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College Football Fans, Please Say “Thanks” To The SEC For Your New Playoff

That was fast.

Relatively speaking, of course.  The first college football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers way back in 1869.  A scant 143 years later and university presidents have finally approved a playoff for college football that will begin in 2014.  (It should be noted that this is still not an official NCAA-run playoff and therefore the champion still won’t technically be “official” like in other sports, but that’s semantics.)

 

ESPN coverage

More ESPN coverage

Sports Illustrated coverage

The Sporting News coverage

CBSSports.com coverage (which says the new playoff won’t help the have-nots)

FoxSports.com coverage (which says the new playoff won’t solve the old BCS issues)

Numbers-guru Jerry Palm says the same

 

Two weeks ago today, media members covering the conference commissioners’ meeting in Chicago emerged from the Windy City with tales of woe and worry.  The playoff push had slowed.  Sources said there was still “a long way to go” before a consensus on any format was reached.  The pure Plus-One favored by the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents (just tacking on another game, rather than a seeded Plus-One) suddenly came back into the conversation.

Doom, meet Gloom.

But last evening — even after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had said warned that a playoff might not get presidential approval for a few more months — the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee gave an almost immediate rubber stamp to a playoff system that was so far off the radar this time a year ago that it might as well have been in the Bermuda Triangle.

College football fans can thank the SEC for finally providing the impetus for such a remarkably fast about-face.  Oh, some folks out there may be sick of hearing about the SEC, but that dislike is exactly what got us to where we now stand.

Let’s look at a quick timeline, shall we?

 

* 1869 — The first college football game is played in Princeton, New Jersey.

(Fast-forward 123 years…)

* 1992 — The Bowl Coalition is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC, and Notre Dame.  It involved the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Gator and John Hancock Bowls.  The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl would not take part.

* 1995 — The Bowl Alliance is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big 8, SEC, SWC, and Notre Dame, but it involved only the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls.  The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl still would not take part.

* 1998 — The Bowl Championship Series is founded to include the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC and three FBS independents.  It utilized the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowls.  Eventually, the BCS Championship Game was created as a fifth, stand-alone game in order to allow non-AQ teams a better shot at reaching a BCS game (and to fend off lawyers and legislators representing the plankton of college football’s food chain).

* 2008 — SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford push a four-team, seeded playoff idea to their fellow commissioners.  They were shot down immediately.

* January, 2011 — The SEC wins its fifth BCS Championship in a row.  Conference commissioners and university presidents remained dead set against a playoff of any kind.

* December 5, 2011 — Immediately following the announcement that LSU would play Alabama in an all-SEC rematch in the BCS Championship Game, we wrote:  “A rematch in the title game.  A possible split championship.  A non-conference (and non-division) champion with an opportunity to grab the brass ring.  With enough controversy, a seeded plus-one format might begin to gain some traction among schools.  It wouldn’t be tough to do.  In this year’s case, #1 LSU would face #4 Stanford in a bowl game while #2 Alabama met #3 Oklahoma State in another.  The winners would advance to a national title game the following week.  And for those who’ll say that wouldn’t solve all the issues, a fifth-ranked team has a lot less reason to moan than a third-ranked team.  This is clearly the best plan for college football and it’s remarkable that the powers-that-be refuse to embrace the obvious.”

* December 5, 2011 — Later that same day, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas became the first person of power outside of Slive and Swofford to say a seeded, Plus-One system should be considered.

* January, 2012 — SEC champion LSU faces SEC West runner-up Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.  Ratings are lower than expected.  The SEC wins its sixth BCS crown in a row.

* July 26, 2012 — The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee approves a four-team playoff which is pretty much the same seeded, Plus-One model Swofford and Slive presented years ago.

 

Notice how that timeline sped up just as the SEC’s dominance reached a crescendo?

There has always been big television money on the table for a college football playoff.  But a playoff wasn’t in the offing.

The majority of fans have always wanted a college football playoff.  But the P-word remained a dirty word to conference commissioners.

Debate has always raged over a “true” national champion, whether decided by polls, Coalition, Alliance, or Championship Series.  But a playoff remained a non-starter.

Yet now we’re getting a playoff.  And the only thing that changed was the SEC winning six titles in a row and — more importantly — the league landing two teams in January’s BCS Championship Game.

College football fans of America, you might hate the SEC.  You might not have been interested in watching a title game rematch between Alabama and LSU.  But it was the SEC’s dominance and that very rematch that angered every college football power broker outside the South enough to change their post-season system after nearly a century-and-a-half.

 

Southeastern Conference

2201 Richard Arrington Blvd. North

Birmingham, AL 35203

 

For those of you who want to send “thank you” notes, that’s the address to use.

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Did The SEC-Big 12 Bowl Announcement Backfire?

Last week, it looked as though the Big Ten and Pac-12 were driving hard for a playoff system that would be heavily weighted toward conference champions.  At the same time, the chancellor of the University of Nebraska had recently said that his fellow Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents and chancellors still favored a simpler Plue-One game tacked on after the bowl games… in order to preserve the majesty and tradition of the Rose Bowl.

Seemingly in response to the Big Ten/Pac-12, the SEC and the Big 12 — the two leagues that have by far owned the BCS era in terms of championship game appearances — worked out a deal of their own.  Last Friday they announced that they would start their own bowl game.  The apparent messages sent:

 

* Big Ten and Pac-12, don’t think you can jam a playoff format we don’t like down our throats.

* Our game will be better than your Rose Bowl.

* A playoff is most definitely on the way.

 

But Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has told The Wall Street Journal that the true Plus-One model mentioned above is now back on the table and gaining steam.  This is all about spin and negotiations, of course, but Scott’s comments suggest that the SEC’s and Big 12′s plan might have backfired:

 

“I’d say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn’t have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday’s a game-changer.  We’re pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it’s possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction.”

 

At least that’s the Pac-12′s view of things.  And Scott might be right.

If a true Plus-One is put in place, the champions of the two best leagues in America would do battle in a de facto semifinal.  For leagues like the Pac-12 and Big Ten that have earned just three BCS title game appearances each — thanks largely to those slots being filled by SEC and Big 12 teams — a Plus-One makes the path to the national crown easier.  Ditto for all the small leagues out there.

How many leagues would love to see the SEC and Big 12 beat each other up and cancel out a title game slot in the process?  Most?  All?

We can’t stress enough, however, that Scott’s comments are a negotiating point.  The SEC, Big 12 and others will counter it.  This just gives Scott’s bloc a better starting point.  Suddenly the “four from six” plan tossed out by the Big Ten’s Jim Delany might be a more likely compromise than the “three champs and a wild card” plan we at MrSEC.com expected to be the final compromise.

Either way, we don’t think a Plus-One will be the final destination.

In addition to recent SEC dominance, one of the reasons playoff discussions have come so far in recent months is the fact that fans now have more power than ever.  They have the power to complain via talk radio and social media.  More importantly, they have the power to turn off their televisions come December and January (which they’ve been doing with more regularity).  Even more importantly, they have the power to stop buying tickets to games.

So it’s unlikely that the same men who’ve spent so much time working on a playoff in order to keep fans from tuning out will stop, shift, and suddenly throw things into reverse.  And let’s be honest, a true Plus-One is about as far into reverse as things can be thrown.  Such a system would accomplish nothing.  It would be worse than the existing BCS.

If three teams from three different bowls were all undefeated post January 1st… some team would still be left on the outside looking in.  That’s the same thing fans hate about the BCS.

If the only undefeated team in America wins its bowl game… should it really have to turn around and beat some other once-beaten club to win the national title?  In fact, wasn’t this issue in the form of January’s LSU-Alabama rematch part of the reason we started down the playoff road in the first place?

Look, a Plus-One is unlikely.  But Scott’s response to the SEC/Big 12 move from Friday shows just how formidable a commissioner he is.  The SEC and Big 12 countered the Pac-12 and Big Ten.  Now Scott is letting everyone know that Friday’s move wasn’t quite the checkmate that many had assumed it was.

Game on.

 

UPDATE — A lot of folks are taking Scott’s statement to mean that the Plus-One after the bowls would consist of the Rose Bowl’s winner playing the “Champions” Bowl winner.  But that’s not what Scott said.  He simply said a Plus-One.  And if he’s referring to the traditional Plus-One plan that Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman floated recently, then he’s suggesting the best two teams after all the bowls would be picked.  Is it logical to think that that would probably mean the Rose and “Champions” winners?  Yes.  But that’s not technically what he said.

In addition whether there’s a true Plus-One or those two games become official semifinals — good luck legally closing the door completely on all the schools outside the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, by the way — the SEC and Big 12 would be meeting in one game while the Big Ten and Pac-12 would play in the other.  Things tend to move in cycles, but since the BCS era dawned, the two former leagues have been better than the latter two when it comes to producing championship game contenders.  For that reason the SEC-Big 12 game would be like playing the championship game first and then forcing that winner to face off against a team from the Pac-12 or Big Ten in a second championship game.

Which is why Scott’s now using this as a negotiating tool.

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Football Playoff To Be A Big Focus At SEC Meetings

Next week in Destin, the SEC’s coaches, athletic directors and presidents will tackle the issue of football scheduling.  Basketball scheduling, too.  The word “expansion” — at least as it relates to the overall college landscape — will certainly be heard.  There will also be the annual collection of checks from the league office.

But you can expect to the new playoff system to take up a good deal of discussion time as well.  The who, the when, and the where will all likely be debated.  According to SEC associate commissioner and chief PR guru Charles Bloom (speaking to The Chattanooga Times Free Press):

 

“What’s going to take the day is discussion on the conference’s position on the four-team playoff.  The commissioners were charged with going back to their conferences, with each conference stating a position on their preference.  There will be a lot of discussion on that…

“The devil is in the details.  How do you fill it?  Who’s hosting it?  Is it inside the current BCS structure, or will it be separate bowls?  Is it a neutral-site bid or campus sites?  Is it conference champions only? All those items are up for discussion.”

 

Earlier this month the president at Nebraska suggested his fellow Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents might scuttle playoff talk altogether and instead vote in favor of a pure Plus-One game to be tacked on after the bowls.

Just last week, the SEC and Big 12 announced a partnership on a new bowl that — if nothing else — guarantees that the old BCS system will die by the 2014 season.  So even if the presidents hijack playoff plane, there will be no move back to the system Roy Kramer created.

Now there’s speculation that the big four leagues — and that’s currently the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and the recently revived Big 12 — might have just set up their own mini-playoff system.  That option is one of dozens now available, though it’s hard to imagine schools like Notre Dame and conferences like the ACC going being cast aside without a fight from lawyers and politicians.

Currently, we could wind up with…

 

* A four-team playoff featuring any conference champions ranked in the top five or six slots in the final poll (or whatever ranking system is used).

* A four-team playoff featuring the three highest-rated conference champions and a wild card team (if the top four aren’t all conference champs).

* A true Plus-One game that would just match the top-ranked teams after the bowls.

* A return to the old way of settling a champion — the polls.  If no one can reach a consensus and the BCS is dead, then it’s possible we could return to the days when conference champions and top-ranked teams just went to different bowls in different parts of the country.

 

We at MrSEC.com are in favor of a seeded Plus-One system that would use the existing bowls as semifinal games.  This would be a “plus one” because only one game would be added to the season, but it would still have a 1 versus 4 and 2 versus 3 set-up.  (If you read this site, you also know we’re in favor of just taking the four highest-rated teams in the nation… because eventually ratings will be used to determine the highest-ranked conference champions anyway.  If rankings must be used, they should be used to assign the top four teams their seeds.)

We do not believe a true Plus-One — just adding a game after the bowl — solves anything.  An unbeaten team might win its bowl and be rewarded by having to play a team with one loss.  After the bowls, if you’r the only unbeaten team, you should win the crown.  Also, what if three teams from three bowl all end their seasons undefeated.  Welcome to the BCS Part II.  Two spots, three teams, voters and computers give one team the shaft.

And we don’t believe — at least not yet — that the new Big 12-SEC alliance will help form a members-only playoff.  According to that theory, the Big 12 would add two more teams in order to hold a conference championship game.  The championship games of the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC would serve as de facto quarterfinals.  Then the Pac-12 and Big Ten champs would meet in the Rose Bowl (making it a national semifinal) while the winners of the SEC and Big 12 would do likewise in their own “Champions Bowl” (another semifinal).  At that point, the winners of the Rose and Champions would meet in a title game.

Hey, that sounds good.  But good luck getting that past the supporters of every non-SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac-12 school in the country.  The threat of lawsuits and Congressional hearings would most definitely become reality under such a plan.

As you can see, there’s no easy answer.  So it’s probably wise for the SEC to block out plenty of time to debate this issue.  It likely won’t be settled for months, regardless of the June and July timelines that are currently being kicked around the internet.

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The BCS Status Quo Is “Off The Table,” But SEC Fans Should Hold Their Applause

As a college football fan, I like the fact that the sport is moving rapidly toward a four-team playoff.  If we avoid the almost inevitable playoff-creep (to eight teams and then sixteen), I’ll be even happier.

In simple terms, four teams beats two teams when it comes to determining a national champion.  Teams #1 through #4 could all — in the right year — have a legitimate, well-earned shot at the title belt.  Teams #5 and up would have more holes in their resumes.  So this writer’s happy they’re likely to be excluded.

And that looks to be exactly what’s going to happen.  After Day One of the latest conference commissioner meetings in Florida yesterday, none other than Bill Hancock himself — the Grand Poobah and chief PR man for the BCS — said that things are definitely changing and that the status quo is “off the table.”   Most sources say a four-team, seeded, Plus-One format is on the way.  Therefore, the only questions now are:

 

* Who’ll pick the teams?  (A selection committee is being discussed as one possibility.)

* Will champions only be allowed in?  (Not likely.)

* Where will the games be played?  (Best bet — the semifinals at a bowl site and the championship game bidded out to a different city each year.)

* How will the money be split?  (This is the stickiest part because the current BCS leagues won’t want to give the second-tier leagues an even share.)

 

But the real news today is that the Bowl Championship Series as we know it will die after the 2013 college football season (which means we’ll have just two more years of it).  Shouts of jubilation can be heard from Seattle to Syracuse, down to Coral Gables, and back to San Diego.

We suggest, however, that SEC fans hold their applause for just a bit.

 

Everyone in America knows that the Southeastern Conference has thrived under the current system.    The SEC won the first BCS title after the 1998 season.  It’s won the last six BCS titles including an SEC versus SEC affair this past January.  In between there was an eighth SEC champ crowned as well.  That’s eight titlists in 14 years under the current BCS system.  Not bad.

The thought in Dixie is that the SEC will really come to dominate an era of playoffs.  That makes sense.  The SEC is the best league around and as long as leagues can land multiple teams in the semifinals, Mike Slive’s bunch seems likely to keep it’s current roll going.

There are new variables to be thrown into the equation, though.

First, who picks the teams who get in?  There are always some who want the voters and the computers tossed out and a selection committee founded.  Trouble is — and we point this out every March — folks scream, holler and moan about the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s work in basketball.  That evidence suggests a blue-ribbon panel would not be perfect.  And depending who’s on it, such a committee could be plum bad for the SEC.

If a committee is used, it’s likely each conference would have some form of representation, at least on a rotating basis — an ex-ACC player here, an ex-Big Ten coach there, a couple of current conference commissioners tossed in for good measure.  Well right now the SEC is the bully on the block.  The idea of a group of non-SEC folks tabbing two SEC teams to take part in a playoff would seem slim.  The term “spreading the wealth” comes to mind.  In fact, that’s exactly why we’re on the doorstep of a playoff now.

Just four years ago — two years into the SEC’s reign of championships — Mike Slive and ACC commish John Swofford pushed for a seeded Plus-One system.  Their pleas fell on deaf ears.  Now six years into the SEC’s “Golden Age,” the rest of the conference commissioners are looking for a share of the glory.  So don’t think that a committee or panel or governing body would be fair to the SEC.  The league might have two of the top four teams in the polls, but it might not land two teams in the playoff if there are five major conference champions in the Top Five, for example.

For that reason, the best hope for the SEC is for some modified version of the current BCS formula to be installed into the new selection process.  Think about it.  Voters have a healthy respect for the Southeastern Conference.  Fans of other leagues might feel the SEC gets too much respect, but as long as the SEC keeps winning crowns, the longer the polls will continue to feature several of its teams in the Top 10.

There’s a scene from the movie “City Slickers” in which Billy Crystal’s character is trying to outwit an ice cream salesman by naming a dish that would be impossible to pair with a perfectly-flavored dessert.  The guy throws out an answer anyway and he and his brother high-five over it.  When Crystal asks how they know their answer is correct, David Paymer’s character says: “How do we know?  Fourteen-hundred retail outlets from coast to coach, that’s how we know.”

And that’s the argument for the SEC being the best in the football biz.  How do we know?  Six consecutive national titles.  Poll voters subscribe to that line of thinking.

So do computer geeks.  The old SEC — the one with 12 teams — was “strength of schedule” dynamite in the computer portion of the BCS formula.  Now toss in two more solid programs and those strength of schedule rankings are likely to rise further.  That gives the SEC an advantage against other leagues.

Computers don’t feel the need to “spread the wealth” of championships from conference to conference, either.

Another new variable is the increased risk of injury.  In the current format, two teams — usually one an SEC squad — have 40 days to heal up and prepare for one game.  In a playoff, an injury to a key starter in a semifinal could have a big effect on how the finals play out.

Additionally, coaching staffs will have to prepare for three teams rather than one during the month of December — a semifinal foe and then both possible final draws.  That would be a pretty big change, too.

 

Look, today is a good day for college football fans.  A bizarre championship format is going to change.  Probably in a big, big way that will make for great television and — hopefully — will help take back New Year’s Day from a host of second-tier bowl games.  The SEC is still the best football conference around and it should do well no matter what the future plan is put in place.

It’s just that that old, bizarre championship format has served the Southeastern Conference pretty well over the last decade-and-a-half.

Depending on what new postseason format is adopted and who it is that will be selecting the teams to play in it, some of us down South may eventually come to mumble another old saying — “Be careful what you wish for.”

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Slive Talks New Bowl Possibilities For His League

This offseason when people have talked about college football’s postseason, the focus has been on creating some form of playoff system.  (We’re still guessing a seeded Plus-One system involving existing bowls for the semifinals and a championship game awarded to the highest bidder will be the eventual answer.)  But SEC commissioner Mike Slive is also thinking about the future of college football’s bowl structure.

This season the SEC will expand from 12 to 14 teams.  The schedule for 2012 will include just eight conference games which means a lot of league members will reach the current six-win bowl eligibility line.  With no new bowls added to the league’s line-up this season, that means a number of bowl-eligible SEC teams might be left home this holiday season.  (Last year, the SEC had nine teams qualify for 10 bowl slots, but two of those slots came in the BCS Championship Game which left an opening in the BBVA Compass Bowl.)

Moving forward, Slive knows there will be interest in his league when existing bowl contracts expire following the 2013 season… and at that point, it could be time for the league to tie-in with a Texas-based bowl:

 

“I don’t really doubt there are some bowls that would be interested in us for a couple years.  The question for us is whether they have the freedom to deal with us…

I think we have to take a look (at moving into Texas).  I think we will have some opportunities.  But at the same time, we have a really good bowl lineup now.”

 

There are a number of issues at play here and they’re all coming to a head at the same time.  There’s a strong push to create some form of four-team playoff.  The idea of playing games at campus locations is dying because some venues don’t have the size, luxury suites, or staffing to host mega-events.  That means at least two bowl are likely to be involved in a semifinal rotation.  If that indeed comes to pass, how will that rotation work and will traditional tie-ins be maintained?  For example, will the Sugar Bowl still be the destination for the top SEC team not reaching the BCS title game.

On another level, it will be open season to cut new bowl deals after 2013.  Who will the SEC choose as its partners?  Will it add bowls to its mix?

Finally, there’s also been talk this offseason of raising the bowl eligibility standard from six wins to seven.  If that happens, there will be fewer teams bowl eligible each year and — obviously — fewer bowls to host them.

In other words, while the whole world waits to see if white smoke or black smoke rises from the chimney of the next FBS commissioners’ conference on a playoff, the bowl picture is just as cloudy and muddled as the playoff talk.

That said, there should be no fear amongst SEC fans.  Slive’s league is the darling of the television world thanks to its past success, the reputation that goes with that, and a pair of national television packages that grow the league’s drawing power a bit more year after year.

Along with the Big Ten and Pac-12 — both feature major television markets throughout their regions — the SEC should be positioned quite nicely when it comes to locking in future bowl partners after 2013.

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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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Slive On Football Postseason: “There’s No Consensus On Anything”

At this point, it looks as though a playoff — or Plus-One system — is a foregone conclusion for college football’s postseason.  But after the latest meeting of BCS conference commissioners, it seems there’s still a lot of ground to cover before the make-up of that new system is determined.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive said after this week’s meeting in Dallas:


“There’s no consensus yet on anything.  The first couple of meetings, we talked a lot about just college football in general, the regular season.  This time, less of that and more about how we need to start getting closer to where the rubber meets the road.  And there’s lots of different options, and start to analyze each one of those and the pros and cons that go with them.”


The group of commissioners released a statement yesterday acknowledging a number of issues — already well known — that they’re debating during their discussions:


1.  “Would we play some games on campus or all games on neutral sties?”

2.  “If some games are on campus, is that too much of a competitive advantage?”

3.  “If all games are at neutral sites, would fans be able to travel to two games in a row?”

4.  “How would teams be selected?  By a committee, by the current ranking formula, or by a different formula?”

5.  “When exactly would games be scheduled, considering finals, holidays and our desire to avoid mid-January games?”

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Slive Wants Non-League Champs Cleared For Playoff

It should come as no shock to college football fans that SEC commissioner Mike Slive isn’t big on talk of a four-team, Plus-One playoff format that includes only conference champions.  Unfortunately, the anti-SEC sentiment that’s driving this year’s push for a Plus-One is aimed directly at making it tougher for Slive’s league to keep capturing national crowns… and that means rival leagues will want to cap a league’s chances of winning.

While not a fan of the conference-only talk currently circulating, Slive told The Birmingham News that he is at least willing to discuss it:


“I’m willing to have a conversation about it, but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go.  It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly.  There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.”


That dig at “some commissioners” was aimed squarely at the camp of Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Larry Scott (Pac-12).  Their bloc has been very vocal.  Scott last week spoke of a champs-only plan.  And weeks ago, word leaked from the Big Ten that Delany and company liked the idea of on-campus semifinal games.

Last week we wrote that the fight over a new plan would likely break down along Big Ten/Pac-12 and SEC lines.  Whichever group grabs the most support from other conference commissioners will see the playoff set up more in line with its own goals.

Interestingly, Slive says he would also consider playing semifinal games at campus sites.  We still believe there is going to be a desire from his camp to somehow tie the new “playoff” games into one or two of the existing bowls, or at least their host cities.


“There are pluses and minuses to that concept.  One is that you’re playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage.  The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not played at homes of the higher sees.  So you have to look at that…

The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games.  You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) — for one team.  It needs to be looked at carefully.  It’s on the table and it should be on the table.”


Back to the issue of a champions-only system, there are two simple reasons why such a plan should not — and in our estimation — will not pass muster:


1.  This past year’s national champion was Alabama, a team that did not win it’s conference title.

2.  More importantly, a Plus-One with conference champs only would have had #1 SEC champ LSU hosting #10 Big Ten champion Wisconsin and #3 Big 12 champ Oklahoma State hosting #5 Pac-12 titlist Oregon in a Delany/Scott-styled plan.

Alabama (#2), Stanford (#4), Arkansas (#6), Boise State (#7), Kansas State (#8), and South Carolina (#9) didn’t win their league champoinships.

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Plus-One System Sounding More And More Like A “Take Down The SEC” System

It looks like Southeastern Conference football fans who’ve been hoping for some form of college football playoff system will soon be getting their wish.  But the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for,” might apply.

When Alabama and LSU were locked in to play in this year’s BCS Championship Game the stage was set for change.  The SEC had simply gotten too powerful for other leagues to stomach.

First, Big 12 interim commish Chuck Neinas said a Plus One system needed to be discussed.  Then word leaked from the Big Ten that Jim Delany — long an anti-playoff guy — was suddenly considering a four-team system that would feature semifinals played at campus locations and a title game played at a neutral site.

Last week 11 conference commissioners and the AD at Notre Dame met to further discuss possible replacements for the BCS when it runs its course in 2014.  By the end of the week, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had given his support to the Big Ten’s four-team, on-campus semifinal plan.

“There’s a reason that in the NFL they only play the Super Bowl as a neutral site game,” Scott said.  “There’s a reason they play playoffs and AFC and NFC championships with home hosting.”

In addition, Scott spoke of just who might be invited to take part in such a four-team system.  “What more clear way to have intellectual consistency with the idea of a playoff than to earn it as a conference champion?  It would de-emphasize the highly subjective polls that are based on a coach and media voting and a few computers.”  (Scott doesn’t mention if polls or computers will be used to determine which conference champions get to play.)

Add it all up and it looks like there will be two voting blocs when it comes to choosing the new system.

One group — made up of at least Pac-12 and Big Ten officials — will champion a four-team, seeded Plus One system that will feature the higher-seeded teams hosting semifinal games, with only the championship game put up for bid.  This group will want only conference champions involved so a league like the SEC won’t be able to land two or even three teams in the final four-team mix.  Ironically, former SEC commish and BCS founder Roy Kramer pushed the “champs only” idea just last week.

The second group will — we imagine — be driven by the SEC’s current commissioner, Mike Slive.  As the Grand Poobah of a league that entered the final week of the regular season with the top three teams in the BCS standings, he might no be so keen on a one-team-per-league cap.  After all in 14 years of BCS play, 10 times a team that did not win its conference did wind up in the top four of the BCS standings.  This group will likely also fight to keep a new Plus One system anchored to the existing bowl games in some form or fashion.  Good Southern weather never hurt anybody, ya know.

So which bloc will gain the most support?  What compromises are there to be made and which side is best equipped to present them and get them passed?

For now, stay tuned.

But it sure seems that this whole Plus One plan is actually a take-down-the-SEC plan.  And its structure, location and composition may all be designed with that very goal in mind.

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UGA Prez: 4- Or 8-Team Playoff On The Way

University of Georgia president Michael Adams is one of the most vocal university presidents in the country when it comes to academics.  You know those guys that everyone goes to for a quote when there’s some debate about whether players are Students or Athletes?  Adams is one of those guys.  Heck, he’s the president of the Knight Commission, an organization that “has worked to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities.

So when Michael Adams says this:

 

“My best guess is we’re going to end up with either a four- or eight-team playoff by the time we get to ’14,”

 

We listen.

Now, it’s no surprise that a playoff-scenario is in the works.  At this site, we suggested in December that Alabama and LSU — two teams from the same (hated) conference  – reaching the BCS title game might be enough to spur the other BCS leagues into action.  The day we wrote that, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas came out and said a “Plus One” format should be discussed.

It was bad enough that the SEC was winning the national crown every year, but when they were then facing themselves in the title game?  Other leagues couldn’t abide with that.

In the past month, many ADs and presidents and commissions have mentioned a four-team, seeded Plus One as the most likely end result of this year’s BCS discussions.  Even NCAA president Mark Emmert has said that such a “Football Final Four” seems like a solid idea.  And by now you know what kind of money such a plan would generate.  What kind of television ratings it would grab.  All that’s been written and re-written, postulated and re-postulated ad nauseum.

In the last week, the Big Ten let word leak out that it, too, might be in favor of a Plus One.  That was big news in itself as commissioner Jim Delany has long been against any type of playoff.  Additionally, the league’s plan tossed out the idea of the two highest-seeded teams hosting the “semifinals” on their own campuses.

Adams has taken all that a step further.  He has thrown an eight-team format into the discussion.  That’s not new on websites and blogs and messageboards, but it is a first in terms of real discussion.

According to Adams — who was speaking to the University of Georgia Athletic Association board yesterday — the Big Ten and Pac-12 have been the leagues most opposed to a playoff in past years.  Mike Slive pushed a Plus One idea several years ago and ACC commish John Swofford has also backed such a plan.  When Adams previously suggested an eight-team plan in 2008, it was dead on arrival.  But Delany’s change of heart on the subject is a “very significant development,” in Adams’ words.

According to The Athens Banner-Herald, Adams also said:

 

“The conference commissioners are finally coming together on that point.  There’s been great division among the commissioners the last six or eight years. The change in the conference realignments, the fact that most of the media contracts are up in either ’13 or ’14 are creating a situation. If there’s going to be a change, this is probably the natural time to do it…

I don’t say this about very much, but I think we were at the front of the train on that issue.  I could see it down the track and I think we will end up with something that I think the fans feel better about. We may never get anything that the fans feel perfectly happy about.  

One of my major concerns all along has been that I didn’t think we were paying enough attention to the fans who foot the bills for all this. I think that realization is beginning to come home.”

 

Back in December of 2008, we at MrSEC.com put together our own “perfect” college football plan.  Eight teams.  First-round games hosted on campus sites.  It’s not far from what’s being discussed by Delany to the north and Adams to the south this week.

You can read the plan in full right here.  (And, yes, I’m sure there are some uncorrected typos in that piece somewhere.)

Once we put our playoff system together, we brought in one of the top sports business wheeler-dealers in the country to tear it to shreds.  Anyone can come up with a playoff plan.  We wanted to come up with a playoff plan that would pass muster with everyone from the TV executives to advertisers t0 university presidents.  So we asked Bill Schmidt — the former sports marketing head of Gatorade and someone who’s been called in to broker advertising deals between professional teams and mega-brands — to nitpick our idea.

He did.

The issue of venues became the Snake Canyon we could not jump over.  If you play with eight teams (seven games) at bowl sites, no fans are going to travel to three different locations to follow their teams.  Plus, moving 85 student-athletes from site to site isn’t near as easy as moving 10-15 student-athletes from site to site during a basketball tournament.

So we suggested the first round be played on campuses.  Schools would love a shot at extra gate, parking and concession revenue.  But what of the four teams having to travel to on-campus sites?  As Schmidt reminded us, schools like to use bowl trips — even crummy ones — as a reward to boosters.  In return, they hope to draw more cash out of their biggest backers for future years.  Would a booster enjoy a trip to Lubbock, Texas or Boise, Idaho if his school lost?  Where’s the day at the beach or in the casino?

Again, read the above piece and you’ll see our arguments for an eight-team playoff and you’ll also see a sports marketing guru’s pooh-poohing of said plan.  We’re surprised that things have come as far as they have on the playoff from since that piece was posted in 2008.  But who foresaw a season in which the BCS Championship Game would feature two teams from the same conference?  And that’s really what’s made everything else suddenly feasible.

In our view, a seeded Plus One system remains the most likely scenario to come of this year’s discussion.  For traditionalists, it would be easier to go from zero to four than it would from zero all the way to eight.  We also expect that the three games involved will be sold off to the highest bidder.  For travel purposes and fan ease, one site might get all three games.  For the sake of pulling in more cash, the semifinals might be given to one city while the finals are handed to a even higher bidder.

Whatever the format, the end of the college football season is about to change.  If that gives us a truer national champion, restores meaning to New Year’s Day, pushes the smaller bowls back into December, and stops the creep of games into mid-January… then we’re all for it.

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