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Cheer for Sooners, but not for their next conference to become even more powerful
The SEC wants to rethink the 12-team College Football Playoff. Don't let it.
Here’s a question:
Who is Greg Sankey, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, which Oklahoma will call home this time next year.
The Machiavelli of college football?
A sensible guy, saying, “Hey, things have changed, maybe we should look at this again?”
Or one simply doing the bidding of his bosses, who see a still bigger pot of gold at the end of the SEC rainbow?
Here’s another question:
Does it matter?
It may not, for each possibility points toward the same thing and that’s Sankey’s conference getting the College Football Playoff pointing even more in its favor.
As you likely know, this is the final season of the four-team College Football Playoff.
Next season it will be 12 and, barring being monkeyed with, here’s how those teams will be selected.
The CFP committee’s six highest-ranked conference champions will receive automatic bids. The next six highest-ranked teams, conference champions or not, will receive at-large berths into the bracket. The top-four highest ranked conference champions receive byes. The rest of the field will be bracketed according to their committee ranking.
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It seemed pretty great when conceived.
Because there are five Power Five conferences — duh! — it meant each one’s champion was virtually guaranteed a bid and, most likely, a bye.
It also meant at least one conference champion from Conference USA, the Mountain West, American, Sun Belt or Mid-American would receive a bid, too.
Good chance the remaining bids would go to Power Five squads, but not necessarily, because what happens if unbeaten Boise State were to lose to two-loss San Diego State in the Mountain West championship?
Both might have to go.
Anyway, that’s the plan.
However, when agreed upon, the Pac-12 was still a real conference and next season it won’t be.
It will either be gone, it’s last four remaining schools — Cal, Stanford, Washington State, Oregon State — swallowed up by major or non-major conferences, or it will add 6-to-10 schools, stay in business, but cease being a major conference.
This past week, Sankey could not leave well-enough alone.
“We do have changed circumstances,” he said on ESPN's Paul Finebaum Show five days ago. “Right now, we still have 10 FBS conferences, but there’s obviously a great question about whether that will remain. And, yeah, that can create the thought in my mind and in others’ about some level of adjustment being made.”
It’s hard to read that any way but one:
The SEC wants every at-large berth it can nab, even if it’s 8-4 (4-4) Mississippi getting the nod over two-loss Tulane, Troy or UTSA, conference champions all.
The Big 10 probably feels the same way:
Why just send Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State to the playoff when you can make cases for Maryland, Purdue, Illinois and Iowa, too?
Indeed, when somebody with Sankey’s clout and position atop the conference mountaintop speaks up like that, it’s hard not to believe that’s where we're headed no matter how terrible an idea it so clearly is.
Because you know what we really don’t need in the NCAA basketball tourney?
Seventh- or eighth-in-conference underachievers getting bids in front of potential Cinderellas.
So why head that direction in college football’s tournament?
Sankey, and most everybody else when they really think about it, laments the demise of West Coast power-conference football.
Well, keeping the playoff as is props it up, holding two automatic bids that might be claimed by the American Conference, Mountain West or a watered down Pac-12.
You know how Nick Saban goes on about his concern for programs that don’t have the resources Alabama and other gridiron behemoths have?
Well, guaranteeing at least two spots for non-power-conferences would be a lifeline to the majority of FBS conferences and schools living on the other side of the tracks.
It keeps them in the conversation, offers reason to believe and gives prospects who could go elsewhere reason to still choose them.
Search your memory banks.
Wouldn’t you have loved to have watched Randy Moss lead Marshall into a playoff; Ben Roethlisberger lead Miami of Ohio into one; even Terry Bradshaw lead Louisiana Tech?
The Sooners are on their way there, yes, but do you really want cheer on the entire SEC, the one with all the money, power and influence?
Sankey can sit there and play the role of the wise man who kept his conference flourishing amidst so much realignment. Or, more accurately, as the man who’s conference tore everything up in the first place by relieving OU and Texas of all their history, spinning the horrendous merry-go-round we’ve all been watching.
Root for him?