michigan chases Miles this time around remains to be seen.  Ditto whether Miles will leave a great recruiting base for his struggling alma mater if it does come calling.

But what is plain to see is this — Miles just isn’t as sexy a candidate in 2010 as he was in 2007.

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