Slive Has the Right Idea

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive was typically non-committal on a range of issues last week during Southeastern Conference Media Days, but Slive laid the foundation for a more genuine discussion about college football's post-season future when asked a question about a "plus-one" playoff game format to determine college football's national champion.

Slive, who currently holds the rotating title of BCS chairman, presented a framework for improving the game in the talk of an ideal post-season format, something there's certainly room to do. In the past, debate over a workable post-season has been a superficial conversation. Coaches, media, fans and television rights holders get winded griping about the current system, but there's not a single alternative that is a consensus favorite format among all the constituencies.

"Its one thing to yell and scream about a playoff," Slive said. "It's another thing to enter into some intellectually challenging analytical debate about what's the best interest of college football.

"And I'm willing to do that."

Slive laid out the framework for a legitimate discussion. The first component, he said, is academic.

"You can be cynical. You can disagree. But it is there. It will always be there," he said.

Second, Slive said, "We have the best regular season in all sport, in college football, and we want to maintain that."

I couldn't agree more. Right now the games played in August are just as important as the ones played in January. No other sport I've seen has such a unique and admirable setup. The Florida-Tennessee game annually held on the third week of the season is often a make-or-break match-up for both squads. Games like that lose significance with a foray into a playoff.

Slive's third point was about bowl tradition on college football. And while sponsorship and bowl overpopulation is fast wiping away much of that tradition, it's worth preserving what of it we can.

The plus-one idea is no more than a pie-in-the-sky dream at the moment. The most popular concept of the plus-one is that the current BCS formula would be used to pick participants in the BCS, then following the normally scheduled BCS games, the top two teams remaining would play an additional game at a later date, at a different site, to determine the national champion.

This is known, in other words, as a playoff. It's the most limited form of a playoff, but it's a playoff nonetheless. Academia hates this idea because it is a playoff, and they are principally against any form of a playoff. That is the first sticking point.

There's a legitimate discussion to be had on improving on the BCS, but think about what format would have worked better last year. The system worked. Of course that hasn't always been the case.

"You can't be the commissioner of the Southeastern conference and have Auburn go 13-0 and not play in the national championship game, and sit here and say everything's right with the world," Slive said.

"That doesn't necessarily mean a 16-team playoff is right."

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