Only conference champs not the way Slive wants playoff to go

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By the time the 2012 season kicks off — give or take a month either way — a decision should be made on what shape major college football’s postseason will take beginning in 2014.  What that shape will be, though, remains to be seen.

The Big Ten reportedly favors a four-team playoff in which the semifinal games are played on campus.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott publicly acknowledged earlier this month that he too favors a four-team playoff, with the berths consisting of only conference champions.

It’s that latter stipulation being tossed around as a possibility that could cause consternation among some conference commissioners and school presidents as the game’s leaders attempt to reshape the postseason.  Simply put, the “conference champions-only” idea is viewed as an anti-SEC tack, a knee-jerk reaction to the all-SEC Alabama-LSU title game following the 2011 season.

Suffice to say, the SEC — and possibly even a conference like the Big Ten — would not be in favor of any format that could potentially limit the number of teams the conference could put into a playoff.  And, in an interview with Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News, SEC commissioner Mike Slive did not shy away from the fact that, while he’s open to talks on any concept, limiting a playoff to league title winners is not something he — and presumably the presidents he serves — is prepared to get behind.

“I’m willing to have a conversation about (only conference champions), but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go,” Slive told. “It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.”

Taking such a stance would certainly make sense as limiting a playoff to conference champs would’ve impacted the SEC on a couple of occasions the past few years.  In addition to last year’s title game, the SEC has finished a regular season with two teams inside the top four in the BcS rankings — 2008 (Florida No. 2, Alabama No. 4) and 2006 (Florida No. 2), LSU No. 4).

Of course, it remains unclear whether BcS-type rankings will be a part of any type of playoff that may be instituted, but the point remains the same: the SEC, the strongest football conference in the country, especially in the top half of the league, will not go easily into any system that could potentially limit its opportunities.

As for the Big Ten floating the possibility of on-campus playoff games, Slive seems to be more open to that than the idea of only conference champions making up a playoff field.  He is, though, concerned about the competitive advantage — one translation: SEC teams being forced to travel north and play games in open-air stadiums in, say, Ann Arbor or Columbus in December — having a home playoff game would entail.

“There are plusses and minuses to that concept,” Slive said. “One is that you’re playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not played at the homes of the higher seeds. So you have to look at that.

“The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games. You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) — for one team. It needs to be looked at carefully. It’s on the table and it should be on the table.”

Personally, I like the idea of on-campus games for a college football playoff, although I would prefer an eight-team seeded playoff with all non-title game contests played at the home stadium of the higher seed.  I also have warmed up to the idea of the top four conference champions making the field — rankings to be determined, although the coaches’ poll should in no way, shape or form be part of any playoff system — but only if it’s an eight-team playoff; the other four spots, if I were CFB commissioner, would be the four highest-ranked teams that didn’t win its league.

Here’s how such a scenario would’ve played out last year, with the conference champions earning the first four seeds because I’m the commish in this fantasy, dammit:

Boise St. (No. 7 in final regular-season BcS rankings) at LSU (No. 1, SEC champs)
Arkansas (No. 6) at Oklahoma State (No. 3, Big 12 champs)
Stanford (No. 4) at Oregon (No. 5, Pac-12 champs)
Alabama (No. 2) at Wisconsin (No. 10, Big Ten champs)

I don’t know about you, but that’s a whole helluva lot more appealing than what the current system offers, which is two teams arbitrarily vying in a one-game “playoff” for a pseudo crown.  There’s also the added bonus that it keeps “the best regular season in sports” intact and places significant value on winning your respective conference, which in turn serves to protect the regular season as well.

Is it fair?  Of course not; no system would or will be.  It is, though, a helluva lot more equitable than what we currently have, and that should be at least part of the reason behind the whole exercise currently being undertaken.  (Writer’s note: it’s not; money is, but this would be a nice repercussion of the greed.)

All that said, the above is nothing more than a pipe dream.  When all of the dust settles — probably by the end of summer — Div. 1-A football will choose to dip its collective toes into the proverbial playoff pool with four teams as anything beyond that has little support for the moment.

That’s not optimal, but, hey, at least it’s a start.

Which gets this back to the whole point of the post before I veered off on my personal playoff tangent: should the field for a four-team playoff system include only schools that have won its conference?  Slive has made the SEC’s opinion perfectly clear; now it’s your turn.

Vote below, and sound off in the comments section below that.

 

Penn State trustee says he’s ‘running out of patience’ with ‘so-called victims’ of Jerry Sandusky

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With Baylor seemingly running away with the title of most embarrassing university in collegiate athletics, a Penn State trustee has said “hold my beer.”

Friday, former Penn State president Graham Spanier was found guilty on one count of endangering the welfare of children in a trial related to his role in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.  In an email to the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, PSU trustee Albert Lord had sharp words for the victims of Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 child-sex abuse charges in June of 2012 and is currently serving a sentence of at least 30 years.

“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” the trustee wrote in a portion of the email. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”

Spanier was found not guilty on two other charges, a second count of child endangerment and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In a statement, the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, Ira Lubert, attempted to distance the body from Lord’s comments.

“Al Lord’s comments are personal and do not represent the opinions of the board or the university.”

Sun Belt commish issues statement on Arkansas gun law

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A highly-charged state law continues to garner the attention of the college football world.

Last week, the state of Arkansas legislature passed a law (House Bill 1249) that would allow concealed-carry handguns on publicly-owned property, which would include college sporting events.  A day later, and after realizing, amidst considerable controversy, the potential for alcohol-fueled fans to attend an SEC football game armed, the state’s senate voted to amend the law to exclude college sporting events.

The amendment still must pass through the House of Representatives, leading SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, with the University of Arkansas as a member of his conference, to release a statement Tuesday that was no doubt meant to apply pressure ahead of the vote.  Thursday, the Sun Belt’s commissioner, Karl Benson, followed suit out of concern for his membership, including Arkansas State in football.

During the last week I have followed closely the news articles regarding Arkansas House Bill 1249, and now also a potential amendment to what is now Act 562. Given that both the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Arkansas State University are members of the Sun Belt Conference — and as my colleague Greg Sankey of the Southeastern Conference has stated — I too support the Arkansas State Senate’s exemption in Senate Bill 724 that would prevent firearms from being allowed inside publicly funded stadiums and arenas in the State of Arkansas.

It’s unclear when the House will vote on the amendment.  Regardless of which version of thew law is finally agreed upon, it will go into effect Sept. 1.

Arkansas opens its 2017 season Sept. 2 against Florida A&M in Fayetteville.  Arkansas State’s home opener is a week later against the Miami (Fla.).

Foot injury could sideline Auburn’s Tashawn Manning for rest of spring

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After kicking cancer’s ass, this latest health issue hardly qualifies as a big deal.  Still, it’s a thing.

Tashawn Manning has been battling an unspecified foot injury of late, which has limited the defensive tackle’s availability for most of the first two-thirds of Auburn’s spring practice sessions.  With just five practices remaining, Manning could very well be sidelined for al of them.

“The problem is this is Day 9 and Saturday will be Day 11, so there’s a probability” that the player will not see the field for what remains of spring practice, Manning’s position coach, Rodney Garner, said according to al.com.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, Manning, then an Auburn verbal commit, was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.  In July of last year, he was finished with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free.

The defensive lineman didn’t play at all last season, instead taking online classes as he built up his strength as well as his weight after losing more than 60 pounds because of the chemo.  In January, he enrolled at AU and, two months later, was cleared to participate in the spring.

Suspended Mich. St. staffer receives one-MONTH contract extension

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A disturbing situation in East Lansing has added a head-scratching twist.

According to ESPN.com, and by way of a Freedom of Information request, Michigan State football staffer Curtis Blackwell was on the receiving end of a one-month contract extension earlier this month.  Blackwell, whose title with the football program is director of college advancement and performance, was set to see his contract expire at the end of this week.

What makes this development noteworthy is that Blackwell has been indefinitely suspended by the Spartans since early February.

Around that time, it was confirmed by the university that three still-unnamed MSU football players had been suspended after allegations of sexual assault were made against them last month.  An unnamed football staffer was suspended at the time as well; that staffer was subsequently identified as Blackwell.

A police investigation, as well as a Title IX probe, into the allegations continue.  Blackwell is not accused of participating in the alleged sexual assault, but rather a non-sexual crime that’s connected to the investigation.

Mark Dantonio hadn’t spoken publicly about the allegations until earlier this week, and the head coach probably would’ve been better served to have kept it that way.