SEC Declares Top 4 Ranked Teams in Playoff Non-negotiable

Submitted by Needs on June 1st, 2012 at 11:12 AM


With only three weeks until the June 20 deadline when conference leaders hoped to have a final playoff model to sell to television executives, the time for compromise draws near. Which is why it's so interesting that the chair of the SEC's presidents and chancellors group would draw a line in the sand on one of the most controversial issues. Florida president Bernie Machen said the SEC would not compromise on having the four highest ranked teams in the playoff rather than a group of conference champions.

"We won't compromise on that," Machen said at the SEC spring meetings. "I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four."

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If Big 10 caves on this, I'll be pretty unhappy as it totally devalues the conference structure. Delany's had, in my mind, the best proposals since the beginning of this process. Home games with a preference for high ranked conference champs but still a space for at least one wild card seems the best way to introduce a playoff without destroying the meaning of the conference schedules and the regular season.

It's also interesting to see the different negotiating styles of the Big 10 vs. SEC in this process. Big 10 announces a proposal for home games and later abandons it publicly. SEC from beginning states preference for Top 4 ranked teams with no relation to conference champions, now they double down and say that it's an unconditional term for their participation. Unclear how they back off this without either losing face or saying that Machin didn't speak for the conference. This is also why the Big 10 shouldn't have abandoned the home game proposal without extracting some kind of concession.

If the SEC sticks to this plan as a condition of participation, I'd favor abandoning the playoff concept entirely and advocating a Plus 1, which would work well now that the Pac 12, Big 10, SEC, and Big 12 champs are all locked into "champion's bowls." 




June 1st, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

"So don't worry too much about the playoff falling apart, even if the rhetoric gets stronger in the next three weeks. Cash is the ultimate consensus builder, and it hasn't had its say yet" - from the article

If the last sentence is true, then the Big Ten really needs to reassert its (or any) position as they are the #2 conference in viewership behind the SEC. If for no other reason than building something that makes fiscal sense to television executives, the Big Ten and the SEC should be spearheading a consensus proposal, I would think anyway.

It is pretty clear to me that between wanting the top 4 teams in a playoff regardless of their being conference championships and the creation of the Champions Bowl as a potential playoff venue, the SEC is basically trying to maximize the potential (and it might not work even at that - it is hard to get two teams in the top 4 from one conference on a consistent basis historically) that it has multiple entries most years for the foreseeable future. The message I get here is the same one I typically get from the SEC - winning at the expense of others.

That being said, I still have a suspicion that the Big Ten would have a team in this model a fair amount anyway, as would the Big XII and the Pac-12 - not every year necessarily, but certainly a few times each decade perhaps. That seems to be how the "top 4" in the polls typically trend. More often than not, there has been a decent mix of major conferences in the top spots in the final polls.

I would say that, if they really want to stand on this issue, then the Big Ten needs to seriously consider resurrecting the idea of home games for the higher seeded teams in the semifinals at the very least and insist that the bowl tie-ins cannot apply to teams in the playoff (but can be used as the consolation for runners-up in their tie-in conferences), thereby making the Champions Bowl a potentially risky endeavor. I want to say that TV execs would probably listen seriously to some "home game" proposals, particularly if it meant the potential to be in certain stadiums and on campuses which have considerable appeal and sizeable "home" audiences by themselves.






June 1st, 2012 at 12:49 PM ^

I don't like it at all because then the whole thing is a game of perception. Conference champs need to involved on some level so it isn't 4 teams from the same conference. The top 6 w/ conf champs rule actually seems to make the most sense


June 1st, 2012 at 1:15 PM ^

I really think conference champions should be incorporated in any new football playoff.  I'm not saying the playoff has to include only conference champions nor do I think a very good team who was second place in their conference should necessarily be left out.  However, I think the playoff should be large enough to include conference champions.

The reason is simple.  I'm tired of having national champions decided by polls and computer algorithms alone.  For decades, we had national champions crowned by voters at the end of the season.  Then we moved to the BCS, which uses voters and computer algorithms to decide who gets a chance at the national championship.  Now, the SEC wants to make the playoff a little larger and still have it decided by polls.  There is no way for a team to guarantee themselves a chance at the national championship and that sickens me.  I want coaches all across the country to be able to tell their kids that if they fight hard and win all their games then they will get into the playoff and then if they continue to win all their games they will definitely win the national championship.

Since conference champions are not crowned by polls, including them in the playoff system provides a definitive, non-arbitrary path towards a national championship.


June 1st, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

6 team format. 4 major conference champs. 2 highest ranked wild cards that did not win their conference. #1 and #2 teams get a buy regardless of whether they are conference champs or not. 

Ed Shuttlesworth

June 1st, 2012 at 1:32 PM ^

I'm fine with the B1G's current propsal also, and it's better than the SEC's.   Anything to take out the arbtirariness and SEC bias from the system pretty much works for me.

One wrinkle I see is whether the conference gets to pick a team in the top 6 even if it isn't its champion.  12-0, #2 ranked Michigan loses 23-20 in overtime to 8-4 Penn State in Indy, Michigan drops to #6.  I want Michigan going, not no B1G team going.  If it isn't this way, no more Indy game for me; conference champ is the team with the best conference record.

Ed Shuttlesworth

June 1st, 2012 at 1:37 PM ^

Yep, no interest in adding two teams to the current BCS system -- which is what the SEC wants.  If it's truly non-negotiable, walk away and leave them on their own.


June 1st, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

The idea that the polls or the BCS standings actually indicate the top 4 teams in the country is utterly delusional.  Do they indicate 4 top teams?  Sure.   That's about it.

The system should be 8 teams.  5 or 6 conference auto-bids plus 2 or 3 at-large teams from the BCS standings.  Win your conference, or be one of the top teams in the rankings.  Simple. Having a system where the SEC runner-up always gets into the tournament over the champions of the Big Ten, Pac Ten & ACC is just garbage.   


June 1st, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

just threaten to opt out of the play-off altogether.  We are losing on every key point and if we really value the Rose Bowl as much as we say we do then lets threaten to take our Rose Bowl and go home.   Otherwise, why are we even agreeing to this play-off formula which will basically be the SEC vs Big 12 anyway. 


June 1st, 2012 at 3:18 PM ^

I agree.

The national championship is a myth. It has always been a myth. And any of the pending proposals ensure that it will remain a myth.

And the BCS is not even a myth, it's patently silly and fools no one.

The best situation has always been to abandon the myth of a national championship game.

If the SEC wants to define the national championship for themselves, then let them have their game with the Big 12 be their mythical NC every year, and we can have ours with the Pac 12 in the Rose Bowl.

The world hummed along fine without the BCS, without the playoff, and under the old non-system. There is no need for this nonsense.


Ed Shuttlesworth

June 1st, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

That's just it, though; no one wants the SEC runner-up subjectively compared to an obviously Top 6 power conference champion, because the system is rigged in favor of the SEC. 

If there aren't enough Top 6 power conference champs to fill the field, then, yeah, Alabama gets in.   That's a perfectly fair and objective proposal, which is exactly why the SEC is objecting.


June 1st, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

Nor is it about selecting a national champion.  This decision will be about how much additional money the end product will produce. If I am a network or a bowl I very much want as many eyes on each of these games as possible. Given the size of the football audiences for the B1G, the SEC, and the PAC12, I want a team from each in the "final four" as long as they have a plausable record, and my best case for the final game is if the teams come from separate conferences. The 2012 game pulled an audience of 24.1 million viewers, that is down 4.2 million from the average the games from 2009-2011 and 6.7 million from the 2010 game. 

As discussed here in great detail, it is extremely difficult to consistantly pick the "top four" teams. That decision will be politlcal no matter how it's done. Using a selection process that is based on conference championships accomplishes two things. Politics is not involved, at team wins the ability to go based on games played on the field not on polls or opinion. It ensures that you have cross conference audiences, which will prove attractive both for fans and for promoters.

Short of a true playoff, which IMHO would require 16 teams, I'd just as soon use conference champions to select who goes. 


June 1st, 2012 at 3:04 PM ^

Had the 3rd lowest ratings for a BCS Championship game ever. The other two? Both featured teams that didn't win their conference.…

Also states that Bama was the first team since 1936 Minnesota to win the National Championship without winning their conference. So why are we worried that once every 75 years there may be a team that is the best that didn't win it's conference? Just keep it to the conference champs.


June 1st, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

Seriously, of all the things in this world that make me angry, politicians and the power brokers in college football make the maddest. I don't understand how any conference be so arrogant that they would rather bet on their conferece having two teams in the top four every year over a (virtual) garuntee that they would have at least one. On top of that, the best way for other conferences to get the greatest amount of public support-- offering home games to higher-seeded schools--  was cast aside for a system which is corrupt at its worst and idiotic at its best. Further more, all this is going to lead to a new "four super-conference" world which would really be eight smaller conferences vaguely tied together with out much regaurd for geographical distance or traditional rivalries. There are about 17 different ideas for each terrible decision made so far that make more sense, which means a total of a lot of combinations (I am a Medievalist, not a mathmatician).


June 1st, 2012 at 3:31 PM ^

If they want to use the "top 4" teams model then they need to develop a system of measuring the different conferences against each other.  Currently that really only happens AFTER the bowls (which have been argued suffeciently enough on this blog are biased against B1G teams). The AD's won't like this because of the revenue hit, but there should be a conference challenge set up at the begning of the season between the major conferences to get enough data to see which conferences are the better ones.  This would require giving up all the baby seal games to play enough interconference games to compare conference records vs. each other.  Then the polls can do their work to define a top 4.  Until there are more inter-conference games at the beginning of the year, I will never trust the polls to judge who the top 4 are. 

Under the SEC's proposal, it will be far too easy for the polls to suddenly change. I never want to see a repeat of '97 where Nebraska had a festivus miracle and moved ahead of Michigan in the coaches poll even though all the games had been finished a week earlier.

I could also see a mid-major who had been deemed top 4 worthy all year suddenly drop to a larger conference team with a worse record after all the games had been played.  That's crap. If they were worth the #4 slot or higher all year, they deserve it at the end.


June 1st, 2012 at 4:26 PM ^

Here is how the "negotiation" should go.

Dear SEC:  We are instituting a playoff for the championship of college football.  Due to the large number of conferences and the small amount of berths, we can only allow one team per conference.  You are welcome to participate or not participate.  




June 1st, 2012 at 6:24 PM ^

I think this whole proposal of 4 teams is ignorant to begin with and now the SEC has not suprisingly put their ignorant, childish, egocentric, and powerful foot down. It is ridiculous that all of the conferences bow down to them. I live in the south and I am sick and tired of hearing about the SEC. I hate that we let those idiots control everything. The only reason they want top 4 is becuase they want repeats of last year so they can keep running their co**suckers about how they are the best and blah blah blah. Make it a 10 team with home field going to conference champs or highest ranked next to conference champs. There should be some chances at upsets and competition. 4 teams is weak and now we are just letting them have their way like the ignorant children they are.


June 2nd, 2012 at 12:44 AM ^

You do realize that if u have a ten team tournament for a playoff you'll be down to 5 teams for the second round? Unless you are offering up byes which should not be allowed. 4,8, or 16 would work. I wish they'd do 16... All conference winners and what 4 "wild cards". Like Dan wetzel proposed in his book "Deat to the BCS"


June 1st, 2012 at 9:02 PM ^

The SEC has a point. Just because they're the SEC, and couldn't be more annoying doesn't mean they aren't right about this. That being said, they shouldn't be complaining when their non-conference winning at-large team is forced to play a January game in Ann Arbor or Madison or something. Oh, the SEC kids don't have any sleeves? Sucks.


June 1st, 2012 at 9:04 PM ^

Well, top four rankings are all spin and the SEC controls circular logic so I'll take conference champs, thank you.


June 1st, 2012 at 9:32 PM ^

its the SEC way or NO way...Let me Guess The SEC coaches will be the selection committee..Who died and made th SEC the ruler of college football..wouldnt it be great if the rest of the conferences said..OK ...sorry SEC your OUT


June 2nd, 2012 at 8:32 AM ^

I love the conference champion requirement for no other reason than it essentally makes conference championships part of the playoff system, and increases the number of teams in the playoffs.

I wouldnt want any wild cards though, personally, I'd just let it be the top four conference champions.

LSU, you think your great, win your division to get into the playoffs.

Bama, you didnt win your division? Try again next year.

Bosie State, holy shit, you have a chance to win it all...

Just for this senario:

2011 #1 LSU vs. #7 Bosie State; #3 Oklahoma State vs. #5 Oregon

2010 #1 Auburn vs #5 Wisconson; #2 Oregonvs. #3 TCU 

2009 #1 Alabama vs #4 TCU; #2 Texas vs. #3 Cincy

2008 #1 Oklahoma vs #4 Utah; #2 Florida vs #3 USC 

I'd watch those games and care a lot more about them...the reason the NCAA BB tourney is so glorious is the underdog effect.  If you dont have a dog in the fight, it's easy to root for Bosie State or TCU.