Florida's President Offers Then Takes-Back His Football Playoff Proposal At SEC Meetings In Florida

Florida President Bernie Machen began planning a college football playoff after the Gators looked like they'd miss out on the title game last December.

On Friday, he got a chance to pitch his idea to other decision-makers.

Machen proposed his playoff plan on the final day of the Southeastern Conference's annual spring meetings, telling fellow school presidents and chancellors that the current Bowl Championship Series is simply leaving too much money on the table.

"Everybody wants to talk about it. I want to talk about it," Machen said. "To give me time on the agenda is an encouraging sign. I've done my homework, and we're just going to talk about it. We've never sat down and had a detailed (meeting to ask), 'What do you like about the BCS? What would you like about a playoff?'"

Machen's plan is complex, and it does not include details like how many teams would be involved in the playoff or when and where games would be played.

The basis of his proposal is to form a limited liability corporation that, much like the BCS, would work outside the framework of the NCAA. He wants to keep the current bowl structure intact and then distribute revenue to all 119 Division I-A schools instead of keeping most of the money for the schools in the six BCS conferences.

Machen believes the market would determine the playoff system, whether it be a four-team, eight-team, 16-team or "plus-one" format.

"There are no specifics," Machen said. "The plan will evolve if people want to do it, based upon the market and the restrictions people put on it."

The Pac-10 and the Big Ten have been strongly opposed to a playoff, wanting to stick closely to the Rose Bowl tradition, and coaches across the country said they would be hesitant to back a plan that might devalue the bowl system.

But Machen believes that could change if the powerful SEC leads the charge for a playoff.

"We're one of the -- some would say the -- biggest player in college football, and if we made a move in that direction I think it would be a significant step that the others would have to pay attention to," Machen said.

So could the Pac-10 and Big Ten be swayed?

"At this point, it's a little early to figure who's in and who's out," Machen said. "Nobody's in because we don't have anything yet. If there's a playoff, I hope everybody would be in on it."

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, also the BCS coordinator, recently asked the league's college leaders to start thinking about the future of the BCS. If they talk about it now and continue their discussions every time they meet over the next 18 months, Slive believes they could have a firm plan in place when it's time to renegotiate the next BCS contract. The current deal expires after the 2009 season.

Slive acknowledged that the BCS is far from perfect.

"There's an annual nervousness that exists throughout the fall," Slive said. "Weekend to weekend, there's a different set of issues that arise. The last couple of years it's obviously been successful and had a lack of relative controversy. Hopefully it will work out in the future."

Slive also cautioned about trying to overhaul a system that has been good for the sport.

"Television ratings are up, attendance is up, interest is up every single weekend," he said. "You can give the BCS some credit for the continued popularity of college football. You can be a critic of it, but even the most severe critic has to recognize that the current postseason format has continually reinforced the popularity of college football."

There are sure to be critics of Machen's plan, and it was unclear whether even the SEC would support it.

Vanderbilt chancellor Gordon Gee said there was little Machen could do to change his mind.

"In the spirit of academic vitality, one always listens to a proposal before you vote against it," Gee said. "I've heard every variation from every possible person in America. I get e-mails all the time lobbying me from committed fans that have brilliant ideas. I'm not sure any variation on that would be anything fairly new."

Gee, like many of his colleagues, believes adding more games while trying to maximize revenue would send the wrong message to universities and student-athletes.

"We've been consistent all along that we're trying to bring some semblance of integrity and some semblance of balance back into what we're doing, and this moves in exactly the wrong direction," Gee said. "This is a slippery slope toward us finally just throwing in the towel and saying what we're about is fielding football teams and we have a university on the side, and I'm just not in favor of that."

Slive said he didn't expect school presidents and chancellors to make a decision Friday regarding Machen's proposal. But he thought it was a good starting point for future discussions.

"We still have another year or so to think about it," Slive said. "The question is: How do we preserve everything we have and at the same time, if there's something that's a little bit better, then maybe we ought to look at that?"

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Than Later In The Day...

Florida president Bernie Machen backed off his playoff football proposal after conferring with colleagues at the Southeastern Conference's spring meeting.

Machen decided it's better to work within the confines of the current Bowl Championship Series system.

"What we learned today from my colleagues is that we see the world pretty much the same way," Machen said Friday on the final day of the annual meeting. "We see the problems in the current system.

"They are persuaded, and I am now persuaded, that the best way to proceed is to try to work within the BCS structure, to make some changes to make it better. That seems to me to be a very good way to go."

The basis of his proposal was to form a limited liability corporation that, much like the BCS, would work outside the framework of the NCAA. He wanted to keep the current bowl structure intact and distribute revenue to all 119 Division I-A schools instead of keeping most of the money for the schools in the six BCS conferences.

Machen began devising a playoff plan after it appeared last December that the Gators would miss the BCS title game. His plan didn't include details of how many teams would be involved in the playoff or when and where games would be played.

"We had a full and open discussion about postseason football, ranging from a playoff to the status quo," said SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who's also the BCS coordinator. "I can assure you that the First Amendment was alive and well in the meeting. The end result of the discussion was that our presidents and chancellors are not interested in pursuing a playoff -- but they have asked me ... to take a hard look at the BCS and what improvements we think might be made over the next couple of years."

Officials from three other BCS conferences -- the Big 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East -- all agree that they should continue working within the BCS system, Slive said.

Still, he acknowledged that the BCS is far from perfect.

"We remain open-minded to find ways to work within this system to make it work in a way that might be better for many of us," Slive said. "We'll continue to do that."

The Pac-10 and the Big Ten have been strongly opposed to a playoff, wanting to stick closely to the Rose Bowl tradition. Coaches across the country said they would be hesitant to back a plan that might devalue the bowl system.

Vanderbilt chancellor Gordon Gee didn't like the message the proposal sent.

"We've been consistent all along that we're trying to bring some semblance of integrity and some semblance of balance back into what we're doing, and this moves in exactly the wrong direction," Gee said. "This is a slippery slope toward us finally just throwing in the towel and saying what we're about is fielding football teams and we have a university on the side, and I'm just not in favor of that."

Story Courtesy: CBSsportsline.com & AP Wire Reports


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