It’s so easy, post Apocolypse Bernie

So, in the wake of Bernie Machen’s humiliating defeat – and, make no mistake about it, when you wind up being led by your peers to vote against your own proposal, that’s as humiliating as it gets – at the SEC business meeting, where do things stand and where do playoff proponents go next?

First, the message that was reinforced is that the powers that be are pretty conservative about the postseason. Mike Slive, whose political skills shouldn’t be underestimated at this point, played that attitude like a fine violin. Machen’s bombast didn’t play well with these folks, but instead of trying to shut Bernie up, Slive let him make one ridiculous pronouncement after another (either directly or through sympathetic members of the press) that only served to isolate Machen and his proposal even further.

Second, if you really intend to win these people to your side, you need to remember the maxim “Money talks, bullshit walks”. The announcement at the meeting that over $10 million would be distributed to each SEC member, of which approximately three-quarters was derived from football, was not coincidental in its timing. The contrast between cold hard cash and Bernie’s “I know a couple of guys who used to be in TV who say we could get a lot more money with a playoff” shtick could hardly have been more extreme. I don’t know about you, but if I were the President of, say, the University of Kentucky and I was holding a $10.2 million check in my hand while listening to Machen talk about a bankrupt company’s proposal to pay billions as proof that schools are leaving money on the table, my first thought would be what is this guy smoking?

And after I heard Machen talk about sharing the – no, my wealth with schools like Utah, my second thought would be whatever it is, that stuff is potent.

Bottom line: right now, a full blown formal playoff is too much trouble to implement, with no concrete evidence that the rewards outweigh the risks.

And if there’s any justice for Bernie’s attempt to become the playoff king, it would be that Florida hires a new basketball coach who fails to maintain the program at the level Donovan got it to and Machen takes a lot of heat from the Gator Nation for wasting time on a football playoff proposal instead of tending to more pressing matters in his own back yard.

Which leaves us with tweaking the BCS. More specifically, the “plus-one” proposal.

Now that Bernie Machen’s playoff fever has broken, the most likely avenue for change in the college football postseason is the addition of one extra game.

And that so-called “plus-one” format — in which the teams deemed Nos. 1 and 2 after all the bowls would square off for the national title — cannot occur until the current Bowl Championship Series contract expires following the 2009 postseason.

Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, indicated Friday that the plus-one scenario is “where the conversation would ultimately end up.” He said it is “one of the potential formats” that eventually might come into play.

I’ve posted before that I believe the “plus-one” format is a poor idea. With an unseeded pool of ten schools from which a #1 and # 2 will be selected to play in the MNC game, it’s unlikely to solve the problem of making sure no deserving team gets left out unless the top four seeds are forced to play each other in the BCS games first. And that, my friends, ain’t gonna happen, because the Rose Bowl would quit the BCS before agreeing to that.

Keep in mind it’s more than likely that the “plus-one”, had it been in effect at the time, would not have solved the greatest injustice in the history of D-1 college football (just ask Tommy Tuberville, who’s been scarred for life from it): Auburn 2004. Why? Because USC and Oklahoma wouldn’t have played each other in a bowl game. If USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all won their respective bowl games, every school would have wound up in the exact same place they were in when the regular season ended. Nothing would have been gained. So what’s the point?

That being said, it’s easy to see why the “plus-one” is attractive to Slive and the college presidents. From a risk/reward standpoint, it’s the anti-Bernie proposal. The bowls remain intact and in place. The mid-majors still have their shot at a seat at the table. Nobody’s pissed off the Big Ten, Pac-10 or the Rose Bowl.

And you’ve added another postseason game, with the attendant revenue, to the mix. That’s what matters the most to these guys.

In the end, the conference commissioners and school presidents have shown they can live with a little controversy in crowning a college football national champion. As long as it doesn’t cost them anything.

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18 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

18 responses to “It’s so easy, post Apocolypse Bernie

  1. kckd

    Ahhh, I see you’ve found another way to assure yourself you’ll keep what you’ve got here.

    Remember when everyone said the Rose Bowl would never allow the Big 10/Pac 10 matchup to be discontinued?

  2. The issue you have to address with your four team playoff format is whether the Rose Bowl would agree to drop the matchup in years when it didn’t host the MNC game, or, in the alternative, would be willing to relegate itself permanently to lesser status by not hosting a playoff game in order to keep the matchup it has traditionally hosted.

    Keep in mind that the only years the Rose Bowl doesn’t automatically get its traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 match is when one of those conferences has a team in the MNC.

    The Rose Bowl has already threated to pull out of the BCS if a four team playoff is enacted.

  3. By the way, kckd, with regard to this “keep what you’ve got here” thing, have you seen anyone who’s a player in this game – not bloggers, fans or sportswriters, in other words – pitch any sort of serious, thoughtful playoff format proposal for the conferences to consider?

    If there’s been one, I must have missed seeing it.

    The reason I’ve spent so much effort denigrating Machen is because of how slipshod his presentation has been. Isn’t something that we all feel this strongly about worth more thought and substance than he’s given? A lot more?

  4. kckd

    I don’t like Machen. I’ve never advocated a playoff that dissolves the BCS. But you are all over the place on this man. Ten years or so from now you’re saying we’ll probably end up in a eight team or bigger team playoff.

    Yet you are saying the Rose Bowl will never go for a four team playoff. How do you think they are gonna feel about a bigger one that will surely make the bowl games even less of a factor, even if they actually use them.

    My point in all of this in all of your posts on this one, you seem like Johnny Cochran poking holes in the prosecution case. Yeah, you are poking a lot of holes, but when you step back and look at it logically, you are really arguing with yourself here.

    I’m just asking you to take a side and stick with it.

  5. Take a side on what? There isn’t an actual proposal to take a side on right now, is there?

    If you’re just wanting me to say that, hypothetically speaking, I wouldn’t have a problem with some form of a four team playoff, OK, fine, there probably is one I could live with. But I won’t commit to any plan until I’ve seen it. How unreasonable is that?

    You’re confusing what I want and what I think will happen. In my opinion, the conferences will adopt a “plus-one” format which will prove ultimately unsatisfactory. At that point, the camel’s nose is in the tent and all bets are off. You know as well as I do that they’ll never go back to the old format. All that means is that the Rose Bowl has a much easier fight on its hands right now than it will after a few years of the “plus-one”.

    As long as nobody screws with the impact of the regular season, I’m fine. There are ways to do that. I’m just hugely skeptical that we’ll get that outcome in the end.

    You think the merits of a four team playoff within the bounds of the BCS are obvious and the format simple to implement. All I can say in response to that is if it’s so easy, where is it? Or at least, where’s the serious discussion from the conferences about it?

  6. “My point in all of this in all of your posts on this one, you seem like Johnny Cochran poking holes in the prosecution case. Yeah, you are poking a lot of holes…”

    Then I’ve been consistent in my approach. Go back and look at my first post on the subject here, entitled “It’s So Easy”.

    kckd, you’re conceding there are flaws in the playoff formats that have been pitched so far. Why can’t we insist on fixing them before making a radical change to a system that, whatever problems it may currently have, hasn’t affected the tremendous fan support the sport enjoys?

  7. kckd

    Why is it not so easy to implement?

    Where have you been the past fifty years? Why was it so hard to get a scenario where the top two teams played each other? This is college football and we lived 90 percent of it’s existence with little guarantee that the top two teams could even matchup at the end of the year.

    Hell, even when the bowl tie ins didn’t prevent it, it still didn’t happen. See GT and Colorado in 1990.

    Slow, slow to move on anything.

    Which if I consider it’s pace on moves like this historically, I’d have to say I’d be fortunate (in terms of my age, not fortunate in terms of actually viewing it) to see any kind of 16 team playoff in college football.

    But I went back in my head as I don’t know where you get the polls pre bowl to find out, and to the best of my knowledge there just aren’t many years where the five or six team has much to bitch about. And that’s your main problem with the four team playoff as I understand it.

  8. When did people start caring about a MNC title game? You write as if there’s been some huge clamor for decades about it. That’s simply not the case.

    And for the hundredth time, my main problem with a four team playoff format is that I don’t know what form it will take.

    A few questions to consider:

    –Will all the power conferences participate?
    –Will the Rose Bowl take part?
    –What about Notre Dame? Will it get special consideration, as it currently does under the BCS?
    –Will only conference champions be eligible?
    –Is the only way a mid-major school makes the playoffs is to finish in the top 4?
    –Are the BCS bowls that don’t participate in the playoff likely to be satisfied with a lesser role in a given year? And will the payout be the same?

    Those are just a few concerns I have. They’re important because one way to address many of them would be to expand…

  9. kckd

    –Will all the power conferences participate?
    I don’t know, but I can’t think of a good reason not to.
    –Will the Rose Bowl take part?
    Again, I don’t know. But I don’t see how a four team playoff under the BCS will make the Rose Bowl any less significant than it already is. This way three times every five years they host a meaningful game as opposed to just one every four.
    –What about Notre Dame? Will it get special consideration, as it currently does under the BCS? I wouldn’t think so. If you go by the top four, the only special consideration would be what the coaches give them in the polls, which is more than I like.
    –Will only conference champions be eligible? No, but I’m OK with that. Remember you want it to stay like it is and we’ve had two teams not win their conference and play for it already.
    –Is the only way a mid-major school makes the playoffs is to finish in the top 4? Yeah, but one has already. And it certainly gives them more of a chance than they have with the current system. If you want them to have a good chance go ahead and start the 16 playoff.
    –Are the BCS bowls that don’t participate in the playoff likely to be satisfied with a lesser role in a given year? And will the payout be the same? Why wouldn’t it pay out the same? The bowl games already don’t amount to much if they don’t have some bearing on the national champ. It is hilarious that the bowls would be against this by saying “it will lessen our impact”. In the current system only one per four years has any impact what so ever. Three significant games split among what I would assume to be five bowls would mean more than half the time they get a significant game that many more people will be interested in besides the fanbases directly involved.

    If you are looking for a “perfect” solution for everyone involved, then lets just stop. That’s not gonna happen just as it rarely does in the real world. There is no solution that will satisfy everyone, but there is a better solution than what we’ve got.

  10. I’m not looking for a perfect solution – just one that won’t do any significant damage to the regular season.

  11. kckd

    And you have yet to show me that the four team playoff within the BCS will do that.

    But if that’s all you care about, damage to the regular season, why are you asking questions about mid major conferences and the Rose Bowl, etc. that don’t have squat to do with it.

    You continue to move around instead of meeting the debate head on.

  12. “The bowl games already don’t amount to much if they don’t have some bearing on the national champ. It is hilarious that the bowls would be against this by saying “it will lessen our impact”. In the current system only one per four years has any impact what so ever. Three significant games split among what I would assume to be five bowls would mean more than half the time they get a significant game that many more people will be interested in besides the fanbases directly involved.”

    I thought about this last night for a while. If the BCS conferences pick the “plus-one” format – which I believe is likely – I don’t think your scenario plays out.

    I don’t like the “plus-one”, but one thing its proponents will argue is that more teams have a chance to play in the MNC game. And they’re right. Depending on which schools win and lose their bowl games, all sorts of possibilities open up. Which means that all of the BCS bowls will feel relevant in determining who the national champs are.

    So, once the “plus-one” is in play, when you then propose a four team playoff and tell half of the bowls that they will no longer host a meaningful game in a given year, do you really expect they’ll accept that? Of course not. Which means you’re on your way to an eight team playoff, which is the smallest size you can come up with that keeps all of the bowls happy.

    But that’s not the end of it. With the “plus-one”, the BCS will adopt a format where ten schools have been given at least a hypothetical shot at the title. What’s the likelihood that the schools will agree to give up two slots? Not bloody likely at all. That in turn takes us to a twelve school playoff, with the top four seeds getting byes, to keep everyone happy.

    You see your proposal being so inherently superior to what we have now that it will carry the day just from sheer logic. I, on the other hand, see endless hours of horse trading, compromises and concessions to drag everyone on board. That’s why all these questions I raise about the Rose Bowl and the mid-majors matter.

    I think I’m being far more realistic about what’s coming than you are. But we’ll see. Maybe the “plus-one” will never be chosen. I doubt that, though, because it’s the easiest format for the conferences to adopt in the short run.

    I will say this. If I had to choose between the two, I would far prefer a four team playoff over the “plus-one” simply because I think it’s less prone to mischief over the long term.

  13. kckd

    “I don’t like the “plus-one”, but one thing its proponents will argue is that more teams have a chance to play in the MNC game. And they’re right. Depending on which schools win and lose their bowl games, all sorts of possibilities open up. Which means that all of the BCS bowls will feel relevant in determining who the national champs are.”

    Why not go back to the old way, pre 1990’s if that’s what they want?

    If the purpose if for more clarity, and that seems to be the idea then I don’t see what the problem is.

    This is why I say you argue all over the board. I can’t figure out if we’re arguing for a proposal that will be accepted, the best proposal, the proposal that gives the most teams a chance?

    But looking back it seems to me not much of anyone is having a problem with only one game deciding the national title, it’s just the system doesn’t always give us only two deserving teams. In other words, it seems that most folks like clarity.

    The four team playoff is much, much more clear than the plus one. The plus one does not try to match anyone up for the sake of narrowing it down. It only ends up being an extra game and then we do the whole thing we’ve done the past few years over again.

    The other problem is that some years the plus one would be just silly. Like say, this past season or in 2002, though it would’ve been good for the Dawgs.

    You stretch it a little when you say hypothetically every BCS bowl would have a stake in it. I dare say you could go back fifty years and find a scenario that if they had a plus one any more than three would be involved and more than likely you could count on one hand when that happened.

    And if 99% of the time only two bowls are involved in the plus one scenario before the championship, that is exactly the amount that’s involved in a playoff. So for a 1% chance these BCS bowls are gonna hold out? Maybe, but they are dumb as dirt to do it.

  14. You’re arguing for a playoff proposal. I’m not.

    I’m doing nothing more than arguing that before anything new is put in place, careful thought should be given to the consequences.

    Again, I respect the fact that you’re convinced about the obvious benefit of a four team playoff, but you’re not one of the decision makers here. If you’ve been reading Mike Slive’s comments – and he is one of the decision makers – over the past week, it’s clear he’s an advocate of the “plus-one” format.

    So rather than spending your energy trying to convince me about why the four team playoff is best, I’d be much more interested in hearing about how people like Slive could be directed that way. (And keep in mind that compared to guys like Delany, he’s a moderate on the issue.)

  15. kckd

    Slive said there may be some kind of game after the BCS bowls. He did not say that meant there would be no tinkering with the games before that game.

    Let’s hope logic wins out here. I would hope these guys realize that a plus one won’t fix anything. I’ll give you my proposal here in a few minutes.

  16. kckd

    1. Choose the top four teams using some kind of poll, computer thing like we do now. Generally speaking, the top three should be locks as I can’t think of a time when the BCS has been around that there hasn’t been some consensus on who the top two to three teams are going in.

    2. If the BCS bowls that year have tie-ins with the teams involved in the playoff, allow them to go to that bowl. Don’t worry about a seeding matchup. In other words, if the Big 10 champ or Pac 10 champ or both are involved send them to the Rose for the semifinal if the Rose is one of the hosts. Even if they are ranked 3 and 4. The tie-ins override the rankings once the four teams are qualified. Hopefully this will satisfy as much as possible the purists.

    3. The mid majors should accept this as at least a better offering than when it was limited to two. This will take awhile to implement, but I’d suggest coming up with some kind of system that force the best mid-majors to play at least one game against another top tier mid-major and also a top 20 BCS type team. Obviously this would not be perfect as the crystal ball doesn’t always predict accurately. But I’d require schools who finish in the top ten or fifteen to either add a game or a couple years down the road leave a home date open so that a top mid-major can come in and play to show their legitimacy. Again, I know this will take some doing but it’s not impossible.

    Look at it this way. It gives the mid-major a chance to show they are legit and sorta makes it harder on the haves. Just as winning the NFL and playing well changes your draft status, continually finishing near the top makes your schedule a little tougher.

  17. In response, here are my comments.

    1. Choose the top four teams using some kind of poll, computer thing like we do now. Generally speaking, the top three should be locks as I can’t think of a time when the BCS has been around that there hasn’t been some consensus on who the top two to three teams are going in.

    Personally, I agree with your latter point that you can count the obvious locks on one hand with a missing finger or two. But you would be surprised at the number of people who disagree with us on that and firmly believe that there are anywhere from six to ten top teams in any given season.

    The battle will be over implementing your first point. Again, I think the conferences will find it easier to go the “plus-one” route.

    2. If the BCS bowls that year have tie-ins with the teams involved in the playoff, allow them to go to that bowl. Don’t worry about a seeding matchup. In other words, if the Big 10 champ or Pac 10 champ or both are involved send them to the Rose for the semifinal if the Rose is one of the hosts. Even if they are ranked 3 and 4. The tie-ins override the rankings once the four teams are qualified. Hopefully this will satisfy as much as possible the purists.

    This is all about the Rose Bowl. It’s good that you’ve considered a way to accommodate it, but I question whether you’ve offered enough. I suspect you would have to guarantee them a playoff game annually to keep them on board.

    3. The mid majors should accept this as at least a better offering than when it was limited to two. This will take awhile to implement, but I’d suggest coming up with some kind of system that force the best mid-majors to play at least one game against another top tier mid-major and also a top 20 BCS type team. Obviously this would not be perfect as the crystal ball doesn’t always predict accurately. But I’d require schools who finish in the top ten or fifteen to either add a game or a couple years down the road leave a home date open so that a top mid-major can come in and play to show their legitimacy. Again, I know this will take some doing but it’s not impossible.

    Look at it this way. It gives the mid-major a chance to show they are legit and sorta makes it harder on the haves. Just as winning the NFL and playing well changes your draft status, continually finishing near the top makes your schedule a little tougher.

    Quite frankly, I have no idea what works here. Your proposal may be fine.

    I just wouldn’t use the NFL as an example of something for college football to emulate.

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