Yesterday’s meeting of FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director was not the kickstart to a playoff for which most everyone had hoped. In fact, some viewed it as a reversal of field from the last commissioners+ND get-together. Depending on who you read and how you read the comments coming out of Chicago, you might even say a playoff was thrown for a loss.
It’s becoming clear that the guys charged with covering this mess are, well, getting tired of covering this mess. No wonder. If the world wants a four-team playoff and most every coach, AD, president and commissioner seems to realize this… then how hard can it be to dream up a plan that will work?
Unfortunately, nearly 150 years of football without any type of FBS/Division I playoff should’ve told everyone that this might be harder to pull off than imagined. Money hasn’t mattered in the past. Egos have ruled the day. To assume that everyone would just compromise and play nice this time around was pretty darned presumptuous.
That’s one reason, of course, that we continued to beat home the following line — “… a playoff (if there’s a playoff)” — until many got sick of reading it. The other reason we’ve been writing it ain’t over til it’s over? We never underestimate the stupidity of human beings (don’t take offense, we’re human, too).
But let’s take a look at the divergence of opinion coming out of yesterday’s meeting in order to form our own fresh opinion, shall we?
* First, the commissioners released a statement after the meetings that read:
“We made progress in our meeting today to discuss the future of college football’s post-season. We are approaching consensus on many issues and we recognize there are also several issues that require additional conversations at both the commissioner and university president levels.
We are determined to build upon our successes and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season. We also value the bowl tradition and recognize the many benefits it brings to student-athletes.
We have more work to do and more discussions to have with our presidents, who are the parties that will make the final decisions about the future structure of college football’s post-season.”
The takeaway? Notice how it’s made clear that the presidents will have the final call? That’s not a promising sign because it’s been the presidents for more than a century who’ve said “no, thanks” to any type of top-level college football playoff.
* You can count Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com among those writers in the frustrated camp. He states that yesterday’s meeting was a “regression, not progress.” A source told him that “a bit of an impasse” has developed between the Hatfields (Big Ten/Pac-12) and the McCoys (SEC/Big 12).
“If the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents had embraced the four-team playoff, then I think there would have been a place where everyone was on the same page, and then ready to fill in all the gaps,” Dodd’s source said. One commissioner told him, “The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren’t.”
Meaning? Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman — supposedly speaking for all the Big Ten presidents — have made it clear they’d still be okey-dokey with a true Plus-One tacked on after the bowl games or even the status quo. But the status quo has been ruled dead by most involved, so that means the hang-up is the Plus-One.
SEC/Big 12 = pro-playoff. Pac-12/Big Ten presidents = pro-Plus-One, at least to some extent.
Dodd also points out the top dog of the BCS, Bill Hancock, said after April’s commissioners’ meeting that “seismic change” was on the way. Yesterday he said “it could be a while before the future of the game is known.” Buzzkill.
The writer sums things up with a pair of uh-oh quotes from a commissioner (“The presidents aren’t ‘rubber stamping’ anything. The challenge is the commissioners have had eight or nine meetings. We’ve been talking about it for 100 hours and then you can’t give it to the presidents and expect them to digest it in four hours.”) and from a source (“They’ll look at the four-team playoff and look at the Plus-One.”).
* Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com doesn’t paint a pretty picture either. He points out that the Pac-12′s Scott said “options, plural” would be presented to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee on June 26. Yep, that’d be versions of a four-team playoff and of a Plus-One.
According to McMurphy: “Numerous commissioners, however, told CBSSports.com that there is a real concern that the group will not have settled on which playoff formats to go forward with on June 20th.” June 20th is the next commissioner’s meeting. This tells us that very little was actually accomplished yesterday other than everyone staking out their own positions… something that had already been done publicly on numerous occasions.
A BCS source also told McMurphy: “I’m dead serious that we have a long way to go. There are significant issues that must be resolved.”
Hancock even said that “everything is still on the table.” (Everything, but the status quo, apparently.)
* Meanwhile, ACC commissioner John Swofford put happy face on the day’s work. “We’ve made excellent progress. There’s still a focus on a four-team playoff, and getting a consensus on how that will work.” Well, Swofford’s speaking for the commissioners. The presidents will examine the four-team playoff and a Plus-One, from almost all accounts. Where their focus will be remains a question.
* Whaddya think SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say? Go on, guess. “The First Amendment will be alive and well when the presidents meet, as it always is. There will be discussions with different models, and obviously my focuse has been on a four-team playoff. That will continue to be the Southeastern Conference’s full concern.”
If the most powerful commissioner in college sports talks in his sleep, I’ll bet he mumbles something to the effect of “The First Amendmenenntnenen….”
* So what about the recent bloggers who’ve flat-out stated that television will drive this playoff home? Some have gone so far as to say that television executives would demand a four-team playoff with the four highest-ranked teams by offering more money for such a plan. (Those assertions were quickly shot down by multiple college football reporters with multiple sources, by the way.)
Well, is television really in control here? Not according to Hancock. ESPN’s Joe Schad tweeted yesterday that Mr. BCS himself “Warns TV may not want package that is decided on.”
In other words, just because there’s more money in a four-team playoff… there’s no guarantee of a four-team playoff. Yep, you’ve read that right here a hundred times. Television execs have long drooled over the thought of a college football playoff. And college football’s power brokers have long ignored their drool. And their money.
Just because logic suggests people will jump at the cash doesn’t mean they will. In issues involving power and egos, you can often forget logic.
* Which brings us to Andy Staples of SI.com. One of our favorite football writers, Staples is a helluva lot more chipper about the state of things than other writers today. Why? Because he feels logic suggests that we’re too close to a playoff to turn back now.
According to Staples, the powers-that-be will “figure it out.” In his view, “They haven’t left themselves much choice.” Take it away, Mr. Staples:
“Yes, there are differences of opinion between the Big Ten/Pac-12 faction and the Big 12/SEC faction. Yes, those issues must get resolved. They will. The commissioners talked money on Wednesday, as in how they’ll split the revenue from the new postseason system. They wouldn’t even broach the thorny topic of revenue sharing if they didn’t believe they could reach a consensus on the other details (where the semifinals will be played, which four teams will make the playoff and how those teams will be selected).
‘There will be something for everybody,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday, ‘but there won’t be everything for anybody.’
Hancock, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, ACC commissioner John Swofford, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Big 12 commissioner-elect Bob Bowlsby — he starts Monday — all made it a point to mention the presidents have final say in the new postseason format. Scott said the commissioners will present ‘multiple options’ to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. This presumably will happen before that group’s June 26 meeting in Washington, but it isn’t guaranteed. So why feel confident these guys can avoid screwing this up? Common sense.”
Ouch. Common sense, huh?
Hey, reader, how many times in a day do you trust your fellow Americans or fellow citizens of Earth to use “common sense?” Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Staples goes on to make some very logical points:
1. No conference wants to be viewed as the league that killed a potential playoff. (Though the Big Ten and old Pac-10 avoided joining the BCS for six seasons while everyone else took part in a Bowl Alliance and a Bowl Coalition.)
2. The commissioners have spent too much time talking about a four-team playoff to turn back now. (Didn’t the NCAA pass and then effectively un-pass the whole stipend-for-athletes thing that was discussed ad nauseum last year?)
3. At least seven of the nine members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee supported a four-team playoff in March. (People’s opinions in a closed-door vote can differ from those they provide to the press months earlier.)
Finally, Staples finished up as follows: “If you have any doubts, simply repeat after me. They aren’t that stupid.” Only they have been just that stupid for generations.
Look, we’re not trying to play Debbie Downer and say that a playoff is definitely not on the horizon. It may well be for all the reasons that Staples puts forth. Again, if logic and common sense are to be trusted in this case, then a four-team playoff will come to pass.
We just think there’s still plenty of chances for egos, arrogance, power-madness and sheer stubbornness to derail the playoff train. If anything, the news coming out of Chicago justified our — let’s not call them fears — our qualms about everyone suddenly getting smarter and more willing to compromise.
The next meeting comes next Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if we don’t hear more of the same coming out of that meeting. And eventually, all this will still have to pass through those presidents, too.
A playoff is still the favorite. But it ain’t a sure-thing just yet.