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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

SEC commish supports playoff system ... when it suits him


PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- It wasn't that long ago Mike Slive was a playoff advocate, a big one. In 2008, he joined with ACC commissioner John Swofford in supporting a so-called Plus-One postseason format -- basically a four-team playoff.


"No, I would not want to play another game," the SEC commissioner said.

Tommy Tuberville and the 2004 Tigers never had a shot at a national title despite a 13-0 record. (US Presswire)  
Tommy Tuberville and the 2004 Tigers never had a shot at a national title despite a 13-0 record. (US Presswire)  
It's funny how your outlook changes when you've won four consecutive national championships. Slive doesn't want a piece of undefeated TCU or any other team for obvious reasons. The certainty of there being only two undefeated teams after Monday's BCS championship game matters only that Auburn could be one of them. The SEC is on a roll, unprecedented in college football history. Oklahoma and Nebraska dominated the Big Eight. Ohio State and Michigan have been Big Ten powerhouses. If Auburn wins the fifth straight SEC national title it would have been accomplished by four different teams.

"Obviously," Slive said from New Orleans where he watched Tuesday's Sugar Bowl, "it has played out for us."

That's a long way from the outrage Slive felt in 2004 after the Great Screwing of Auburn. The Tigers were left out of the championship game after going 13-0. Almost from that moment, the SEC grabbed the sport by the throat with ...

Breaks: USC's stunning loss to UCLA in the 2006 regular-season finale allowed Florida to get into the title game and beat Ohio State.

Luck: In 2007, LSU became the first team to win a BCS title despite losing twice. The Tigers vaulted from seventh to second in the BCS on the final day thanks mostly to another stunner, Pittsburgh beating No. 2 West Virginia in Morgantown.

And brawn: Alabama took control last year after Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out in the fifth play of the championship game.

Of all the storylines going into Monday's championship game, the SEC's ongoing dominance has been buried. It's become accepted. Even Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has bought in. Reacting to his conference's Black Saturday (0-5 in bowls, three of the losses to SEC teams), Delany said, "The SEC has demonstrated that they are a step ahead of everyone else."

Ask why and you'll get 1,000 answers. Arkansas became the seventh SEC program to play in a BCS bowl. LSU (4-0) has never lost a BCS game. Only the Big Ten (22) has played in more BCS games than the SEC (21). In this age of offense -- this is the second highest-scoring year in history -- the SEC continues to get the best defensive players. SEC teams have won those four in a row by an average of 16.8 points.

It's their world and we're only living in it.

"I don't know if there is one thing that has happened," Auburn offensive lineman Ryan Pugh said. "I think you can say there's been a lot of luck. You had the first two-loss team [LSU] win it ... In the SEC it's week in, week out, pressure-packed thrillers. That's what fans want to see. That's what guys play college football for ... People take it really seriously. I think you can tell by the money they pay to bring in coaches."

It is the closest thing to the NFL on all levels. Alabama's Nick Saban makes an average $4 million a year. LSU's Les Miles had a $14 million buyout to start the season.

"It's very, very important in our part of our world in a way that it captured the heart and soul of the Southeast," Slive said. "Maybe the best way is to say a mixed marriage in the South is two people from different SEC schools."

Six years ago Slive was beside himself. Auburn lost out that year basically because of a weaker nonconference schedule. The commish protested, saying that something had to be done. During the 2008 BCS meetings in Florida, there was informal canvassing of commissioners on the subject of a Plus One. Sources maintain there was no formal vote taken but Swofford and Slive were on record as supporting a four-team playoff. It didn't pass.

"I really realized after that conversation, it was not something, given the current composition of commissioners and presidents, that was going to happen ...," Slive said. "It was lonely two years ago and if I raised it again it would be just as lonely."

That Great Screwing was an anomaly. In jest, Slive suggested something called a Final Format -- changing the postseason on a whim to fit his conference's needs.

"If one of our teams was 11-2 and had beaten four or five ranked teams and was ranked third or fourth ... it [a playoff] would look inviting," he said. "The reality is it really depends on how the year comes down. Each of us can fight for where our teams should be depending on the format."

A playoff? Bring it on. Considering the roll it is on, the SEC would probably win that too.

"Would I want to play [another game]?" Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. "I want to play football year round."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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