Narrowing the focus of college football’s postseason future will be a priority as annual meetings begin this week in the Big 12, which meets in Kansas City, and Southeastern Conference in Destin, Fla.
For the Big 12, it may be more of an elimination process.
“I speak for the athletic directors, which are leaning more toward a four-team option,” Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said. “My thought going in is to have our schools rank their preferences and indicate options they wouldn’t accept.”
There are options — a four-team playoff or a plus-one are the leaders — and there are options within options. If college football goes with a Final Four, should it be seeded by a ranking regardless of conference affiliation or should only champions of the four highest rated leagues participate?
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A deadline approaches. A final recommendation is expected in mid-June and a decision will be made by June 20, when it will be forwarded to the Presidential Oversight Committee for approval.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive and his counterparts in the ACC and Big East along with the Big 12 have voiced support for a four-team playoff.
Not everybody is on the same page.
Last week Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Nebraska president Harvey Perlman, a member of the oversight committee, publicly stated that a plus-one model— one game after the bowls are played — is a viable option.
Perlman, in an email exchange with the Lincoln Journal-Star, said that a four-team playoff “might happen, but I don’t think it’s a done deal … I can only speak for the Big Ten and an familiar with what the Pac-12 presidents are thinking. I don’t think any of us feel like being rubber stamps.”
Scott told the Wall Street Journal that the announcement of the Big 12/SEC game, tentatively known as the Champions Bowl, changed the playoff conversation. Essentially, the Rose and Champions Bowl would stand as national semifinals with the Rose hosting its traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 game and the Champions pitting SEC and Big 12 champions.
That’s not what Slive and Neinas intended when the game was announced two weeks ago. The Champions Bowl would be in addition to a playoff. Instead, to some, it changed the conversation of postseason football.
“The game has more legs than a caterpillar,” Neinas said. “It’s been somewhat surprising.”
Slive, speaking to reporters at the SEC baseball tournament on Saturday, reaffirmed his league’s four-team preference.
“I think what’s in the best interest of college football is a four-team playoff,” Slive said. “I think it’s better for everyone involved in the game. The plus-one narrows the postseason in a way that not necessarily in the best interest of all of the conferences.”
With its teams winning the last six BCS championships, the SEC speaks from a position of strength. A new postseason structure would begin after the 2014 regular season.
The Big 12 hasn’t been more specific than to favor a four-team playoff, but it likely will provide more clarity this week.
The annual meetings bring new faces to both conferences. Although current league membership doesn’t technically end until June 30, Missouri and Texas A&M have been moving furniture into their new homes for months. Same with West Virginia and TCU in the Big 12.
The SEC meetings got underway on Monday and pick up steam today when athletic directors, football coaches and men’s and women’s basketball coaches gather.
Also on the SEC agenda: Discussions of television rights and the possibility of the conference launching its own network, similar to the Big Ten. Expanding the league’s footprint into Missouri and Texas should strengthen the SEC’s bargaining power.
The Big 12 also will talk TV. Some conference presidents and officials have said only small details stand between the league and an announcement with ESPN for first tier rights that will bring the Big 12’s deals with ESPN and Fox for first- and second-tier rights to $2.5 billion for 13 years.
Future championship sites are on the Big 12’s agenda and Kansas City has its fingers crossed for an extension of the men’s basketball tournament at Sprint Center. The event is scheduled there through 2014, and the city is looking to anchor the tournament for a longer period.
New Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be on hand, and he along with Neinas will undoubtedly address the expansion topic.
Rumors have been in the air for weeks, with Florida State chiefly mentioned as a Big 12 possibility. But Neinas said the first year as a 10-team conference went well. Neinas said he recently conducted a television interview, where he said the league was happy with 10. Off-air, the interviewer told Neinas he didn’t believe him.
“I’m tired of telling everybody we’re happy with ten,” Neinas said. “Why won’t they believe you?”