DESTIN, Fla. (AP) -- The Southeastern Conference is looking out
for No. 1.
Maybe even No. 2.
Football coaches from the powerhouse and recently expanded
league were in unison Tuesday that they want a proposed four-team
playoff to include the best teams in the country -- and not be tied
to conference champions.
Their solidarity came as no surprise considering the league has
won six consecutive national championships, with the latest one
coming when Alabama knocked off LSU after not winning its division
or making the league title game.
"I think it needs to be the four best teams in the country,"
Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "I don't think it needs to be
the conference champions because in our league we might have four
of the best teams in the country."
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has been a driving force behind a
proposed playoff for years, and remains as committed as anyone to
getting it done this summer.
The playoff system could debut as early as the 2014 season,
replacing a current No.1 vs. No. 2 BCS championship matchup that
has rotated among the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowl sites.
Slive expects the four-team model to be discussed by coaches,
athletic directors and school presidents/chancellors, and an
official league decision is expected to be announced Friday.
"Our league has been consistent that if you're going to have a
four-team playoff that the best four teams ought to be selected to
play for the national championship," Slive said. "If the issue is
how teams are selected, then let's go and talk about the selection
process and make the selection process more palatable to everybody
rather than try to gerrymander who the top four teams are.
"I'm very open to looking at any and all ways to make changes
in the actually selection process itself."
Slive said the league also will settle on a format for football
following the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, with teams likely
to play six division games, maintain one cross-division rival and
alternate an eighth conference game among the other six teams from
the opposing division.
The designated rivalries are expected to be finalized, too. All
indications are Missouri and Arkansas will be deemed cross-division
rivals, leaving South Carolina to pair with Texas A&M.
Also, basketball coaches are close to finalizing an 18-game
schedule that would put teams back into divisions. The coaches
dropped division last season.
But the proposed football playoff dominated discussion on Day 1.
"We're so much closer to having the best teams play," Missouri
coach Gary Pinkel said. "Every single game is so critically
important in college football and we should embrace that. You can
lose six games, eight games in basketball and still win a national
championship. You can't do that in college football. I think we're
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney has said the new format
shouldn't include a team that doesn't win its conference division --
an obvious reference to national champion and SEC West runner-up
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is pushing to have two semifinal
games played at campus stadiums, which seems to address the
concerns of playoff opponents who say that such a system would
lessen the importance of the regular season. After all, that would
reward the two highest-seeded teams with a home game -- a huge
incentive and major advantage.
Slive believes the semifinal games would be part of the bowl
"My guess is that it will end up being in the bowl system,"
Slive said. "I think it's better for college football as a whole
than just a plus-one."
Not surprisingly, Slive's coaches seemed to wholeheartedly back
his plan -- although South Carolina's Steve Spurrier reiterated his
preference for an eight-team playoff.
"Do you know who's won the Super Bowl the last two years?"
Spurrier said. "Weren't the Giants 8-8? And the Packers didn't
even win their division the year before and got hot in the
playoffs. It just depends on how much importance you want to place
into a playoff system, a tournament. I know there have been a lot
of NCAA (basketball) champions that didn't necessarily win their
conference but they got hot in the tournament.
"I don't know how it will play out."
Deciding how to select the Final Four is up for debate.
"I don't know. The way we do it now?" Georgia coach Mark Richt
said. "Just take the top four teams in the BCS instead of the top
two. That's one way of doing it. It's already in place. You
wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. Change is here, it sounds
like, I suppose it's worthy of discussion as to how to do it. But
I'm not for making it a prerequisite that you have to be the winner
in your in league. I wouldn't make that part of it."
Neither would any of his colleagues.
LSU's Les Miles, Alabama's Nick Saban and several others made it
clear that limiting a four-team playoff to conference champs likely
would benefit everyone outside the SEC.
"It's just like politics and self-interest," Saban said.
"Somebody wants to create a circumstance that's going to help
their situation or conference. That's not in the best interest of
Added Richt: "If you take the top four teams, I think we'd all
be in favor of that in our league. If you take four teams that have
win a conference championship, it would guarantee that only one of
us could go. If you had it the other way, we'd have a shot at two
going. You can say it any way you want, but that's what everybody
is talking about."