As conferences debate a playoff, we ask: Where’s the NCAA?

"We already run the world. Why should we care what the Big Ten thinks?" (AP photo)

"We already run the world. Why should we care what the Big Ten thinks?" (AP photo)

The best part of Georgia president Michael Adams’ plan for a college football playoff — issued at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 8, 2007, and hooted down by the powers-that-were shortly thereafter — was his desire to have the NCAA oversee it. “They’ve got a pretty good track record of running things,” Adams said.

But here we are in the year 2012 and a playoff is about to become a reality, and where is the NCAA? Observing from afar while the FBS conference commissioners hash it out. And now we wonder how this makes a lick of sense.

The governing body of intercollegiate sports runs the playoff for every intercollegiate sport at every level — except for big-time football, which is the biggest intercollegiate sport. But the NCAA has always been reluctant to throw its arms around big-time football: Indeed, there’s still no such thing as an NCAA champion of college football at highest level. The NCAA prefers to stand aside and let its membership bank the money and its conferences (and the bowls) wield the power.

If you’re wondering why it is only in the year 2012 that football is moving toward a for-real playoff, there’s your answer: conferences and bowls. Over time, their alliances/financial ties have controlled the entire massive sport, and it will be the conferences who cobble together this playoff matrix. This would sound more comforting if the conferences shared an agenda. Alas, they share next to nothing.

The SEC and the Big 12 want a four-team playoff involving the top four teams. The ACC — and also the Big East, which scarcely registers anymore — want the playoff to include conference champions. The Big Ten would prefer a two-team playoff, which is essentially what exists now. The Pac-12 tends to link arms with the Big Ten. There’s your Big Six conferences, with no three of them in agreement.

That’s just the framework. Of greater importance: Who’s going to choose these teams? It’s unlikely that the playoff will be champions-only — the SEC tends to get what it wants — but even if it is, two of the Big Six will, by definition, see their champion omitted. Who decides which two? And if the top four teams fill the four spots, who picks them?

Will the playoff grid be populated the way the BCS title game has been: Take a handful of computer printouts, a couple of human polls and add ‘em up? Despite almost annual tweaking, almost nobody has liked that method. Given the chance to change, you’d have to think the conference commissioners will cook up something new. But what?

Will the Big Six league commissioners meet in a room the first Sunday in December and take a vote? Will the five smaller FBS conferences have any voice? (Those five do still exist, you know.) Will selections be made by the retired coaches who now vote in the Harris Poll, which has never seemed a credible body? Or will the hundreds of ESPN talking heads simply hash it out — on-air, of course — among their bloviating selves?

A simple way would be to do as the NCAA basketball tournament does: Appoint a selection committee of current athletic administrators (as opposed to former coaches, who may or may not keep abreast of current events) and have them closet themselves in an Indianapolis hotel until a field has been formed.

But Division I basketball includes roughly 320 teams, 68 of which make the Big Dance. The football playoff will include four teams, and no VCUs need apply. (Heck, VCU doesn’t even have a football team.) It beggars belief that the SEC and the Big 12 would create a system by which their teams’ fates are decided by someone from the WAC.

The NCAA imprimatur would bestow credibility on a process that has seemed haphazard from the start, but the NCAA figures to have no part of what will surely be the biggest procedural decision ever made regarding big-time football. According to someone deeply involved in the playoff formulation, the NCAA’s stance is: “We’re here if you need us.”

I’m thinking the NCAA is needed. The Big Six conferences surely don’t want the NCAA involved — the big conferences didn’t get to be big by deferring to other bodies — but these negotiations already reek of rampant self-interest. It would be nice if some above-the-fray entity could swoop down and cut through the clutter, nicer still if that entity actually knows what it is to run a tournament.

By Mark Bradley

80 comments Add your comment

gt bs 04

June 15th, 2012
3:07 pm

Herschel Talker

June 15th, 2012
3:08 pm





June 15th, 2012
3:23 pm

NCAA football playoff format I came up with:
8 team conference champs + 2
use the current bowls and rotate through the bowls each year as to who get #1 & #2
example yr 1:
week between Christmas & New Years
Rose – 1vs8
Fiesta – 2vs7
Outback – 3 vs 6
Chick-fa-la – 4 vs 5

Weekend after New Years
Orange – highest rank vs lowest rank
Sugar – Middle rank vs middle rank
Week after last game:
Championship Game in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium

Sage of Bluesland

June 15th, 2012
3:23 pm

As Mark Bradley continues to bluster, my question is where is Jeff Schultz?

It’s so much better to read items of substance as opposed to sell-out…


June 15th, 2012
3:30 pm

The NCAA can’t even fairly enforce the rules and squarely dole out punishments, and you want them to handle a football playoff? Be just as well to turn it over to government control.

Auburn Grad

June 15th, 2012
3:33 pm

When does the SEC-Big12 Bowl start? It’d probably be bigger than the BCS Championship if the 2 conferences would just declare the champions would meet and the other bowls could take what’s left.

Old Dawg

June 15th, 2012
3:33 pm

16-team playoff or no playoff at all. They’re so many bowls that stink on quality and attendance, making the current system irrelevant.

You could incorporate some of the current bowls into the playoffs and let the teams that don’t qualify play in the lesser bowls, much like the NIT.

How easy can it be?

Mark Bradley

June 15th, 2012
3:36 pm

Kudos, gt bs 04.


June 15th, 2012
3:38 pm

If the conference commissioners butcher this opportunity, and it looks like they will, then the resulting system will be worse then what we have now and the popularity of college football will begin to decline. The longer the big teams in the big conferences try to rig the system in their favor, the closer they will get to ruining everything.

Tide Rising

June 15th, 2012
3:45 pm

Just keep the BCS system. It has largely worked in the past except for occasional years like 04 and last year where a 3rd team has a legitimate beef for being left out of the big party. And every once in awhile there is a 4th team that has a legit beef but there has never been a team that finished 5th or higher that had a legitimate complaint about being left out of the championship picture. And besides you have to have a cutoff somewhere. Just go with the bcs formula and from there the argument will only be about who is the 4th best team in the country. Whoever finishes 5th usually doesn’t have much of an argument relative to the other teams ahead of them anyway- especially the teams ranked 1-3 since there is usually clear separation between the top 2 or 3 teams and everyone else.


June 15th, 2012
4:00 pm

The NCAA has about as much authority in Div 1 football as NATO. The NCAA gave up their authority when the networks took over. TV now controls college football. The NCAA is merely the police force.
Henceforth the NCAA will be told what is going to happen.


June 15th, 2012
4:00 pm

Just keep the BCS system. It has largely worked in the past

An Alabama fan that thinks the BCS works great. Well I am shocked.

Bright Idea

June 15th, 2012
4:17 pm

As long as the fix is in to protect the bowl system there will never be a legitimate championship. You can’t have both regardless of who is in charge.

Beast from the East

June 15th, 2012
4:19 pm

I’d like to have a selection committee similar to hoops. They always do a solid job and definitely do their homework. The NCAA will not step in. The presidents won’t allow it because they don’t want the NCAA taking any of their money from the bowls.

markie mark

June 15th, 2012
4:26 pm

herschel, for christ sakes, we got it, we got, WE GOT IT. Now give it a damn rest……….

Judge Smails

June 15th, 2012
4:26 pm

@ J-Ray – I like your idea but the powers that be will NEVER adopt such a program…It makes too much sense!


June 15th, 2012
4:29 pm

J-Ray has the only way that would make it work. I have been advocating just such a scenario for a while. Make the bowls work WITH the playoff system. Those bowls not hosting the Champ. game would be more meaningful. The lower tier bowls would have their lower ranked teams. For the life of me I cannot imagine how someone could argue against it. It serves both the fans (true champion) and the bowls (money). Can you imagine the amount of $$ that would be generated in each game of the playoff? It would make the Super Bowl look almost trivial!

Delbert D.

June 15th, 2012
4:53 pm

Whoever has the biggest wad will decide.


June 15th, 2012
6:11 pm

It will never be fair, it will never be without self interested parties, but by God, for what it’s worth, we will have a playoff.

Paul in NH

June 15th, 2012
6:18 pm

Mark – Excellent column defining all the issues and problems. It’s the solution that’s difficult.

Boobie Bowden

June 15th, 2012
6:18 pm

the NCAA is too busy conducting biased investigations and handing out penalties without regard to fairness or reality.


June 15th, 2012
7:03 pm

Seriously? They are counting the money!


June 15th, 2012
7:18 pm

Funny how so many fans from a state that has NO REAL SPORTS call for the BCS to stay in place! Wheres your real sport at Alabama? MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA? No, no, no… your only sport is one in which the champion is “voted on”. What other “sports” do this? Lets think… ok heres a few. bodybuilding competitions, horse shows, dog shows. Congrats Auburn/ Bama fans, your only sport has the same validity as a dog show. Therefore your opinon dosent count! Give me playoffs! And Confrence champs only is a horrible idea. And i say that as a GT fan..


June 15th, 2012
7:42 pm

seems to me that the money disparity has driven a wedge in Div 1. Truth is only about 15-20 teams across the country really drive the revenue for the networks and the conferences, and since those entities have a product to sell, they are going to cater that product to the teams and fans that pay the bills. Fairness has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
I suspect within two years SEC, Bing10, Pac 10, Bing12 will end up 16-team “super-conferences” allowed to place teams in a 4 team playoff. 2 or 3 of those teams will come from the SEC every year. ACC and BigEast will join the other 5 middies, and maybe they can hash out their own playoff (which will generate less than half the revenue of the other playoff).
Then Div 2 below that.
The only way to open up a playoff to all Div 1 schools is an 8-team playoff in which the max # of schools any one conference can place is capped at 3. Then inevitably there’s a better chance of representation from all 6 of the big conferences, and the standout teams from the remaining 5. But alas, that’s not likely to happen. And once you are in, it’s yours to win and reap the benefits. With a 4-team playoff, it will only further concentrate the revenue to the big dogs.
All this transformation over money in a sport that still wont play the players a modest stipend, but will pay the coaches millions.

Delbert D.

June 15th, 2012
8:34 pm

Slive, if nothing else, is a darned good poker player. As his hole card play, has already set up a special defacto semifinal game for SEC vs. Big 12. Just like Big Ten vs. PAC-12 has in the Rose Bowl. Who needs those other conferences? Who needs the BCS? A four-way split of a mountain of cash for those four conferences, the media rights selling now to the highest bidder.


June 15th, 2012
8:39 pm

Is there a more wretched hive of scum and villainy then the NCAA, where they make money off the backs of poor college kids they treat like slaves?

Fan of the Game

June 15th, 2012
8:59 pm

ESPN runs college football. The NCAA has nothing to do with it.

Fan of the Game

June 15th, 2012
9:02 pm

I am sick and tired of hearing these poor college kids. They need to count their blessings and appreciate the opportunities they have. I don’t see many running and going back home. They have the best clothes, ipods, cell phones and yes automobiles. College athletes have it damn good. If any of them are poor it is the college baseball kids. 11 and 1/2 scholarships and most are payng their own way.

Captain Obvious

June 16th, 2012
1:39 am

It isnt that complicated: follownthe money. The NCAA is not part of this discussion because those that matter do not want them there. The NCAA will not be given control of that kind of money because the real earners in the CF world do not trust the NCAA with any more power than they already have and are understandably unwilling to share the fruits of their work and investments with the sweaty masses of inconsequential programs who, by virtue of their numbers, would love to get a slice of a pie they had no hand in making. The NCAA is a capricious and arbitrary organization which selectively enforces its own rules, does not follow their own rules and basically should not be given control over any kind of major college football championship as a result. It’s about the money, same as always, and in this case, those who oppose the NCAA running a championship are right and those who advocate for it are dead wrong.

And besides, only idiots truly advocate for a large scale playoff at this level. They play too many games already, and you have genius media hacks who apparently think adding a few more has no consequence. This isn’t your fathers football and it sure isn’t Division Two.


June 16th, 2012
7:26 am

Mark- Good word, bloviating! I had to look that up. Here’s what I found.

bloviating- Verb: Talking at length, esp. in an inflated or empty way.

Interestingly, they left out the “n” after the “esp”.


June 16th, 2012
7:31 am








D man

June 16th, 2012
7:50 am

The BCS is too bias because several of the polls that make up part of the rankings are from up North where they vote Ohio state and Michigan in the top 3 every year no matter what there record is and it screws up the overall system. The only way to have a true champion is to have a playoff system so the bias will be reduced. I think we need a 16 team playoff system. Do away with 1 regular season game, take the conf champ from the big 6 conferences and the top 10 teams in the AP and Coaches rankings. Then we have a 3 round playoff and a true national champion.

The BCS got it right the last 6 years despite the bias. :)

D man

June 16th, 2012
7:52 am

goal – I like your suggestion too…

D man

June 16th, 2012
7:53 am

gbal not goal

George P Burdell

June 16th, 2012
7:55 am

Where’s the NCAA?
Standing by the wall, because it is the smart thing to do.
No one is going to be satisfied by a selection process that has only four winners.
The answer: let Mark Bradley pick them.
At least one bloviating writer will be satisfied.


June 16th, 2012
8:14 am


Aside from the solid research, abundant content, and interesting question, I’d like to simply congratulate you on your vocabulary, diction and even your syntax.

I know we’ve entered the world of blog and text grammar degeneration, but count me as one who still enjoys and appreciates the extra effort at journalistic pride and professionalism.

Good job!



June 16th, 2012
8:17 am

Regarding the issue…

Everyone knows this is just a precursor to at least an 8 team playoff…we are talking just one more weekend between August and January to add the one additional game for 8 team format.

Pick the 6 large conference champions and two at-large and be done with this nonsense…

Homepage | MrSEC

June 16th, 2012
9:04 am

[...] 10. Mark Bradley: “The governing body of intercollegiate sports runs the playoff for every intercollegiate sport at every level — except for big-time football…” [...]


June 16th, 2012
9:13 am

So you want the NCAA involved, Mark? The same NCAA that punishes a player for selling his possession (jersey) by suspending him for 4 games – immediately, then allows several players who have gotten freebies (tatts) to stretch the beginning of their suspension for some 7 months, allowing them to compete in a bowl game.

The same NCAA who investigated for years a scandal at USC involving a Heisman winning player (Bush) who had taken improper benefits, yet barely attempted to scratch the surface of a nearly identical case in the SEC (Newton).

The same NCAA that dropped the hammer on Ga Tech for not “cooperating” with investigators, then handing down a lessor sentence to a program that had committed major infraction, LSU.

The same NCAA who handled its members TV contracts so poorly, we never got to see our favorite teams – but got to see at least one Notre Dame, USC or Big Ten game every Saturday, until UGA and Oklahoma had the guts to sue the NCAA over TV rights, which caused basically unlimited viewing of ALL teams and conferences.

I could go on and on, but the NCAA handles its business about as fairly and impartialy as the IRS.

Keep the NCAA OUT of the football playoff.


June 16th, 2012
9:26 am

It is so easy.

8 team playoff

use 4 of the current BCS bowls for 1st round

Each of the 6 super conferences required to have a Championship game

6 super conference champions are automatically in

2 get in based on BCS ranking……….BCS slightly improved by excluding any & all wins against teams ranked outside of the Top 100!


June 16th, 2012
9:41 am

People who think that any sport is above proving a winner on the field and on the field alone by playing against all comers is someone who needs to get a life. And is why Div 1 college football is not sport….it’s a gang, a culture, a large sect of folks primarily concerned with things other than pure football.


June 16th, 2012
9:48 am

The simplest way would be a 8 team playoff (only one more game).
Winner of each conference (6 teams) and the 2 highest ranked at large teams.

Now every body is happy and we improve our chances of a real champion.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 16th, 2012
10:00 am

They are going to screw up college football so much nobody will be watching the Championship. Playing 16 games will FORCE athletes to be paid. These STUDENT athletes will be playing an NFL schedule with the physical risks for no compensation. With the Concussion Issue a longer season is dangerous.
8 conferences (some FCS teams to be added to get 128 teams)
16 team Conferences
9 conference games(OOC games wouldn’t matter so playing a BIG Time OOC is OK)
8 conference Champs in the Playoff.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 16th, 2012
10:05 am

yo……….you can’t do MATH.
An 8 team playoff will add 2 more games.
12 regular season games
1 championship game
1 bowl game
14 total games now

12 regular season games
1 championship game
3 playoff games(if 8 team playoff)
16 Total games

where's the ncaa?

June 16th, 2012
10:11 am

sitting this one out. folks, the ncaa is a house of cards and they are scared to death of losing the big money schools….for those of you who can read, I suggest you read the article below. WARNING: IT CONTAINS A LOT OF BIG WORDS AND IS MORE THAN 3 PARAGRAPHS…


June 16th, 2012
11:10 am

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 16th, 2012
11:43 am

HT…….NICE LINK but I still say 17 games are TOO MANY.
We are talking STUDENTS first.
If this were to happen the APR and the # of classes Football players have to take has to drop.
Players will need to be PAID Something. They are running the risk of career ending injuries and no healthcare after playing College Football.


June 16th, 2012
12:34 pm

This was one boring article. Who cares who runs it? Just do it.


June 16th, 2012
1:24 pm


I think the fans spoke during last years championship when hardly anyone watched it. Nobody wants to watch rematches in a 2 or 4 team playoff structure. It makes the regular season and conference championships completely meaningless. Also gbal, I am still waiting for an objective way to pick the best 4 teams. Coaches and writers voting surely isnt the solution.


June 16th, 2012
1:50 pm

Fuggetabout the playoff and just keep it the top two teams. Otherwise this thing is only gonna get worse. what’s next 8, 16, 32, 68 teams?! Why boother having a season. Just have a committee seed EVERY school’s season schedule and see ya with the last two standing around January 1st.