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Rightfully so, SEC commish Slive wants best four teams in playoff

by | College Football Insider
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The Pac-12 differs from the SEC in that it thinks only conference champs should get in a playoff. (Getty Images)  
The Pac-12 differs from the SEC in that it thinks only conference champs should get in a playoff. (Getty Images)  

SANDESTIN, Fla. -- After meeting with league presidents and athletic directors on the final day of the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings, SEC commissioner Mike Slive spoke with reporters Friday afternoon.

Slive discussed the record amount of money the league distributed last year ($20.1 million per school), the future football and basketball scheduling formats and other league matters. Oh yeah, he also spent a great deal of time, ugh, counting.

"One, two, three, four," Slive said. "One, two, three, four."

Slive wanted to hammer home a point -- and maybe even practice on helping his newborn granddaughter count when she gets a few months older -- that the SEC wants the top four ranked teams (one, two, three, four) in college football's playoff, which begins after the 2014 regular season.

"One, two, three, four," Slive repeated on several occasions.

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Disappointedly, Slive never said "I, II, III, IV" or "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro." I also was hoping Slive would have dropped some Pig Latin: "one-ay, oo-tay, ee-thray, our-fay."

Whether it's in English, Spanish, Roman numerals or even Pig Latin, there remains some pigheaded conferences that don't want a four-team playoff to, you know, feature the nation's best four teams.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten, along with the remaining conferences, prefer a model that includes conference champions. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, echoing similar comments from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, said Friday a team should have to win its division to qualify for a playoff.

Breaking news: the SEC announces the creation of 14, one-team divisions! Film at 11.

The SEC, along with their new Big 12 brothers, continue to fight the fight for the top four ranked teams to qualify for the playoff. Slive and his league presidents predictably stressed that point again Friday from the Hilton Sandestin Beach.

"What did I say the other day?" Slive said. "One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. I really haven't deviated from this position. It needs to be [the top four ranked teams] and fans would expect us to provide the four best teams: one, two, three, four.

"If people are not happy with the current system of how we rank them [based on human polls and computers], then let's go back and look at the system that creates one through four."

LSU chancellor Michael Martin said he believes one reason the other conferences want a conference champion model instead of the top four ranked teams is to try and neutralize the SEC's current dominance. You know, the one that has produced one, two, three, four, five, six consecutive BCS national titles, if you're counting at home.

"Sure I think it's to mute the power of the SEC," Martin said. "I think there's some of that out there."

Martin, who also is a former president at New Mexico State, knows firsthand the difference in strength between conferences.

"This old issue of automatic qualifiers [as conference champions], there can be a very strong team that's wasn't a conference champ that everyone knows is [ranked] two, three or four," Martin said. "That's always a concern [for not having the top four teams in a playoff]. Leagues are not equally balanced. Having been a president in the WAC and SEC, I can tell you they're not the same."

Georgia president Michael Adams said a playoff with the nation's top four teams would actually benefit all conferences.

"If you're Boise State and you go 12-0 and you're No. 4 that solves it," Adams said. "I think it's to the advantage of the historically smaller conferences as much as it is to the SEC. You get out and produce and make the top four. It's America. It's an open book.

"If you end up hypothetically with [conference champions] at No. 10 and No. 14 playing in the playoff, you defeat the purpose of it. Once people stop and look at all the alternatives, I think we can get there."

Adams might be a bit optimistic about getting there, but we'll know soon enough. The conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick meet June 13 and June 20 in Chicago. In that second meeting, they're expected to present the final playoff model to the Presidential Oversight Committee for the grand unveiling on June 26 from Washington, D.C.

But there is a very real chance the conferences that support the conference champion playoff model bow up like an SEC defense and refuses to accept the top four ranked team model.

If so, Adams admitted the SEC has been thinking about alternative playoff models.

"If that position [the top four] doesn't hold water, we'll have to think of what's the fallback," Adams said. "You never say never."

I asked Adams what those fallback models were. "I'm going to let you talk to the commissioner," Adams said.

So how about it, commish?

"There are several fallbacks, but we're not going to tell you [what they are]," Slive said. "We've looked at different options, some we like better than others. We know exactly what we're interested in doing. As we move ahead we'll make that clear at the appropriate time and appropriate place.

"People say that there will be [give and take]. But that's not for today. We have a position."

Yes, the SEC has a position. It's the absolute best one for college football: a playoff featuring the nation's highest four ranked teams.

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