University of Georgia president Michael Adams is one of the most vocal university presidents in the country when it comes to academics. You know those guys that everyone goes to for a quote when there’s some debate about whether players are Students or Athletes? Adams is one of those guys. Heck, he’s the president of the Knight Commission, an organization that “has worked to ensure that intercollegiate athletics programs operate within the educational mission of their colleges and universities.
“My best guess is we’re going to end up with either a four- or eight-team playoff by the time we get to ’14,”
Now, it’s no surprise that a playoff-scenario is in the works. At this site, we suggested in December that Alabama and LSU — two teams from the same (hated) conference – reaching the BCS title game might be enough to spur the other BCS leagues into action. The day we wrote that, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas came out and said a “Plus One” format should be discussed.
It was bad enough that the SEC was winning the national crown every year, but when they were then facing themselves in the title game? Other leagues couldn’t abide with that.
In the past month, many ADs and presidents and commissions have mentioned a four-team, seeded Plus One as the most likely end result of this year’s BCS discussions. Even NCAA president Mark Emmert has said that such a “Football Final Four” seems like a solid idea. And by now you know what kind of money such a plan would generate. What kind of television ratings it would grab. All that’s been written and re-written, postulated and re-postulated ad nauseum.
In the last week, the Big Ten let word leak out that it, too, might be in favor of a Plus One. That was big news in itself as commissioner Jim Delany has long been against any type of playoff. Additionally, the league’s plan tossed out the idea of the two highest-seeded teams hosting the “semifinals” on their own campuses.
Adams has taken all that a step further. He has thrown an eight-team format into the discussion. That’s not new on websites and blogs and messageboards, but it is a first in terms of real discussion.
According to Adams — who was speaking to the University of Georgia Athletic Association board yesterday — the Big Ten and Pac-12 have been the leagues most opposed to a playoff in past years. Mike Slive pushed a Plus One idea several years ago and ACC commish John Swofford has also backed such a plan. When Adams previously suggested an eight-team plan in 2008, it was dead on arrival. But Delany’s change of heart on the subject is a “very significant development,” in Adams’ words.
According to The Athens Banner-Herald, Adams also said:
“The conference commissioners are finally coming together on that point. There’s been great division among the commissioners the last six or eight years. The change in the conference realignments, the fact that most of the media contracts are up in either ’13 or ’14 are creating a situation. If there’s going to be a change, this is probably the natural time to do it…
I don’t say this about very much, but I think we were at the front of the train on that issue. I could see it down the track and I think we will end up with something that I think the fans feel better about. We may never get anything that the fans feel perfectly happy about.
One of my major concerns all along has been that I didn’t think we were paying enough attention to the fans who foot the bills for all this. I think that realization is beginning to come home.”
Back in December of 2008, we at MrSEC.com put together our own “perfect” college football plan. Eight teams. First-round games hosted on campus sites. It’s not far from what’s being discussed by Delany to the north and Adams to the south this week.
You can read the plan in full right here. (And, yes, I’m sure there are some uncorrected typos in that piece somewhere.)
Once we put our playoff system together, we brought in one of the top sports business wheeler-dealers in the country to tear it to shreds. Anyone can come up with a playoff plan. We wanted to come up with a playoff plan that would pass muster with everyone from the TV executives to advertisers t0 university presidents. So we asked Bill Schmidt — the former sports marketing head of Gatorade and someone who’s been called in to broker advertising deals between professional teams and mega-brands — to nitpick our idea.
The issue of venues became the Snake Canyon we could not jump over. If you play with eight teams (seven games) at bowl sites, no fans are going to travel to three different locations to follow their teams. Plus, moving 85 student-athletes from site to site isn’t near as easy as moving 10-15 student-athletes from site to site during a basketball tournament.
So we suggested the first round be played on campuses. Schools would love a shot at extra gate, parking and concession revenue. But what of the four teams having to travel to on-campus sites? As Schmidt reminded us, schools like to use bowl trips — even crummy ones — as a reward to boosters. In return, they hope to draw more cash out of their biggest backers for future years. Would a booster enjoy a trip to Lubbock, Texas or Boise, Idaho if his school lost? Where’s the day at the beach or in the casino?
Again, read the above piece and you’ll see our arguments for an eight-team playoff and you’ll also see a sports marketing guru’s pooh-poohing of said plan. We’re surprised that things have come as far as they have on the playoff from since that piece was posted in 2008. But who foresaw a season in which the BCS Championship Game would feature two teams from the same conference? And that’s really what’s made everything else suddenly feasible.
In our view, a seeded Plus One system remains the most likely scenario to come of this year’s discussion. For traditionalists, it would be easier to go from zero to four than it would from zero all the way to eight. We also expect that the three games involved will be sold off to the highest bidder. For travel purposes and fan ease, one site might get all three games. For the sake of pulling in more cash, the semifinals might be given to one city while the finals are handed to a even higher bidder.
Whatever the format, the end of the college football season is about to change. If that gives us a truer national champion, restores meaning to New Year’s Day, pushes the smaller bowls back into December, and stops the creep of games into mid-January… then we’re all for it.