SEC’s Stance Gaining Momentum
By BJ Bennett
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With recent public comments, Big XII brass has sided with the SEC and thus formed quite the coalition in the struggle for structural leverage for the future.
As college football debates over a postseason paradigm shift, the question has now transitioned from would a four-team tournament work to how those four teams should be chosen. With conferences now positioning themselves for the power play, the playoff argument itself has moved from message forums and blog sites to country clubs and board rooms. Logistics would obviously have to be determined, but current dissension comes down to one salient point of contention between the parties.
The SEC, simply put, believes a postseason pairing of the top four teams in the game should come without the limitations of league affiliations.
"I think it needs to be the four best teams in the country,"stated Florida's Will Muschamp. "I don't think it needs to be the conference champions because in our league we might have four of the best teams in the country."
For some time, it was assumed that everyone else would be on the side of inclusion via the welcome of an automatic bid. While others may still feel that way, college football's top conference has gained a recent ally in this argument in their neighbors to the west. With recent public comments, Big XII brass has sided with the SEC and thus formed quite the coalition in the struggle for structural leverage for the future.
"We're in favor of taking the four highest-ranked teams,"explained interim Big XII commissioner Chuck Neinas. "We think it should be some type of selection committee operation, and how you rate a conference champion, strength of schedule must be included."
In a slightly different scenario, this debate was of course on full display last season. Undefeated SEC champion LSU played Alabama, who finished behind the Tigers in the SEC West, in the BCS National Championship Game.
"I'm sorry for Oklahoma State," said Crimson Tide linebacker Nick Gentry after the Game of the Century, Part II. "I'd like to play them too...but right now it's our time."
The aligning of the two leagues, in terms of postseason preference, is ironic considering it was the Big XII's Cowboys left out of the national championship picture in favor of the aforementioned southern duo just a year ago.
"There needs to be a human element to kind of handle the unknowns. You can't always say computers get it right or opinion polls will get it perfect," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "You still need someone with good, rational thinking to deal with unforeseen circumstances that may come up. Who knows what form that takes, but some form of human element that gets college football to the point of determining the best teams."
The overall discussion brings up an interesting point. Are, rather should, the rankings be tied to one another? Does being ranked number two in the country mean you are the second best team in the land or is that distinction contingent upon who number one is and so on and so forth. Logically, one would think a spot in the polls would come with mutual exclusivity.
The SEC has shown, albeit in an imperfect system, that two league teams can play for the national championship with the postseason format as is. From that perspective, one of the concerns is that a four-team playoff including only conference champions would unequivocally limit the SEC to one team. For a league that has won six straight national titles, such postseason progress would in-turn scoop off the cream that has risen to the top. College football would be inverting its own hierarchy, ala a professional draft.
"Just take the top four teams in the BCS instead of the top two. That's one way of doing it. It's already in place. You wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. Change is here, it sounds like, I suppose it's worthy of discussion as to how to do it. But I'm not for making it a prerequisite that you have to be the winner in your in league. I wouldn't make that part of it," explained Georgia's Mark Richt. ""If you take the top four teams, I think we'd all be in favor of that in our league. If you take four teams that have win a conference championship, it would guarantee that only one of us could go. If you had it the other way, we'd have a shot at two going. You can say it any way you want, but that's what everybody is talking about."
Potentially, a larger playoff structure could incorporate league champions while still augmenting the SEC, or any other league for that matter, with extra bids. Considering the rational there, that's probably utopian thinking. Maybe one day the system can grow to meet the demands of college football's landscape. For now, however, a four-team playoff appears to be what we've been given. Fair or unfair, many in the SEC feel like a proverbial tug-of-war could soon be in the cards
"It's just like politics and self-interest," Alabama's Nick Saban added. "Somebody wants to create a circumstance that's going to help their situation or conference. That's not in the best interest of college football."
We'll see what the rest of college football thinks soon enough. But as the game moves towards for a four-team postseason playoff, the conference with six straight titles may be taking a step towards another without setting foot on the field.