Friday, June 15, 2012

A lot of progress was made at this meeting

So ... the conference commissioners met Wednesday in Chicago with the stated goal of making something resembling progress toward a playoff proposal for the Presidential Oversight Committee on June 26. I was legitimately excited for some updates. I got this instead (this is from AP but is substantially the same as what was produced by every other news outlet covering the thing):
The conference commissioners who have been working on a four-team playoff to determine college football's national champion plan to present the BCS presidential oversight committee multiple formats from which to choose.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the university presidents will "have options -- plural" to consider when they meet in two weeks.
Oh. Awesome ... and by "awesome" I obviously mean "not at all awesome."

WTF happened? The explanatory detail provided thus far has been hilariously lacking (that's because of the commissioners, not the media). For some reason, nobody's saying anything about anything except in the most vague ways.

The only useful information I've been able to find was given off the record to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:
"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," the source said.

"The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren't," said one commissioner.
AAARRRRRGHGHGH!!! In gif form:

My understanding throughout the playoff-discussion process (and I believe this was the goal) was that the commissioners would present an agreed-upon plan and that approval of said plan would be a formality since, like, everybody had already agreed to it. But that quote about having "plural" options is horrifying because ... I mean ... "plural" does not imply any sort of consensus.

The way I see it, there are basically two potential here-are-the-proposals scenarios. The first: The commissioners have (or will have) a mostly finalized four-team concept and will be pitching that along with a dollar menu of accompanying options, which means punting to the presidents on the apparently divisive issues of participants (top four or something with a bias for conference champs) and selection format (committee or revised ranking system). The second: The commissioners have only a majority agreement and will put everything -- including a plus-one -- on the table and let the presidents negotiate their own adventure.

The apparent reality:
"They'll (the presidents) look at the four-team playoff and look at the plus-one," said another source. 
I'd be relatively OK with the first scenario since it'd limit the number and scale of talking points. I'm not at all OK with the reality scenario for the opposite reason: I do not want the format discussion reopened at the presidential level. There was a four-team consensus among the commissioners two freakin' months ago; that shouldn't be thrown out in deference to some other group of guys with even larger egos and even more expertise in politicking just because Jim Delany and Larry Scott and possibly a few Big Ten presidents got all pouty about the Rose Bowl (I'm assuming that's the issue based on the above-quoted comments about the Big Ten and Pac-12).

Here's the complete list of Oversight Committee dudes who are now relevant to the discussion:

Scott Cowen, Tulane
Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame
Bernie Machen, Florida
Max Nikias. USC
Duane Nellis, Idaho
Harvey Perlman, Nebraska
John G. Peters, Northern Illinois
Bill Powers, Texas
James Ramsey, Louisville
Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech (chairman)
Gary Ransdell, Western Kentucky
John Welty, Fresno State

It's not hard to envision a scenario in which Harvey Perlman demands a plus-one, John Jenkins demands God's plan for a four-best-teams playoff, Bill Powers demands ALL OF THE MONEY for Texas and literally nothing gets accomplished. It's also not hard to envision a scenario in which everybody except Harvey Perlman decides that a plus-one is stupid, at which point all that's left to decide is the stuff that's left to decide now (which would still be divisive but not nearly as complicated as the format).

It's unclear exactly how the Oversight Committee works since I can't find any details about their procedures (I guess that's not surprising since they've never really been involved in the process before as anything other than a notary). A 12-member consensus about anything seems wildly unlikely but might be required, in which case I would lower my expectations for a timely resolution incrementally; they'd be on the floor if not for the deadline-type thing established by the BCS TV contract, which expires after next year and will be renegotiated this fall based on whatever postseason format will be in place in 2014 (that's the reasoning for the hypothetical 2014 playoff implementation). A projected playoff-based revenue increase of somewhere around 1,000 percent (!!!) oughta get some people motivated, yes?

My preference that it not come to that is irrelevant; it's probably gonna come to that. The "probably" qualifier is included only because the commissioners have a final meeting scheduled for next Wednesday that could produce some additional concessions/sacrifices and thus something resembling a consensus recommendation. The statistical chance of that happening: 0.04 percent (woo made-up stats). The likelihood of having something finalized by the Oversight Committee on June 26 is the same.

I suppose it doesn't really matter whether this gets decided in June or October, but it's so depressing that this is where things stand two months after ESPN was reporting that "the biggest issue has been settled" and John Swofford was saying that "it's great to get to a point where there seems to be a general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go." Derp.

This comment from Bill Hancock would seem to be a more accurate assessment:
"It could be a while before the future of the game is known."
That's pretty much all I can write about a couple of vague post-meeting comments that generated 600 words, no real analysis and news-rail placement from ESPN. The tl;dr summary: Taking this to the presidents is bad, with the degree of "bad" to be determined by exactly how defined the commissioners' proposals turn out to be and how divided the presidents are on the relevant issues. Expect nothing until the fall; TV will save us.


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