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.