DALLAS -- A college football playoff is inevitable. That against-the-tide prediction comes from Florida State president T.K. Wetherell. All he has to do is look at the gas pump.
"How am I going to get people to drive from Miami to Tallahassee, Fla., with gas at four dollars a gallon, to watch us play UT-Chattanooga?" Wetherell said Friday.
No disrespect to Chattanooga (OK, maybe some), which comes to Florida State for the 2008 season's second game, but Wetherell suggested we might be reaching that playoff tipping point. It will take some kind of financial crisis, he said, to make hard-line Division I-A presidents change their view of a playoff.
Wetherell spoke as part of an eight-person panel at a two-day college football issues forum that ended Friday at DFW Airport.
"It's not a question of if there is going to be a playoff, it's going to be a question of when," said Wetherell the only university CEO on the panel. "It's going to be driven by money. None of us sitting at this table ... are ever going to admit that."
Two seasons ago the NCAA approved a 12th regular-season game to address financial concerns voiced by athletic directors. Back then, no one foresaw a recession that might make fans have to decide between gassing up the RV with expensive diesel and staying home on a football Saturday.
"All of the sudden that (profit) margin is going to start shrinking ..." Wetherell said. "We're going to piss away our money. We're going to say, 'Where did it all go.' Well, the head coach is making $2 million a year. The coordinators are making $450,000 a year. The charter plane that used to cost you $250,000 now costs you $400,000."
The 62-year-old former politician and FSU player has been Florida State's president since 2003. He has long been a playoff proponent but his comments were more strident Friday. Wetherell wasn't as educated on other subjects, flaming bloggers and chastising headline writers, but he sounded absolutely wise when it came to the sport's future.
"You talk to ABC and ESPN, you're talking something in the neighborhood of the Final Four type thing (for a playoff)," Wetherell said. "That's a huge amount of money. We'll (presidents) run out of money, then we'll figure out a way to do it. The fight won't be over whether to do it or not, the fight will be over the take, the split."
Part of the point of the BCS is to keep college football's postseason out of the hands of the NCAA. Athletic directors at power conferences don't necessarily want to share bowl and TV revenue equitably. It took the threat of Congressional intervention from the non-BCS schools five years ago to make it easier for those schools to qualify for BCS bowls.
As far as the long-stated arguments against a playoff -- preserving the regular-season, creeping commercialism, student-athlete welfare, academics?
"Everything that is somehow on the table will disappear," Wetherell predicted.
The BCS commissioners last month shot down a seeded, four-team plus-one model proposed by SEC commissioner Mike Slive. That all but killed the possibility of a playoff until at least after the 2013 season (January 2014 bowls). But discussions on the future of postseason football could begin as soon as 2012, when new television contracts begin to be negotiated by the four BCS bowls.