ESPN had its conference bloggers chime in with sort of a state of the playoff series of posts on where the respective conferences stand on the new format debate. I found it surprisingly revealing. What’s especially interesting is how specific the Big Ten and Pac-12 are on fine tuning selection standards – and how unspecific the SEC sounds about that.
Take this from Ted Miller, who covers the Pac-12:
There are other issues to consider, particularly from the Pac-12 end of things:
- Schedules need to be standardized. One conference can’t play eight games and another nine. That’s a variable that must be eliminated, one way or another. Otherwise you’re comparing cupcakes and rib eyes.
- There needs to be a serious consideration of scheduling in general. Penalties should be integrated into the system for weak nonconference scheduling.
- If some sort of BCS-type formula is retained, it needs to reincorporate margin of victory. That was previously killed because administrators were worried about coaches running up the score. A simple solution to that is establishing a baseline figure of dominance, such as making a 21-point victory no different than a 50-point victory.
And here’s Adam Rittenberg’s take on what the Big Ten is looking for in part:
The Big Ten wants a committee to value conference championships. It wants a committee to value schedule strength, road wins and head-to-head victories. It wants a committee to take into account factors such as injuries. The Big Ten wants a committee to look at Oregon and Stanford from 2011 — Oregon won the Pac-12 championship and crushed Stanford in Stanford Stadium, yet finished one spot behind the Cardinal in the final BCS standings — and send Oregon to the playoff.
Now compare those fairly similar concerns with the breezier approach Chris Low describes.
The simplest way to explain where the SEC stands going into Wednesday’s BCS meetings is that the SEC doesn’t see its streak of six straight national championships ending any time soon.
In other words, the more, the better.
So in a four-team playoff to determine the national champion, the SEC’s preference is that it’s wide open.
No provisions about winning your conference or winning your division to qualify for the playoff.
Just the highest-ranked teams — period.
Ironically, the problem here is Les Miles’ and Steve Spurrier’s bugaboo, unbalanced scheduling. SEC schools play less conference games than their counterparts in the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 and the conference hasn’t formalized a ninth BCS-level game the way the Big Ten has with the Pac-12. That doesn’t simply create a strength of schedule disparity based on the level of opponents schools face, it also leads to another disparity, which HP summarizes.
Now you can argue that SEC superiority renders all that meaningless. (If you’re Mike Slive, you can even argue that with a straight face. He’s good, folks.) But every other conference is going to be pushing for an equalizer. Either the SEC finds itself faced with adding another conference game, or it’s going to have to deal with heavy pressure to agree to a strength of schedule component in the postseason calculations. That’s likely to be a contentious debate.
And speaking of contentious, make sure you read what Mark Schlabach has to say about the relationship between Jim Delany and Mike Slive. While I think Schlabach slightly overstates the degree of power the two have over the situation (as he recognizes, if the two truly neutralize each other, they’ll both need allies to carry the day, so the other commissioners do have some say in where things go), it’s hard not to get past this:
“Jim Delany is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met,” says one industry insider familiar with the negotiations. “He sees the world in simple terms: You’re either helping the Big Ten or hurting it.”
The 64-year-old Delany has earned his reputation as an aggressive and abrasive commissioner in 23 years at the helm of the Big Ten. Slive, 71, has taken a more soft-spoken and diplomatic approach in his 10 years with the SEC. “Don’t be fooled by Slive’s grandfatherly demeanor,” says the source. “These guys have been at it for a while. They remind me of Bowden and Paterno. I don’t see one retiring until the other does.”
On some level, it’s not just professional. It’s personal. And that certainly doesn’t make it easier to reach an agreement, particularly when one of the driving forces behind this restructuring is a dislike of what SEC dominance culminated in with the last title game. So when you see a summary like this,
These aligned interests have served only to consolidate Delany’s and Slive’s positions of power. “The quickest way to solve the debate would be to stick Jim and Mike in a room and tell them, ‘Let us know when you’ve got it figured out,’ ” says a source. “At this point, it’s about which one is willing to come to the middle.”
… ask yourself who is likely to make that move. Barring some existential threat I’m unaware of, it sure beats me.
Which brings be back to my header. The one thing I feel certain the commissioners are in agreement on today is that they want the extra revenue the new title game will bring in. No matter what, that’s a-happening. So they’re not sticking with the status quo. If Slive and Delany can’t engineer a compromise on a four-team playoff, there isn’t anything left to sign onto except a plus-one. I’m not guaranteeing the outcome, but there’s a logic to agreeing to that in the short run while pledging to continue to work towards a future playoff. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s good strategy – in fact, I suspect it’s going to make things worse – but it’s convenient. And convenient may be the best these guys can do this summer.