Bernie Machen talks with Dennis Dodd… boy, does he talk!
It’s just that the more I read, the more I’m puzzled. Astounded by a lot of it, but puzzled how a guy in his position could say some of this stuff all the same.
Let’s start with this exchange:
CBS SportsLine.com: Explain your reasons for endorsing a playoff
Dr. Machen: I think it’s still a long shot but we have had two interim meetings — one in October and one in March. At that (March) meeting I tried to make the point that this is something that if we don’t deal with it, we’re going to be locked into the BCS for another eight to 10 years.
Fox is pushing to renew right now. They want to renew what we have even though the deal has four more years (actually three) to run. Normally you would start the negotiation a year, 18 months from now.
There is some interest in Fox in signing us up for long (term), which would just kill it. They just want to lock up the property…
So what? It’s not like this is going to stop being a valuable property between now and then. Why can’t college football just tell Fox “we’ll get back with you when we’re ready”? Unless I miss something, this smacks of an artificial crisis.
Continuing on, he says
…I made the pitch that if you’re ever going to think about it now is the time to think about it. I can’t tell you how many votes I got or anything. My pitch is simple. This is in the best interests of college football. There is a lot of money that is not on the table that could be on the table…
How does he know?
Then, it really starts getting interesting:
SPLN: How would your playoff work?
Dr. M: Because of the baggage the NCAA has, it might hurt us to push it through the NCAA. But you could set up your own LLC (limited liability company). You could have an entity that is not part of the NCAA that would run it, but would run it with the kind of principles the NCAA uses to run the basketball thing.
I want something that represents all of college football. The NCAA obviously could benefit from it. I don’t think they need to benefit from it financially the way they do in basketball but they could bless it. If we ever got it to the point of taking it to the members, the members would support it.
I think he misunderstood Dodd’s question, but what an answer!
He’s flying by the seat of his pants with this stuff…
SPLN: If you do something like this, let’s say a four-team seeded playoff, would you necessarily have to have the NCAA’s permission?
Dr. M: No. … I wanted to assure the NCAA (of) the principles of inclusion. Helping all of college athletics is what I’m about. I’m not trying to fatten up the coffers of the SEC.
SPLN: But I assume you don’t want teams playing for “units” like they do in the NCAA Tournament.
Dr. M: Everybody can benefit … Kentucky and Vanderbilt and all these teams that don’t do anything get a share of (the BCS) money, whereas the Utahs of the world get nothing.
(Note: Under the new deal, non-BCS leagues as well as I-AA schools get increased money from the BCS).
I’m also going to meet with some TV guys to find out what the real bogey is that’s not on the table. And is there a format that brings more money to the table? All you have now is conjecture about whether there is really more money out there. I think there is…
… which makes him sound like he wants to please everyone and no one at the same time. He’s not going to propose a playoff format until he sees who’s in and who’s out, and for how much. But he’s ready to stiff the BCS as well as the NCAA, it seems:
SPLN: What about the BCS commissioners?
Dr. M: They say they want to work with me but they don’t. They want to protect the BCS. So I’m going outside the BCS. The only way I think it could happen is if a league like the SEC said we want to (go this way).
Make sure you read this amazing interview in its entirety. In it, Machen goes on to
- knock the Big 10 and PAC 10 for cutting their own deal with the Rose Bowl (while at the same time acknowledging that he wants to get the SEC to drive the train on his proposal)
- advocate elimination of the 12th game
- advocate retention of the conference championship game (even though not all conferences employ one – so how does that fit into a fair playoff system? Bernie doesn’t say.)
- dismiss incorporating the BCS bowls into his playoff setup as a “detail” (I wonder what he thinks of Notre Dame as an issue)
- sound more sympathetic about seeing a playoff serve the needs of a Utah than his fellow conference members (noble, maybe, but does he really think he’s going to convince a Kentucky or a Vandy to sacrifice like that?)
This exchange near the end of the interview doesn’t have much to do with college football playoffs, but is hilarious, nonetheless:
SPLN: That raises another question. What did you think of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s open letter comparing the Big Ten to the SEC?
Dr. M: It’s ridiculous. What a homer. I was at Michigan (as provost and dean of the school of dentistry). I know how they get in at Michigan. Don’t talk to me about the Nobel laureates at Michigan.
Just look at Greg Oden’s class schedule this semester. The Big Ten has fought the conference playoff, then they (complain) because Ohio State doesn’t have a game in 48 days. (Actually 51 between the last game of the season and the BCS title game. The Big Ten traditionally ends its regular-season football schedule before Thanksgiving).
Whose fault is that? What’s happened is the world has moved, the Big Ten is no longer calling the shots.
If Machen has a PR person, he or she is probably reading up on hara-kiri about now. I merely wish I could be a fly on the wall the next time Mike Slive and Jim Delany meet.
I honestly have no idea where this is going, but it’s clear he relishes the spotlight. I’d expect more of the same through the SEC presidents’ meeting, at least.