January 12, 2008

Resistance to playoff still strong

The possibility of a playoff seems to be picking up steam, but in reality its supporters might be just blowing off steam as change in the postseason format figures to come slowly.

That is, if it comes at all.

The mass media continues to trumpet the need for a playoff. Surveys and falling TV ratings for bowl games show the fans desire one. And a change of position on the issue by a prominent university president would suggest the possibility for a playoff in the future.

But uncompromising resistance by the majority of university presidents and major conferences, the Big Ten, in particular, indicate that possibility would be in the future.

Yet after an unpredictable season in which a two-loss LSU team was crowned national champion, a playoff to determine the championship remains a hot-and-cold issue among officials.

Georgia president Michael Adams is now hot for the idea. But Ohio State president Gordon Gee recently was quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying, "They will wrench a playoff system out of my cold, dead hands."

Gee went on to say that he felt most college presidents felt the same.

Perhaps that's true, but the number of anti-playoff presidents has decreased by at least one in the past year. A year ago, Adams was among the Southeastern Conference presidents against a proposal offered by Florida president Bernie Machen. But last week, Adams said the current BCS system isn't working and revealed his plan for an eight-team playoff that he hopes will be adopted in the near future.

The BCS has two years remaining on a four-year contract with Fox Sports. The Rose Bowl's deal with ABC is separate, and it runs through 2014.

The NCAA Convention is being held this week at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, and on Monday, committee meetings of the Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA Executive Committee are scheduled. A playoff or a "plus-one" proposal weren't listed as official topics of discussions at the convention, but they will surely be talked about and debated unofficially especially after Adams revealed his plan the day after LSU defeated Ohio State for the BCS national championship.

Adams suggested that a selection committee similar to that which chooses the NCAA basketball tournament field should compile an eight-team field for a football playoffs with the first round being held on New Year's Day in the four BCS bowls Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta. The next two rounds would be held the following weeks and at different locations.

"It's not working and it's not going to work and it's fundamentally flawed, given the bowl arrangements with the various conferences and all those cross-currents," Adams said of the BCS. "I think what I'm suggesting is the fairest way."

Although that was a significant change of heart from last year, Machen doesn't doubt Adams' fervor on the issue.

"He's deadly serious," Machen told the Gainesville Sun. "He called me after the bowl selections. He wanted to do it (announce his proposal) then. I told him it would be best to wait a while."

College football fans who have been frustrated by the BCS system and the unwillingness of college football's power brokers to change no doubt feel they've waited too long.

But each time an official such as Adams changes his view, a playoff seems to inch closer to becoming a possibility. Even SEC commissioner Mike Slive said recently he would be open to discussing a "plus-one" scenario in which a championship game would be staged after all the bowl games were played.

But Gee and his Big Ten brethren have made it clear they will vehemently fight such a move.

"We just have never seen a plus-one plan that addresses the Rose Bowl and its relationship to the Big Ten and Pac-10 in a way that would be acceptable to us," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said on XM radio last week. "So we've been having a relationship with the BCS for a decade and we have a 60-year relationship with the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl relationship, to be honest with you, is the most important one we have.

"We've never seen a four-team playoff stay as a four team playoff. So if you are concerned, and we are, about an eight-team, 12-team or 16-team playoff and what it would do to college football, we don't believe that you allow the camel's nose under the tent with a four-team playoff."

Delaney said ABC executives presented a "plus-one" plan to the Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Big 12 and Pac-10 conferences two years ago, and all six rejected it.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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