Sunday, June 03, 2012

The latest on the playoff stuff

According to the italicized text above the headline at the top of this post, it's June 3, which means it's supposedly 17 days (but probably 23) until some sort of playoff format will be finalized and recommended and all that fun stuff. I'm pretty sure I've written about this before; this post will be less comprehensive than that one but will include a few interesting playoff-related tidbits I have open in my ridiculously overloaded browser.

There are basically two things left to be decided from a logistical standpoint: (a) who gets to participate and (b) where the games will be played. I'm intentionally ignoring/deferring the issues of selection format and revenue distribution since I'm assuming* the exact details of those can be hammered out after the basic infrastructure is in place; keep in mind that this thing won't be starting until after the 2014 season.

Anyway, this first item is from CBS Sports and basically just confirms what was being reported a few weeks back about the affiliated-bowls-as-hosts plan:
Commissioners in the process of molding the first major-college football playoff are leaning toward floating bowl sites for the semifinal games.

In fact, the predetermined rotation of semifinal sites in the bowls was described as a “non-starter” to There are still discussions over the sites of the entire three-game playoff (in or outside of bowls), but there seems to be a growing consensus that the bowls will at least host the semifinals. ...

(The conference commissioners) do not want the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds having to “go on the road” in the semifinals. In other words, if the Sugar Bowl were anchored in advance to be a semifinal site, it would be possible that a No. 4 seed – say, LSU – would have the home-field advantage playing the No. 1-seeded opponent in the Superdome.
Brian at MGoBlog had the perfect reaction to that last sentence:
I have this crazy good idea for how to fix this: play the games on campus.
Lol yes. If only. But yeah, there seems to be a consensus about the semifinal sites: The two top seeds will "host" at their affiliated BCS bowls. Everybody seems to be on board with this even though it will undoubtedly result in the Big Ten champ "hosting" USC in the Rose Bowl at some point in the near future. Insert Jim Delany joke here

Speaking of the Rose Bowl, there were some rumblings last week from Larry Scott about a plus-one ...
"I'd say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement (of the Champions Bowl is) a game-changer," Scott said. "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."
... that horrified me because of the potential to erase whatever progress had been made on the straight-up-bracket plan. I really have no interest in a plus-one; there are just too many possible scenarios in which there are still more than two title-game-worthy teams after the BCS bowls. See: last year, when the LSU/Alabama/Oklahoma State thing almost definitely wouldn't have been resolved via the bowls since they all would have been split up because of tie-ins, or any year that featured an undefeated Boise/TCU/Utah playing somebody outside the top five. No thanks.

But I'm not particularly concerned about that scenario anymore since Mike Slive showed up at the SEC baseball tournament last week and told everybody that a plus-one is stupid (or something along those lines):
"It's interesting because clearly what we did (in introducing the Champions Bowl) created a lot of thinking by a lot of people," Slive said. "I appreciate people thinking about that. But I think what's in the best interest of college football is a four-team playoff. I think it's better for everyone involved in the game."
This backs up what Big 12 commish Chuck Neinas and ACC commish John Swofford said the week before:
"I think it's beneficial to go to the four-team playoff," Neinas said. "The public expects a four-team playoff, and also to be able to provide the access possibilities and everything else, we need to look at a four-team format."

Swofford also said he remains in favor of the four-team model.

"The momentum continues to be in that direction (a four-team playoff)," Swofford said. "The key is being able to build a consensus how to do it.
So there ya go. The playoff will be a playoff and not a plus-one; "traction" requires more than Larry Scott and possibly Jim Delany talking about something.

As for the "who gets to participate" thing, the SEC spring meetings produced ... umm ... something:
Florida president Bernie Machen said the SEC would not compromise on having the four highest-ranked teams in the playoff rather than a group of conference champions.

"We won't compromise on that," Machen said at the SEC spring meetings. "I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four."
OK then. FYI, that was a statement made on behalf of the conference as a whole, with the school presidents/chancellors and athletic directors providing unanimous support. I agree with the top-four assessment 100 percent but also find the "won't compromise" part of the quote somewhat concerning.

Cartman explains why:

SI's Andy Staples explains why in more words:
At this juncture, such a bold statement raises some serious questions about whether conference leaders can reach a consensus. It's one thing for a league leader to say the conference prefers a particular model. It's quite another to eliminate all wiggle room on a particular issue. ...

At their meeting earlier this month, ACC athletic directors and coaches backed conference-champ priority even though Commissioner John Swofford had previously stated a desire for the top four. At the Big Ten meetings earlier this month, Commissioner Jim Delany voiced support for a "hybrid model" that would give preference to high-ranked conference champions but would also make allowances in case one league had more than one elite team. At this point, the factions seem to be a group made up of the Big 12, the SEC and Notre Dame (top four) and a group made up of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 (preference for conference champs).
Yeah ... that's not exactly a consensus, which is kind of a necessity. Machen even said after his initial comments that, "I don't really know what happens if someone says no. It really does have to be a consensus model to work."

I don't know how this gets resolved but (a) really hope the SEC/Notre Dame/Big 12 contingent wins since I hate the conference-champions-favoring plan and (b) really wish the the Big Ten hadn't given up on on-campus semifinals since this would be a perfect quid-pro-quo bargaining chip (give a top-four selection system and get semifinals in places that might actually get snow more than once a century). Alas.

Staples makes a couple really good points in that column, BTW. I recommend reading the whole thing but have to blockquote this portion for its brilliance:
The argument against the hybrid model (three conference champs within the top six and a wildcard) is that the No. 3 team could be left out in favor of the No. 6 team. That may sound fine to Big Ten and Pac-12 leaders now, but what happens when one of their champs is sitting at No. 1 and one of their teams is sitting at No. 3? They seem so focused on putting up roadblocks for the SEC that they have lost sight of the fact that they also have strong leagues that might someday be as dominant as the SEC is now.
Yup. I would be amazed at the shortsightedness if not for the people involved. I mean, it seems entirely possible that the Big Ten could produce two teams in the top three OH WAIT IT JUST HAPPENED FIVE FREAKING SEASONS AGO:
... my personal favorite is 2006: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Florida, No. 5 USC, and No. 6 Louisville are in. No. 3 Michigan (11-1 with a 42-39 loss to Ohio State) and No. 4 LSU (losses to No. 3 Auburn and No. 2 Florida) are out. So Michigan, which was No. 2 but idle on Championship Saturday and got leapfrogged by Florida by .0101 in the final BCS Standings, doesn't get in. But Bobby Petrino's Big East champions, whose best non-conference win was over a 7-6 Miami team, gets to be in the Final Four?
There's some saying about history something something doom something something.

Anyway, there's obviously some work to be done there in terms of determining the participants. For what it's worth (which is nothing), my guess is that there ends up being some sort of preferential treatment for conference champions, maybe in the form of limiting semifinal-hosting capabilities to conference champions in a top-four field. Notre Dame probably wouldn't love that scenario but doesn't have a true host-bowl tie-in anyway; it could be worked out.

There's an acceptable middle ground in there somewhere that can/will be found since nobody wants to renege now and both (a) deal with the public backlash and (b) walk away from the gajillions of dollars on the table in TV revenue.

Back to Staples for the win:
We probably should wait until the unseen hand in all this drama makes its moves. We know what the leagues want, but we don't yet know what television executives want. Their willingness to pay to televise the playoff hinges upon the quality of the matchups created. The better the matchups, the more money everyone gets.

So don't worry too much about the playoff falling apart, even if the rhetoric gets stronger in the next three weeks. Cash is the ultimate consensus builder, and it hasn't had its say yet.
Nailed it.

So ... that's where things stand. That was more writing blockquoting than I expected but hopefully provided a bunch of interesting information that will be outdated by, like, Wednesday.

*This could be a faulty assumption since there is already a "playoff revenue distribution subcommittee" in place. Still, I can't imagine that the money is gonna be a serious deterrent to getting a deal done; I'm with Staples in that I think the money is the thing that will ensure that something gets done because there's simply too much to pass up.


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