DESTIN, Fla— College football’s most dominant conference has its wish list for a playoff.
The Southeastern Conference took an official stance on a proposed four-team playoff Friday as school presidents and athletic directors voted unanimously to support having the four best teams play for the national title. The league doesn’t want a playoff to include ties to conference champions.
“If we’re going to go to a four-team playoff, which I anticipate we are, it needs to be and the fans would expect us to provide the best four teams in the country,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “And if people aren’t happy with the current system of how we rank them, then let’s go back and look at the system that creates one through four.
“I’m very open to looking at how we would do that, whether it’s a committee or a different set of data points. But I think you go back to the source of the issue rather than dealing with a byproduct of the issue and end up gerrymandering who’s going to be playing for the national championship.”
It makes sense that the powerhouse league, which has won six consecutive Bowl Championship Series titles, would want a best-four format. That gives the SEC the greatest chance to get two teams into the tournament on any given year.
“I don’t think that vote was taken because it’s going to be best for this league,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley. “It may turn out that way, but it all goes in cycles. I think the thought is if you’re going to have a playoff, you want the four best teams. There wasn’t one comment, ‘Well, this is best for us, this is best for the SEC.’ I think the thought is that’s what’s best for college football and a thought that that’s what the public wants.”
It’s not what other conferences want, though. The Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East and the Pac-12 all want versions of a playoff that would guarantee at least some conference champions a spot in the field. The Big 12 has sided with the SEC.
“Everybody every now and then has to give a little to make something work,” Georgia president Michael Adams said. “You’ve got to quit thinking, in my opinion, how the world has been. You have to start thinking about the fact that this is a new day with a new set of rules.”
The SEC would like to see the semifinal games played within the current bowl structure and have the championship game bid out separately as a stand-alone game that could rotate between some of the nation’s largest venues — much like the NFL’s Super Bowl. Separating the semifinals and the title game likely would generate more television revenue than packaging them together or keeping all three in the bowl system.
Conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet June 13 and June 20 in Chicago to likely formalize details of the proposed playoff. They would then forward it to the Presidential Oversight Committee, which will meet June 26 in Washington, D.C., to finalize the postseason plan. The playoff would not begin until after the 2014 regular season.
Slive and school presidents talked about potential outcomes from those meetings, but they declined to say whether the SEC would accept anything short of a best-four format.
“We have some we like better than others,” Slive said. “There’s a lot of discussions to be had, a lot of thinking to be done. We know exactly what we’re interested in doing and as we move ahead we’ll make that clear at the appropriate time and the appropriate place.”
The league also voted Friday to keep its current football scheduling format known as 6-1-1, a move that will maintain longstanding cross-division rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia on an annual basis.
LSU and South Carolina opposed keeping the designated rivals, arguing that a more equitable conference slate would be to rotate non-division opponents on a regular basis.
“I think every school has their own agenda, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s best for the SEC,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “There’s some quirks in the model, but everybody has to make an adjustment here or there. But I think for the good of the conference and to make it work for the best of the league that was the consensus for everybody in the room.”
Teams will play six division teams annually, have one permanent crossover rival and one game that rotates among the other six teams. There was one change to the current model, with South Carolina and Arkansas ending its designated rival in favor of recent expansion. Newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M were paired with Arkansas and South Carolina, respectively, as cross-over rivals.
“As difficult as the decision was to make, I think our people are glad to have a decision and ready to move ahead and implement it,” Slive said.
• The SEC voted to move to an 18-game league schedule for men’s basketball. Teams will play one permanent rival home and away annually, play four rotating opponents home and away annually and play eight games against remaining opponents home or away. The designated rivals are Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Florida-Kentucky, Georgia-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Mississippi-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt.
• The SEC voted to keep a 16-game league scheduled for women’s basketball.
• The SEC expanded its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to include all 14 teams and will be played over five days. The top four seeds will get double byes.
• The league announced it will distribute $241.5 million to its 12 institutions for the 2011-12 fiscal year, giving each school $20.1 million.
• Slive announced that Mississippi Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones has been appointed as chair of an SEC working group to evaluate concussions in all sports.
• The SEC voted to add equestrian as a sport. It will start in 2012-13, with Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M fielding teams.