Harvey Perlman

Winners & losers: post-playoff edition


And, yes, hours after the official announcement, it still feels good — perhaps even drop-dead sexy — to use the words “playoff” and “major college football” in the same sentence without it veering toward an Onion-worthy post.

Of course, there are still issues that need hashed out.  Yes, even this four-team baby step is being met with scorn by the more-more-more crowd failing to realize that, even in its infancy, this just-birthed format is already infinitesimally better than what the BcS has wrought over the past decade-plus.

Even with a selection committee involved in the process… even with a way-too-limited field… even with every single argument against the specific playoff wheels that officially hit the pavement Tuesday, the game will be better off because of this first step.  Those who thought the powerbrokers would cannonball right into the deep end of an eight- or 16-team playoff pool?  They’ll eventually get over themselves and realize what a monumental day this was for college football and its fans.

Speaking of which, there were certainly some (a lot of) winners with the announcement of a four-team seeded playoff beginning after the 2014 regular season, and (not as many) losers stemming from the same glorious event.  So, well, here are but a few of them…


When it came to a playoff poll on this site, you could count on anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of our readers being in favor of a change to the current system used to determine a “national champion.”  Other polls would range from 65-70 percent to, well, well above that mark.  The fans have clamored for it for years and, while it may not be what the majority wants, it’s certainly a day when the sport gave the fans that support it exactly what was wanted, regardless of the motive$ behind it.  Which, of course, leads us to…

Will a four-team playoff likely exclude the non-power conferences to a greater degree than it had in the previous system?  It very well could.  With $500 million annually at stake — nearly triple of what was paid out under the old system — the members of those non-power conferences, diluted already thanks in large part to expansion wrought by the BcS, will be able to wash away their collective exclusion angst with crisp $100 bills.  As for the power conferences?  The rich merely got richer today — and separated themselves further from the have-nots.

The commissioners of the SEC and ACC, respectively, were at the forefront of a push several years ago to implement some type of playoff, only to be rebuffed by the Jim Delanys of the college football world.  Even as they may not have gotten exactly what they wanted this go ’round, each of those two men and their staunch pro-playoff stances were vindicated.  And the sport is all the better for their collective and unwavering approaches to the offseason.

We touched on this earlier but it bears repeating: the fact that, after there had been some level of discussion of hosting pre-title games at on-campus or neutral-site venues, the semifinals will be hosted by existing bowls on a rotating basis is a huge win for the Football Bowl Association.  The inclusion of six upper-echelon bowls in the playoff process is significant for the FBA, although raising the bar on bowl eligibility could be the death knell for postseason games that almost no one will miss.

There are currently four “power conferences” in major college football: the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  With just four precious playoff spots available over each of the next 12 years, that would seem to be a rough deal for a conference like the ACC, especially based on how this exact playoff format would’ve played out if it were in place over the past decade.  This conference, though, has four things in its favor when it comes to the future format: Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, football-rich traditions which, while in “down cycles” at the moment nationally, give the ACC more than enough opportunity for its playoff water to find its level.

Enough.  Said.  Other than there’s a fairly good chance that the sport wouldn’t be where it’s at right now, playoff-wise, without those two and the pressure they, and by extension the fans, exerted on the process.


Given the whole television contract negotiating thing, I should probably tread carefully here, but there’s really no gray area when it comes to this.  The Big East signed off on a deal that will likely preclude that conference, given the recent defections generally and specifically if Boise State reneges on its expected future move, from being a major or even minor playoff player for the foreseeable future.  If the Broncos follow through on their move, or if another Louisville circa 2006 is in the offing, the Big East may find a spot at a corner table, even if it’s just occasionally.  Other than that?  They should’ve been the loudest voices at the table for an expanded playoff field.  Or merely be satisfied with cashing that lucrative postseason check.

The Nebraska chancellor and staunch anti-playoff intellectual (pictured) would’ve been fine with the status quo.  Or a Plus-One abomination.  He got neither.  Life is good.

Their stance is not one I could even begin to fathom let alone start to wrap my head around, yet the presence of that sentiment kept the sport from taking the righteous path for years or even decades.  The fact that some of the staunchest anti-playoff proponents were part of the group that actually implemented a playoff induces mild chuckling… and hope that those very people are actually beginning to “get it” when it comes to an issue that’s vitally important for the future of the game.

(*with the official death to the BcS, I’ve decided to officially retire the “Div. 1-A (FBS)” designation.  It’s the least I could do.)

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he would have to decide whether or not to pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff. Or he could rip a page from his predecessor’s book and dump Alabama to drive straight into the Georgia job.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.