As John explained yesterday, the selection process for a four-team playoff, not the threat of conference expansion, will likely determine Notre Dame’s future status as either an independent or conference member.
Speaking on the third day of Big East spring meetings, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed as much.
“I remain confident about every team that makes the top four by whatever method of selection having access to that playoff format,” Swarbrick said. “I feel good about that.”
Swarbrick, like Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, thinks a final decision regarding a playoff will be made on June 20. As it pertains to the selection process, just about all of the “Big 6″ leagues have come out in favor of a conference champion-only model, with SEC commissioner Mike Slive being the biggest proponent of a field consisting of the top four teams from the regular season regardless of whether they won their conference championship or not.
It’s not surprising that other conferences would want to level the playing field by limiting the spaces available for the SEC, especially after this past BCS championship game. But even selecting four conference champs could come with an amendment. Earlier this month, Delany proposed an idea using a mix of conference champions and season-ending rankings — a league champ would have to finish in the top six — to determine the four-team field.
It was actually a sharp idea and it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if some variation of that method is used going forward. But, to reiterate Swarbrick’s words, whatever is decided will in all likelihood consist of some way to keep Notre Dame at the playoff table.
If not — I don’t see that happening, but I’m obligated to leave that option out there — that will be the trigger to officially and legitimately begin the “Notre Dame-to-conference X” talk.