Part of the discussion is about playing the semi-finals at bowl games. I think that would be a big, big mistake. The only thing that makes sense about that idea is that the bowls have been good for college football over a long time and deserve to be part of the playoff, but that is not a good enough reason for doing it that way.
With this new system there are three big football games to be played in the postseason. It makes no sense to me for college football to take the three most important games of the year and tie them to bowls, which will want to share the revenue those games produce.
There are probably 25 or 30 college athletic departments around the country that aren't hurting financially, or at least stretched financially. The rest of the Division I programs could use all of the money they can get that would be generated by the four-team playoff. That money doesn't need to be shared with the bowls.
If the playoff games are held at neutral sites--Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Kansas City or wherever--the BCS should be able to generate enough money to send a check for around $2 million every year to every Division I football program in the country. That kind of revenue would be absolutely huge to most college athletic departments that are fielding football teams. There is no need to minimize it by sharing it with bowl committees.
These cities where the big bowls are played have been making millions of dollars for years off the fans from the different schools around the country. I believe they will still continue to make money, and support charities, by doing what they have been doing. Since the plan is to pick just four teams for the playoff, that leaves 21 other Top 25 teams for the bowls to choose from.
Another reason to keep the bowls out of the playoff system is that would help keep politics out of the selection process. For years bowl committees have worked behind the scenes lining up the best matchups possible for their games, something that makes good sense from their point of view. For example, if the decision is to be made between Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame for the final spot in the playoff, if a bowl committee is involved it is obvious which team they will be lobbying to be picked.
I think the best way to handle the four-team playoff is to schedule the semi-final games prior to Christmas before the bowl season really gets cranked up. It would give the teams two weeks to prepare for the semi-finals and then play the championship game somewhere around New Year's Day. That would allow the players time to get rested, the coaches would have ample time to prepare a great game plan for the championship contest and the fans would have time to line up travel and tickets to the title game.
The other thing that I want to mention again is I just cannot grasp the Southeastern conference's decision to put Missouri in the East. It is going to cost that university, and its fans, millions and millions of dollars in extra expenses in the coming years to travel to games in Athens, Ga., Gainesville, Fla., Columbia, S.C., and other SEC East campuses compared to traveling to games in the SEC West. It just doesn't make any sense.
Geographically, it makes sense to put Missouri in the West and move Auburn to the East. I have heard the argument that doing that would prevent Alabama from being able to play its two major rivals, Auburn and Tennessee, with the league expanding to 14 teams.
In the 12-member SEC, each team played five games in its division and three games against teams from the other division each season. In Auburn's case Georgia was its permanent opponent from the East and there were two other teams from that division on the schedule each season. Last year Auburn faced Georgia, South Carolina and Florida from the East plus the other five teams from the West for its eight-game league schedule.
In the 14-member SEC, teams will play the other six schools in their division plus one permanent opponent in the other division along with just one other opponent in the opposite division. On Auburn's 2012 schedule the Tigers will play Vanderbilt as the lone rotating opponent from the SEC East.
I don't see why the SEC couldn't go to a nine-game league schedule that featured two permanent opponents vs. teams in the other division with another opponent that would rotate on and off the schedule. I would think that would be much more well-received by the fans than a fourth non-conference game vs. the type of unappealing opponents that are regularly on the schedules of SEC teams.
I have heard the argument that it wouldn't be good to feature an Auburn-Alabama rematch in the SEC Championship immediately following those teams' regular season finale, but to me that would be really exciting no matter who won the regular season matchup. Neither team would have a homefield advantage, the tickets would be split 50-50 and it would tickle the heck out of the fans so if the Tigers and the Tide are the best teams in the East and West there's nothing wrong with playing them twice at the end of the year.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.