BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The fans, finally, got what they begged for.
Now begins the next step of the process, ensuring the right four teams are participating each year for a national championship.
Putting smiles on the faces of everybody from Les Miles to Georgia fans in SEC country is the new “College Football Playoff” decision to abolish the BCS’s previous one-team-per-conference stipulation.
In other words, if, say, Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M are the country’s best four teams in 2014? Then it’ll be an all-SEC festival in the semifinals.
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“It was an important piece. There is no limit,” said SEC commissioner Mike Slive, beaming over the development when speaking to reporters Monday at an Associated Press Sports Editors conference at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, across the street from SEC headquarters.
“We're looking for the best teams to play in the playoff. We didn't want to create artificial limits. That was basically an artificial limit in the old system.”
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington was identified last Wednesday as the site of the first national championship on Jan. 12, 2015 as part of a four-team playoff – the first time in 37 years the title game takes place in North Texas.
There are still semantics to sort out for the SEC, such as continuing a relationship with the Sugar Bowl and replacing the Cotton and Chick-Fil-A Bowls with other league-affiliated postseason bowls when those particular games are occupied by national semifinals.
Another major step, nationally, is creating the selection committee.
“Clearly what you want: we want a committee that has football expertise, and we need to find the right people,” said Slive, who met last week with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock and other officials in Pasadena.
“We want integrity, and we want transparency, because this is our opportunity to make sure that not only are we comfortable but you're (the media) comfortable and all the fans are comfortable that this process is the way it should be. It's not going to be easy.”
Slive said the scope would include and not necessarily be limited to former players, coaches, officials, media and other key individuals.
The league boss for the past 11 years, Slive is a former chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball selection group for March Madness, which he hopes can be emulated by the football committee in the future – especially when impartiality is considered.
“When you come into the committee as a member of the basketball committee, the concept is you leave your hat at the door,” Slive said. “If you come in and you're there to represent football and what's in the best interest of football and the playoffs, there’s a foundational culture from which we can work.
“Now we have to adjust it to football and the fact that we're not picking 68 teams – we're picking four.”
Slive estimates the football committee will contain “somewhere between 14 and 20” members, as compared to 10 for basketball.
Because hidden ballots on coaches’ polls have been a sticking point in the past, open voting is something College Football Playoff organizers are pursuing.
“I don't want to speak for the committee because it doesn't exist yet. They'll have to make some of their own rules, but the concept of transparency is a major concept,” Slive said. “At the same time you have a lot of data, what we call the metrics: the kind of data you can put together whether it's the RPI or whatever.
“I would expect with this committee that we would develop metrics and be able to use whatever they deem appropriate in coming to the conclusion as to what four teams ought to be in the playoffs.”