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Slive welcomes A&M, Mizzou to SEC, talks playoff he helped shape

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It is going to be a busy weekend for SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. On Friday he will fly to College Station, Texas, to attend the evening's yell practice at Texas A&M. On Saturday afternoon he'll attend the Texas A&M-Florida game, the Aggies' first-ever SEC game.

At some point Saturday afternoon he'll board a private plane and fly to Columbia, Mo., where Missouri will play its first SEC game against the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs.

"It's a historic day," Slive said Tuesday. "We don't expand very often."

Indeed. The last time the SEC expanded was 1992 when South Carolina and Arkansascame on board to make it a 12-team conference. Roy Kramer, who had taken over as commissioner in 1990, was aware of a little-known NCAA rule that allowed conferences to split into divisions with 12 members. The SEC Championship game was created. The conference -- and all of college football -- has never been the same.

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As a welcome gift, both Missouri and Texas A&M get their first conference games at home against high-profile opponents.

"One of the things we tried to do when we put together the 2012 schedule was to provide both A&M and Missouri with a marquee game to start their tenure with us," Slive said. "I'm looking forward to seeing the yell practice at Texas A&M on Friday and then making our way over to Missouri on Saturday. So it will be a great day for us."

A lot of people have asked me if Missouri and Texas A&M will "fit" into the unique culture that is SEC. Of that, Slive has no doubt.

"There are at least three reasons why. One is academically. They are AAU [Association of American Universities] institutions and join Florida and Vanderbilt in our league," said Slive of the AAU -- composed of only 59 American institutions. "So academically they are very strong.

"They have sports across the board. They win national championships in sports other than football and basketball. That's a commitment we really want," said Slive, whose conference won a total of nine national championships in the 2011-12 academic year. "Finally, their traditions and their cultures and their fan support really mirror ours. Missouri has sold more season tickets than any time in their history. The same with Texas A&M."

In an interview session for The Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday, the SEC Commissioner touched on several other topics:

He put the idea of a four-team playoff on the table four years ago and it didn't get a lot of support. On June 27 it became a reality and will start after the 2014 regular season. What changed? "I don't know if I can tell you what other people are thinking. But as the conversation developed over time it became clear that it was time to evolve the postseason. It was necessary for us to think about something that would work for everybody and still maintain the super structure that had developed over the years. There were a lot of factors in play, but I think one that is important to know that we were also sensitive to the public."

On whether two SEC teams (Alabama-LSU) playing for the BCS national championship was a major factor in changing some minds about the playoff: "We all brought different things to the table at different times over the last six months. I think it played out pretty well in the public. Some of us had a view that it ought to be the best four teams. Others had the view that it ought to be just champions. And we were looking for a way to make it work for everybody."

On the decision to do away with the BCS Standings and to form a selection committee: "The more we talked about it, the more we thought about it, we began to realize that a committee might really work. Several of us, including myself, had a lot of experience on the NCAA Basketball committee. Then we began to think, "well if that's the case, you can put all these factors into play by using a committee.'

"And so now we're going to get the four best teams and the committee will take into consideration a lot of different factors including the strength of schedule, championships, head-to-head. And it also avoids some of the anomalies the BCS suffered over time."

On the potential makeup of the selection committee: "The only thing we've really talked about so far in a very, very preliminary way with regard to a committee was the number. We need a large enough number to cover any recusals that might occur if someone represents a different part of the country and there's a team from there. But we really haven't sat down to talk about who they should be. It's obvious it's going to have to be people who know a lot about college football and who appreciate the game. But those conversations, along with several others, will be beginning later this month."

On what those other conversations will be: "We've got to have conversations about the composition of the committee, revenue distribution, site selection for the semifinal games, site selection for the national championship game. So starting in the next couple of weeks we'll begin the discussions for each and every one of those components that we need to have in place to finalize the plan."

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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