Georgia president proposes 8-team football playoff
The president of the University of Georgia is calling for an eight-team playoff system for college football’s top division, saying the Bowl Championship Series — which left Georgia out of its championship game — has become a “beauty contest largely stage-managed by the networks.”
In a public statement and a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand, Georgia president Michael F. Adams, who is also chairman of the NCAA executive committee, called for an eight-team playoff to decide the national championship, with the opening rounds to be played in the four major BCS bowl games. He proposed the change be made as soon as the contracts that govern the BCS expire.
Adams was scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the proposal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported that Adams would support a playoff. “This year’s experience with the BCS forces me to the conclusion that the current system has lost public confidence and simply does not work,” Adams said in news release. “It is undercutting the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.”
Georgia did not win its division of the Southeastern Conference and did not play in that league’s title game, but was widely regarded as one of the best teams in the nation as the college football season closed. The Bulldogs went to the Sugar Bowl instead of the BCS Championship Game, where some believed the team belonged.
Adams did not directly address that outcome in his letter or his statement. But he did claim that the BCS system suffered from built-in conflicts of interest involving the major sports conferences and the television networks. Under his proposal, the schedule would return to 11 games from its current 12, with playoffs beginning at the major bowl games and extending two more Saturdays.
Under his proposal, a selection committee would seed eight teams to the four major bowls.
“If one of those bowls chooses not to participate, another game could be found to fill the void,” he said.
Adams is the second SEC member president to advocate a playoff in the past year. Last year, University of Florida president James Bernard Machen — whose Gators played in the BCS Championship Game and won the title — said the time had come for a playoff system, but backed down from his position after conferring with his fellow SEC presidents.
Adams acknowledged that he has long opposed a playoff system, largely for academic reasons and because the season is already too long. However, he said in his letter to Brand that he was “troubled about the commercial influence over how the college football season is played out.” He said it is time for the NCAA’s member institutions to regain control over the college football postseason — control he said is now concentrated in the hands of the television networks, the major conferences and the bowl commissioners.
“The television networks … have grown too powerful in deciding who plays and when they play, and indeed, whom they hire to coach,” Adams wrote in his letter to Brand. “The Bowl Championship Series has become a beauty contest largely stage-managed by the networks, which in turn protect the interests of their own partner conferences.
“The situation may not quite rise to the level of collusion, but it leaves an air of dissatisfaction with the fans of most institutions, even as they celebrate successful seasons,” Adams wrote to Brand. “I believe the time has come for the NCAA to take control of the college football postseason, and in so doing to create a system that our players, coaches, friends and fans can support and appreciate.”
“Colleges need to regain ownership of their football teams,” Adams added in his letter to Brand. “While much has been made of the unique nature of the Football Bowl Subdivision [formerly Division I-A], the fact is that the networks and conferences exercise much more control over the football teams at this level then the institutions that sponsor them. Reorienting the national football championship is an important step in managing a model that benefits students, institutions and our constituents.”
Adams said he would regret the football season extending into the spring semester, but noted that only four teams would be involved and before most schools return from the winter holiday break.
On Monday, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the ACC, SEC, Big East and Big 12 are open to a “plus-one” Final Four format in which the top four teams would be selected and seeded.
“In our conference, there’s much more open-mindedness about the plus-one than there was two years ago. There’s an interest in it … and a willingness to discuss it in full,” Swofford said.
The BCS is in the second of a four-year, $320 million contract with Fox that runs through the 2009 season and 2010 bowls. The BCS will begin negotiating with Fox on another deal in the fall. Fox has exclusive negotiating rights with the BCS.
The Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), Division II and Division III all have a postseason playoff.