SBD/June 27, 2012/Colleges

Decisions Loom After Presidential Committee Approves Four-Team Football Playoff

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Steger feels four teams in the college football playoff
is just the right number
A four-team playoff for college football “has been formally approved by a presidential oversight committee, a dramatic change for the sport that will begin in 2014 and continue through the 2025 season,” according to Heather Dinich of ESPN.com. The four teams will be “chosen by a selection committee, the semifinals will be held at current bowl sites and the national championship game will be awarded to the highest bidder.” In less than three hours in DC yesterday, the group “agreed upon a postseason that college football fans have been clamoring for years.” Virginia Tech President and Presidential Oversight Committee Chair Charles Steger said, “A four-team playoff doesn’t go too far; it goes just the right amount.” Dinich noted the championship game “will be managed by the conferences and will not be branded as a bowl game” (ESPN.com, 6/26). In DC, Mark Giannotto writes in devising the new plan, the committee “aimed to address the fairness complaints while not diluting the significance of what many fans consider the most relevant regular season in big-time college sports.” An eight- or 16-team playoff “threatened to do that, many felt” (WASHINGTON POST, 6/27). In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes the new format will be a 12-year deal "basically to keep at bay proponents of a larger, basketball-type format.” Football commissioners "call this unwanted path 'bracket creep.'" The biggest surprise yesterday was “the speed with which the presidents came to a consensus." There was "speculation debate could drag into next fall.” Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman, the “most outspoken critic of the new plan, ultimately conceded to the consensus.” Perlman said, “We got our third priority” (L.A. TIMES, 6/27).

THE SPIN
: FOXSPORTS.com’s Thayer Evans writes as Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany spoke on the playoff decision, Perlman was “across the room already cryptically planting seeds of doubt about the playoff.” Perlman has been “a vocal supporter of plus-one.” Perlman said, “It’s a little disappointment. I’m a lawyer; I never like losing arguments. The decision’s been made. We’re going to be supportive. I hope it works well. I hope I’m wrong” (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/27). Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “It will be a tremendous postseason. That’s certainly our aspiration to make New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day a college football celebration and to do so in every possible way -- by the best pageantry, the best competition and the best location” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/27). ACC Commissioner John Swofford said, “Where we’ve arrived I think is a consensus built on compromise.” Perlman added, “We’re trying to respond to fan pressure for something in the postseason that’s different than what we’ve got. I think we are all concerned about the unintended consequences of what we do.” Steger added, “There were differences of views. There were very well-articulated positions that were thought through thoroughly, and I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp” (USA TODAY, 6/27). Afterward, Swofford praised Steger, saying he "just did a tremendous job in chairing this group. He’s got a terrific way about him. He’s an outstanding consensus-builder, and he was very well-versed in running the meeting.” He added, “He trusts people around him and he’s got a way of bringing people together, and this group may be the ultimate challenge in terms of bringing something like this together, not only at the commissioners level but at the presidential level as well” (DAILYPRESS.com, 6/26). Meanwhile, NBCSPORTS.com’s John Taylor cited SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Swofford among the “winners” in the outcome. Perlman was listed as one of the “losers” (NBCSPORTS.com, 6/26). 

PROGRESS IS MADE: ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach wrote the presidents “didn’t need very long to give it their stamp of approval.” Swofford said, “I think some of it was just battle fatigue because the general sporting public never really embraced the current system, even though that system did a lot of good things for college football” (ESPN.com, 6/26). The AP’s Ralph Russo wrote the move “completes a six-month process for the commissioners.” Washington State football coach Mike Leach said, “I think it’s tremendous progress. Five years ago there wasn’t even dialogue about a playoff.” Russo noted the commissioners “want to lock in this format for 12 years with a television partner.” The current BCS deal with ESPN runs through the ‘13 season. The new format “will be presented to potential TV partners in the fall, starting with ESPN” (AP, 6/26).

WAS FOUR KEY? Perlman said, “We don't want to go farther than a four-team playoff. We don't think that would be good for the regular season; it wouldn't be good for student-athletes, and we're hopeful that this is a deal that can stick.” Delany added, “We will not be calling for eight. We'll be defending four” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/27). Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti said, “If the four-team playoff can co-exist with a healthy bowl system beneath it, I see no reason an eight-team or a 16-team playoff can’t co-exist with a healthy bowl system beneath it” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/27). Missouri AD Mike Alden said, “I think it's a significant step in the right direction. I don't know if you're going to see something bigger. I think most people will want to see this play out for the next eight to 10 years.” He added, “I do think that we're going to settle back for a while and see how this plays out because I don't know if conference realignment is over. I think there could still be some more of that going on” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/27). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes while a four-team playoff “is an improvement over the BCS, it’s only an incremental step.” An eight-team or 16-team playoff “would be far more foolproof, if damaging to the bowls.” So four became “the compromise number” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/27). Univ. of Texas President Bill Powers was“happy that the playoff remained at four teams.” Powers said, “In my view we don’t want to have a 16-, 17-, 18-game season. There’s an academic calendar” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/27). YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter wrote this is “not an endorsement for wild change.” The men “who made the playoffs happen will not step further into an abyss they do not want.” The presidents “live in terror of concussions.” And it was clear yesterday they “see football's looming concussion crisis in a different way than their athletic people.” Oregon State President Ed Ray said, “For me, (the concussion issue) is major. To say it’s easy to add games, I don’t think so” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/26).  

Hancock says teams' strength of schedule will
be very important to selection committee
SELECTION COMMITTEE
: USA TODAY’s Auerbach & Smith in a sports section cover story write the selection committee “will rank the four teams in the playoff by considering factors such as win-loss record and strength of schedule.” Not much else “has been decided in regard to the composition and operation" of the selection committee. BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock said, “I think, generally, each conference will be represented (on the committee). Strength of schedule is going to be a very important part of this.” Delany said that he thinks the committee would have “more than 10 but fewer than 20 members” (USA TODAY, 6/27). The AP’s Russo wrote the selection committee will “likely be about 20 conference commissioners and college athletic directors” (AP, 6/26). Swofford said that he would like the committee to consist of “at least 12 members, leaving leeway in case members must step aside while teams they are associated with are discussed” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/27). ESPN’s Schlabach said the selection committee will decide who plays in all the BCS bowl games, which will include lower profile schools such as TCU and Boise State, because a “lot of these commissioners have already been in front of Congress” answering charges of anti-trust violations in terms of the BCS and “don’t want to go back.” Schlabach said one commissioner “told me they’re very sensitive to the fact that there has to be access for teams” in non-traditional BCS conferences (“College Football Live,” ESPN, 6/26).

HOW IT'S PLAYING: ESPN’s Rece Davis said the playoff system is the “next step in the evolution of determining a champion in college football, plus the fact the public’s appetite was ready for it. The BCS had undergone so much criticism and so much derision and had lost a lot of credibility with the fans” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 6/27). ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski wrote a “manageable, logical and lonnnnnnnng overdue playoff system makes the traveling squad in 2014.” Everything about the ’14 version of postseason college football “is going to be better than what we have now” (ESPN.com, 6/26). In L.A., Mike James wrote this is “a step in the right direction, and chances are, the four semifinalists will have a pretty good claim to those spots” (LATIMES.com, 6/26). In San Antonio, Tim Griffin writes the playoff system “will take the sport to a place where most fans always wanted it to be.” Football’s “own rendition of a Final Four will be a start” (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 6/27). In N.Y., Dick Weiss writes this “appears to be a case of the rich getting richer.” Weiss: “Two years from now, will anyone be shocked if a deserving team is left out of the mix and we start hearing an outcry to restructure the current format? It makes you wonder if anyone, other than the big conferences raking in the cash, will really be happy?” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/27). In New Jersey, Steve Politi writes the playoff system is, “without question, a major improvement for college football.” But just because “it’s better, doesn’t mean it’s good” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/27). In Omaha, Tom Shatel writes college football “will be better" for the change. There are “two guards in college football today, old and new.” The old guard “is going away, and that was what Tuesday was about in a lot of ways” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/27).

AND THE PLAYERS? SPORTING NEWS' David Steele noted a college athletes’ advocacy group “called for the players to have some say in the lucrative plan.” National College Players Association Founder & President Ramogi Huma said, “The opportunities for collaboration between the NCAA and the NCPA are manifold. The sport cannot afford to continue to leave the players on the sidelines of these issues” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/26).
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