Mike Slive on the BCS and SEC

Comments from the SEC and BCS Commisisoner's press conference are featured.

MIKE SLIVE: Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate your joining us today. We look forward to trying to answer your questions about the selection process and where we are today looking forward to the coming weekend.

It's been an exciting football season to say the least with games impacting the BCS standings every week. During the seven weeks of the BCS standings including this weekend, there have been 20 games featuring two BCS Top-25 teams. In talking to some of you during the week, we've all agreed it's really hard to imagine a better November than college football has had in many, many years.

We begin this weekend with eight of the ten BCS positions open, as Ohio State is the champion of the Big 10, and southern California holds the tie-breaker for the championship of the Pac 10 in the case that California should tie the Trojans.

With those brief remarks, let me open it up for questions.

Q. I wanted to ask you, kind of about the double-edged sword nature of these conference championship games. Some teams that are not going to be playing this week are actually looking like they are maybe positioned, like an LSU. Is there a flaw in the system when that's the case in your opinion?

MIKE SLIVE: I think first and foremost, Florida and Arkansas, for example, in SEC have a chance to win the Southeastern Conference Championship, which when you talk to our players, and I'm sure this is the case in other leagues around the country, it's a goal they set out to do. And by winning the championship, you can end up in the Sugar Bowl, for example, in our league. I think back, you know, I think back to a couple of years ago when LSU won the National Championship by virtue of playing and winning our Championship Game. So the way we think about it here is that the SEC, championship, for example, is really part and parcel of our culture and extension of our -- what we do during the season. We sell it out a year in advance. It's just a great -- it celebrates college football and it celebrates our conference football. That's I think a huge part of what's important.

You know, it's not designed to help or hurt with the BCS, but it's designed to help and promote and celebrate college football at the conference level.

Q. I guess where I'm driving is -- and I'm not disparaging the game itself, is that all of the leagues don't have them, first of all; and secondly, the teams that don't qualify are eligible for at-large bid and some people see a problem with that. That's what I was asking you to address.

MIKE SLIVE: The fact is that, you know, every conference has the right -- one of the premises of the BCS is that every conference has the right to figure out how it wants to determine its champion.

We enjoy a Championship Game and we can't dictate to any other league that they have to have a Championship Game. So we have to put together our priorities, and obviously we would love to win the National Championship, but we certainly value and hold highly our game. So I don't know quite how else to tell you that it's an important part of football here, and I think it's become an important part of football in other conferences that have adopted it.

Q. Wondering in the time you've been involved in this one way or the other since the start, have you ever heard of a workable plan, either involving a playoff or not, that's better than what we have right now?

MIKE SLIVE: You know, I've said from day one -- I mean, I think the BCS this year has helped make a great regular season of college football: Attendance is up; ratings are up; interest is up; regional games have become national games of import; opportunities for other leagues and other teams to move in to the BCS. So I think all in all, the BCS helps make every weekend in a sense -- I hesitate to use the word playoff, but in a sense, it is a playoff. When I think back over the week, I'm always asked to speculate on a Friday about where we're going, and if I hold my breath and wait on Monday, the questions are totally different because so many different things happen.

Having said that, I remain very open-minded about looking at alternative formats. I've said that from the day I took over as the BCS coordinator last January. But you're right in saying that there is not any format that does not have advantages and disadvantages. And so we have continued to look at some alternatives, but whatever we do, whether we keep it the way it is or whether we modify it, it won't be perfect.

Q. Do you think that college football needs another step, another step in the process of crowning a champion?

MIKE SLIVE: You know, whether it needs it or not, I think the goal here would be to make sure that -- if the idea is simply to have a 1-2 game, then the BCS has done that. The issue that arises that we all have to look at is whether or not 1-2 is enough. But when we start looking at that, then we start to raise a whole lot of other issues, and if 1-2 isn't enough, how many are enough.

You know, for example, if you take the Michigan/Ohio State game, which was a huge game, everybody looked forward to it, but it wasn't a game for seed; it was a game for a possible elimination for the National Championship. So there's a big difference in playing for seed than there is playing in sort of an elimination kind of game.

So I guess I still remain open and willing to look at some alternatives and if I put on my SEC hat, I may be more interested in some alternatives. If I put on my BCS hat, we want to be very careful. Q. I have a question regarding, I mean, there's a scenario where a team like LSU might be as high as four in the BCS, but if the Rose Bowl doesn't take them, there's a chance they could slide all the way out of the BCS. Is there anything that you as a BCS or as a commissioner can do to influence what another Bowl does? I know there's kind of the good-of-the-BCS-operation thinking, but is there anything beyond?

MIKE SLIVE: So you wanted to know if I put on my statesman's hats -- Q. You're wearing one or two hats in this; is there anything you can do?

MIKE SLIVE: You know, we certainly -- let me speak as a commissioner. As commissioners, we talk with Bowls about our teams, and we talk about how good we think they are and we know they are. We talk about the fan base. We talk about the passion. I talk about the fact in the SEC that we had -- we've got over 6.6 million people go to our games this past year, and we just wanted to make sure that everyone knows all there is to know about the Southeastern Conference. So that's with my commissioner hat on.

Obviously, the BCS role is a role of a coordinator, and that's what its primary role is. So what we try to do is coordinate the BCS. So I try to balance those two obligations, but you know, none of us lose sight of the fact that we're first commissioners.

Q. Kind of set up my question nicely, about those two hats, and I'd love to see them one day. Do you feel any sense of awkwardness knowing that on the one hand, the SEC school certainly wants you to lobby for them, but then you do have to maintain some sense of objectivity because you are the director and sitting in the director's chair?

MIKE SLIVE: I think you can do both. I think you can advocate as a commissioner, and as a BCS coordinator, my role is to make sure that the system works properly, fairly and equitably. I don't vote. I'm not Harris voter; I'm not in the coach's poll; I'm not a computer operator. So that data comes in sort of untouched by human hands so to speak.

And our goal is to make sure that the selection process works; that the standings are fair in terms of the data coming in, and then making sure that administratively the games get played and get played well so that our fans and our players and our coaches all have a good experience. At the same time, that's not inconsistent with being an advocate for my conference.

Q. My other question is, the potential matchups of an SEC school against a team like, say, a Michigan or a USC; those games sort of tend to linger in the minds of people when they start comparing conference strength. We hear about USC's victory over Arkansas earlier this year, over Auburn in 2003; do you think it's important for the SEC to have a really good showing if they are matched up against teams like that because it sort of sets the watermark for how the conference is viewed for the next year or two?

MIKE SLIVE: I think that's how approach every game. When we're playing, we want to play well and we want to win. And I think that if this was Kevin Weiberg, he would be saying the same thing or John Swofford or anyone sitting in this chair, …when all is said, we're done that, you know, when we go out and compete, we want to compete well and we want to win. That doesn't change. And we let people know, just as all my fellow commissioners do on a daily basis, we let everyone involved in the process know, you know, objective, quantitative data so that we can make what we hope will be good, qualitative decisions.

Q. I'm sure you are aware of Urban Myer's comments that a Florida team that might win the SEC title could be left out of the title game and essentially that the BCS would have no worth if that happens. I just wonder what your take was on his take.

MIKE SLIVE: Well, I think you know, again, we all look at as a commissioner, we look at these matters through our own -- the color of our own glasses. You know, I really don't want to speculate, but obviously in 2004, when we had an undefeated Auburn team and didn't make the National Championship game, that was painful and something that we don't want to repeat. And all I can say about, you know, about Coach Myers' comments is what I've been saying since day one is that we'll see if the format works. And if, you know, we'll continue to look at the format. And if it works, it works. And if it doesn't work, in a couple of years, we're going to sit down and take a look at it and each conference will have to make decisions about the format and whether or not this format is the one we want to continue with, or some other format.

But I think, I don't know of anybody who is anxious to go back to the good 'ole days. And so we've done, you know -- we've tried to combine the long tradition of college football, the Bowl system, the regular season, and satisfy, you know, the need or the clamoring for a national champion through a 1-2 game.

And along with that came a lot of different elements, and the BCS, as I said earlier, carries a lot of weight. You know, I think it is asked to do more than it was originally designed to do and is trying to do it within the construct of what is acceptable to our existing chancellors. So we have another chance during this four-year format -- the reality is that we have one game that's almost upon us and you don't wait until four years are over to start thinking about the future. So we'll have a chance to think about it in a couple of years, and we'll see whether it still works for us the way we want it to work. And when I say "us"; I mean each one of us has to look, each conference and each independent institution has to look at it from a different perspective and determine for itself whether it works.

Q. I wonder if you could also clarify the pecking order, if USC and Ohio State end up in the title game.

MIKE SLIVE: How it works, yeah. So in other words if we take the current standings, and Ohio State and Southern Cal are in the game, then what would happen would be that the Big 12 Champion would go to the Fiesta Bowl and the ACC champion would go to the Orange Bowl and the SEC champion would go to the Sugar Bowl and then the Rose Bowl would get the first two picks because we would need to replace the champions from the two leagues that participate in the Rose Bowl.

Q. And what after that? MIKE SLIVE: And then after that, it's the Sugar Bowl will pick next, then the Orange Bowl and then the Fiesta Bowl.

Q. I have a question, I was being set up really nicely before, with the Rose Bowl having at least one of the first replacement picks, and probably two as we've already talked about; is there going to be any influence from to avoid having a Notre Dame rematch against USC or Michigan?

MIKE SLIVE: There is a provision in the selection process for the conferences to consider adjusting pairings, and one would be whether or not there was a rematch. But it's something that's been on the books since the outset, and of course that's done after the teams have been selected, and there has never been an inclination to do that. So in other words, we don't try -- there's never been any prohibition against and there is no prohibition against it. We've had rematches in major Bowls over the last 20 years, a lot of them. We had one in 2003 when Florida State played Miami in the Orange Bowl and we had Florida/Florida State in '96 in the Sugar Bowl and to go back a little further to '88 with Oklahoma and Nebraska. We have a methodology for selecting the teams and the Bowls have the right, if the teams are eligible, the Bowls have the right to go ahead and make those picks; that would create a rematch. I can't speak for my fellow commissioners, but there has not been in the past an inclination to make changes.

Q. But what I'm asking is -- I guess -- I …when all is said, we're done--appreciate that, thank you. What I'm asking is, if the Rose Bowl says we are looking at matching up Notre Dame with Michigan, does the BCS have any -- will there be some sort of influence to say, maybe for the good of the BCS and the good of the game, you guys might want to look somewhere else?

MIKE SLIVE: We would follow our procedures. You know, I think that, we have the process that we can look at that if want to. But up to now, there has not been any inclination on the part of the commissioners to make the changes for whatever reasons you might articulate, for the good of the game or anything else.

Q. Following up on that, the fact that the Rose Bowl is going to be on ABC and the rest of the games are going to be on FOX, you think that is going to have any influence on how teams are picked and how you guys look at things?

MIKE SLIVE: No, I don't. This is the first time we have five games, this is the first time we have two networks. But my impression in dealing with the networks on a regular basis, both FOX and ABC, I really don't have any sense that that would play -- that that would play into the decision-making.

Q. When exactly will you know when the final ratings are? When will the Bowls know? MIKE SLIVE: I'll give you the exact time, just a second. We should know sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 on Sunday, Eastern time. Q. When will the Bowls know; right away?

MIKE SLIVE: Fairly soon. What happens is the way it works, with the data, the polls and all the information comes in, and once it's collated, then we have a conference call. We get the coach's poll information, the BCS computer Bowl information, the Harris poll information, and then we get the final BCS standings and we distribute them out to the commissioners. And within about a half hour of that, sometime within three or four, we have a teleconference with the commissioners in the bowls. And so if we can finish our business at that time, we do; and if not, then we have provision for a series of additional calls if need that had could take us through the afternoon until sometime after 5:00 if needed.

Q. When you distribute them to the commissioners, do you distribute them to the Bowls at the same time?

MIKE SLIVE: Yes, the bowls get it too, and then we'll get on the call will have the bowls -- it will have the commissioners, it will have the television representatives, and then I will walk through the process, just a little bit like we just did. We'll have the standings. We'll know who won the championships. We'll know who are the host teams. We'll know what teams now are at-large if they qualify, if they are in the top 14. There will be a pool of teams which will include the automatic qualifiers and the at-large people. And then the Bowls will select in the order that I outlined a little earlier.

Q. Bowls will select when, right then?


Q. When you expanded to five games and got the two extra teams, was there any discussion about removing the two-team per conference limit?

MIKE SLIVE: There was discussion, yes. There was discussion about it and it was decided not to lift the two-team limit.

Q. Do you anticipate that might be revisited?

MIKE SLIVE: I think it's the kind of thing that we revisit regularly. I would assume in April when we meet, we'll talk about it again. But there was a pretty good discussion and it really, you know, the decision was to keep it at two. But there's no reason in the world why we wouldn't talk about it again. We talk about almost everything every year.

Q. I want to put you on the spot a little bit for a second. If the decision was solely yours, would you be in favor of a plus-one situation, where not quite a playoff, but maybe one more level? The structure seems to be in place for that now with the way the BCS has expanded. Again, if it was solely yours, would you be in favor of that, the plus-one model?

MIKE SLIVE: Well, you did put me on the spot because I work for 12 presidents and chancellors who did have some input into what I thought about it.

Q. Well, feel free to pass. I'm trying to get a page of the people --

MIKE SLIVE: Well, tell you what, let me …when all is said, we're done answer it this way. I don't mind being on the spot but I don't want to get out in front of the people I work with every day. Put it to you this way. I don't know if you were in Pasadena when I spoke to the football writers, and I think what I said there and have said from day one, was that I was not married to the current format, and that I was open at looking at other formats and that does include a plus-one. I haven't changed a bit on that issue.

Q. You had mentioned earlier talking about the Ohio State/Michigan game as kind of serving out an elimination game. If USC were to lose to UCLA and the BCS ratings put Michigan second and gave us a rematch, would the BCS in some way be viewed as a failure with what served as an elimination game ended up being a rematch in the title game?

MIKE SLIVE: I don't know how it would be viewed, but the integrity of the system in place, we just don't have -- you know, we've decided and agreed upon that the system would be that the 1-2 teams, as determined by the polls and the computers, would be in the game. And, I mean, that's -- and so there's nothing, there's no prohibition to say that it can't be a rematch. So you know, it could be viewed that way by some, but the reality is, if you or -- there's just no asterisk on the -- or any exceptions to the 1-2 determination.

Q. Would you think that down the line, there could be a change to the idea of requiring teams to be a conference champion, to be in the title game?

MIKE SLIVE: That's a good question. Again, I don't have a sense that the commissioners would want to create that kind of requirement. I guess the goal, you know, is to find the best two teams in the nation if you can, and it might not make sense just to have a formula and then have some inflexible rule that overrides it. You can have an unbeaten team and a once-beaten team from the same conference; everybody else has two losses and there's no -- then would you limit the Championship Game to conference champions? What would we do with independent teams that we have as part and parcel. You know, so I just -- we thought about it, but I just don't see that change coming.

Q. Could you talk about what, I hate to say it that way, talk about what a great November it has been, these showdowns?

MIKE SLIVE: You know, I was thinking back a couple of weeks ago, I can't remember the exact week and we were looking at the top eight teams in the BCS standings, and realizing -- I may not have it precisely right, but realizing that all the teams were going to play each other, and it was either that weekend or the following weekend or closely thereafter and realizing that, you know, what would you call that, if I don't use the dreaded word, what would we call it. I said before, you know, during what I call the speculation period which includes today, I get calls all the time about what if this, and what if that. And if I answered the questions on Friday, I'd have to have a whole set of answers on Monday.

And so, you know, then when I watch games on television, and you know, with DIRECTV you can get them all. And just watching games that would have been regional games to interest of the fans in that conference institution, have become games of national import and affect a lot of different people. So, you know, there wasn't a weekend gone by that there weren't important games being played all through the year, but particularly in November.

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