- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. – Alabama coach Nick Saban hasn’t held back from talking about his disdain for placing only conference champions in a four-team playoff. He’s very much for a four-team playoff, but he won’t go for one that alienates teams by only picking the top four conference champions.
The whole reason any of this playoff talk even started is because people outside of the game are passionate about seeing one in college football. To take away the chance for the four BEST teams to play makes no sense to Saban.
“There’s no question that we’re even doing the top four because fans and the people who are interested in college football are interested in seeing the best four teams play in a playoff,” Saban said Tuesday at the 2012 SEC spring meetings.
“Now, we’re going to mess that up by saying you have to be a conference champion. I think somebody’s a bit self-absorbed and worrying about how it affects them and how they can best get somebody in the (national championship) all the time, rather than getting the best four teams. I don’t think that’s fair to the fans and the people who really have made it known that they want to see the four best teams play in a playoff.
“The bigger these conferences get the better chance you have to have two very good teams in that.”
Saban didn’t go as far as to name names, but anyone paying attention to all of this playoff talk knows he’s talking about Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who has been extremely outspoken about having only conference champions represented in a four-team playoff and has taken a few shots at Alabama and its 2011 title along the way.
Saban went a bit further during an interview with SECSports.com:
"It's self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what's best for college football who would want to do that," Saban said. "It's not what's best for the fans because they've made it very clear what they want it to be."
"People want to see the best four teams play in a playoff. The problem in college football is there's not equal parity in the leagues. Some leagues are stronger than others in different years. It's not always going to be where the SEC is stronger than another league. There's going to be years when other leagues are stronger than the SEC. It's not an SEC thing. History in recent years would say that, but that's how it's been all the way through.
"I think you're going to get a lot of real complaining if we have a four-team playoff and we go through all this that we're going through to try to implement this and execute it and, all of a sudden, next year we have the No. 1 team, the No. 3 team, the No. 7 team and the No. 11 team being the four teams in the playoffs. There's going to be a mutiny on the ship, there's no question about that."
Saban isn’t alone, as many of the other SEC coaches agreed with getting rid of the conference champs idea. SEC commissioner Mike Slive continued to plug a four-team playoff that takes the four best and continued to say he won’t support a plus-one model, either.
“It’s going to allow access in a way that the plus-one does not allow access,” Slive said. “It’s better for college football as a whole than just the plus-one.”
Other notes from Slive:
While he wouldn’t come out and say it, Slive doesn’t appear to be on board with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier or LSU coach Les Miles about having divisional games count more toward determining division champs: “It’s hard for me to think about a conference game that doesn’t count.”
There haven’t been many discussions about who will determine the four teams for the playoff (committee or otherwise), but Slive said those talks will continue this week.
He also hopes to finalize a scheduling format with the presidents, chancellors and athletic directors by the end of the week.
Even with all the expansion talk yet again swirling around the sport, Slive said the SEC is happy at 14 and isn’t in a hurry to expand further: “We were in an expansionist mode and we're not in an expansionist mode now.”
As for TV deals, Slive didn’t go into much detail at all. There have been rumblings about the SEC having its own network and channel. Plus, there have been renegotiation talks concerning TV deals with the league. But Slive wasn’t interested in talking about any of that, as he offered up a childlike smile and this gem when asked about any of it: “We’re talking with our television partners about our future and we’ll see how that develops.”
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