BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Mike Slive wants knowledgeable football people choosing who plays for the national championship.
Whatever the selection committee’s makeup, the Southeastern Conference commissioner is aiming for a process the fans will buy into when the new system takes effect in two seasons.
“We want football expertise,” Slive said on Monday. “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 isn’t predicting when that final, big piece of the playoff puzzle will be put in place but is hoping it will be in the next several months.
Speaking at The Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast regional meeting across from the SEC’s downtown headquarters, Slive spoke on the playoff system and the potentially stabilized conference alignment among other issues.
The Atlantic Coast Conference last week joined the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 when its members agreed to a grant of rights handing over their television rights to the league. The legally binding deal runs through 2027 and makes conference-jumping nearly impossible. Slive and ESPN are expected to announce a new SEC Network on Thursday in Atlanta — minus the grant of rights.
“Looking at it from the outside looking in, it looks like it may create some stability,” Slive said. “And I do think that at this stage of where we are, stability will be constructive, so we can move ahead in some other ways.”
As for the playoffs, the commissioners decided last week that Cowboys Stadium will host the first championship game in the new postseason system. The Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Chick-fil-A bowls joined the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls in the semifinal rotation.
The next hurdle is settling on a committee that Slive expects to include from 14 to 20 members, plus the criteria for picking the four semifinal teams.
Slive has some experience on selection committees since he is a former chair of the panel that picks the NCAA men’s basketball tournament field.
“You’re there to represent football and what’s in the best interest of football, what’s in the best interest of the playoffs,” Slive said. “There’s a foundational culture from which we can work. Now we need to adjust it to football and the fact that we’re not picking 68 teams, we’re picking four.”
For the conference that has claimed the past seven BCS titles, making sure the teams weren’t restricted to conference champions was a big factor. It helped spark a push for change when Alabama and LSU met in the championship game two years ago in an SEC Western Division rematch.
If two SEC teams are deemed among the top four in the new system, both will get their shot.
“It was an important piece,” Slive said. “It took us about a year to put all this together, and one of the foundational pieces of it was that there wouldn’t be a limit. We’re looking for the best teams to play in the playoff. We didn’t want to create artificial limit. That was basically an artificial limit in the old system.”
Other issues Slive addressed included:
“He’s got a very difficult job to do,” Slive said. “He’s been confronted with some very significant issues. Many of them don’t reflect well on the NCAA. Notwithstanding the fact that our athletic directors and presidents and chancellors are very well tuned in to the national issues, there are people who don’t feel that way, and I think it’s important that he begin to address those issues.”
Outgoing North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp had said the oversight method should be changed to give athletic directors more control and that university presidents often aren’t equipped to run major college sports programs.
He was asked if the league would use the Big Ten Network as a model.
“I think we can, but I also think that we have the most passionate, loyal fan base of any conference in the country. We’re excited, we believe that we have a very significant opportunity to be successful beyond what’s happened so far.
“No school is on an island when it comes to scheduling basketball,” he said.
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