Adams: Take back the power from TV

ATHENS – University of Georgia president Michael Adams wants the NCAA to take back control of major college football from television networks and the bowl power structure, and the best way to do that is with a playoff, he said Tuesday.

Adams thrust himself into the forefront of a years-old argument Tuesday by proposing in a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand that the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, adopt an eight-team playoff. Adams wrote a letter to Brand and followed that up with a statement released to the public, a live press conference and a teleconference to explain his argument.

As the chairman of the NCAA executive committee, Adams thinks he has "50-50 chance" of convincing college football's power brokers to make a change, he said. The earliest any change could come about, he acknowledged, is after the current television contract with Fox expires in 2010.

"Clearly, I think there needs to be a national conversation about this given what has happened," he said, "and the one thing I think I can do in my current role as chairman of the executive committee is at least get the discussion on the agenda."

Just last spring at the annual SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., Adams declined to support a proposal by University of Florida president Bernie Machen to consider a playoff system. However, after watching this year's group of BCS bowl games and seeing his school's team denied a spot in the national championship game, he has changed his mind, he said.

Four of the five BCS bowl games, including Georgia's 41-10 blowout against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, were decided by at least two touchdowns. That string was capped Monday night when LSU beat Ohio State 38-24 to win the BCS national title.

Adams, who holds two degrees from Ohio State, thinks there are "four or five teams this year in the Southeastern Conference that are as good as" the Buckeyes, he said Tuesday.

"What we've just completed is perhaps the most exciting college season in memory with the least exciting bowl series in memory," Adams said. "You put those two together, and you see that there is a need for change."

Adams' reversal in his opinion on the subject is at least partly due to the fact that the Bulldogs dropped one spot in the final BCS rankings this year, rather than jumping the two places many fans hoped they would in order to play for the national championship.

"I don't believe I'm driven exclusively by this, but I've listened to a lot of Georgia players and coaches and fans this year," he said. "(The BCS) is a process that the closer you get to, the less you like it."

At one point Tuesday, Adams sounded like he was parroting angry Georgia players, who said more than a month ago that ESPN unfairly lobbied against them in the debate about which team should be ranked in the top two of the final BCS rankings.

"You have to admire what ESPN has done and what they have become, but I'm not sure in some cases they realize their own influence," he said. "I clearly believe some of the subtle shifts they made in analysis in the last few weeks… clearly impacted who was chosen where."

The overall power of ESPN and television is one of Adams' two main problems with the current system, he said.

"The increasing concentration of power in one network television company that has shown in this year's bowl selection process the capacity to influence public opinion, including that of coaches, in an arbitrary way," he wrote in his statement. "This one network ownership controls more than two-thirds of the football games broadcast and virtually all of the non-BCS bowls. There are clear built-in conflicts."

Adams other main issue is the "power among the conference and bowl commissioners, and particularly the lack of opportunity for input into their closed-circle decision-making based on traditional contractual alliances," he wrote in his statement. "It is time to take the ultimate power out of their hands and give it to the student athletes on the field."

The answer, Adams said, is to give the power to the NCAA, allowing collegiate sports main governing body to form a selection committee that would pick eight teams worthy of a playoff. Those teams would then be seeded one through eight and play quarterfinal games in what are the four traditional BCS bowl games – the Sugar, the Rose, the Orange and the Fiesta.

The winners of those games would play in the semifinals in undetermined sites and the winners of those games would meet for the national title in an undetermined site.

Until Adams' pronouncement, the idea of a college football playoff seemed to be dying a slow death. Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee told several media outlets, including the New York Daily News, last week that "a playoff system is never going to happen."

Adams thinks he can begin changing that mindset by calling on university presidents and conference commissioners he knows and laying out his position.

"This morning I've heard from a lot of presidents around the country who think I'm at least on a plausible track, if not the right track," he said. "The time is right for the discussion."

He also has heard from some, he acknowledged, who wish he hadn't opened his mouth. SEC commissioner Mike Slive falls into that group. Slive said Tuesday he was "disappointed" the subject came up one day after LSU won the national championship.

"This is LSU's day," Slive told reporters in New Orleans, site of the BCS national title game.

Slive also pointed out that Adams' position is opposite of what the SEC presidents agreed to in Destin less than a year ago.

The hottest topic across the nation has been the plus-one model, which would match the top two teams after all the BCS games are played, but that solution leaves Adams wanting, he said.

"I don't think with the plus-one you end up with this level of certainty," he said, comparing that plan to his.

The fact that the new plan would carry the season into winter semester for four teams troubles Adams, he said. He would be in favor of doing away with the 12th regular season game as a way to mitigate that the impact the season has on the players, he said.

His plan, in fact, is imperfect in several ways, he said.

"I don't like it, but I don't have a better plan," he said. "Is this an improvement over what we now have? Yes I think it is."

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