Home Sports SEC-only playoff is a serious threat to college football | Commentary

SEC-only playoff is a serious threat to college football | Commentary

by staff

There are many important business items on the agenda for Commissioner Greg Sankey, conference coaches, athletic directors and Paul Finebaum to discuss at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings, which started Tuesday in a swanky hotel on the sugary white beaches of Destin in Florida’s Panhandle.

Such as:


• Counting their money.

• Having Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher settle their differences like true southern gentlemen — with a Civil War reenactment of the Battle at Chancellorsville. (Jimbo to Sankey: “Commissioner, can I be Robert E. Lee this time? He always gets to be Robert E. Lee!”)


• Discussing the SEC’s future scheduling model once Texas and Oklahoma join the league in the next couple of years.

• Trying to come to some common sense solutions on how to regulate the transfer portal and Name, Image and Likeness.

• Counting more of their money.

• And the most important piece of business of all: Setting the wheels in motion so that the SEC can officially become the only conference in college football that matters.

Of course, we know the SEC is already unofficially the only conference in college football that matters, but University of Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said something last week in a story published by Pete Thamel, ESPN’s respected college football insider, that raised eyebrows throughout intercollegiate athletics.

“We have an incredibly strong league, one that will be even stronger once Oklahoma and Texas join,” Stricklin told Thamel. “The focus should be on how we as a league use that strength to further position the SEC as we face new realities. Commissioner Sankey has encouraged our athletic directors to think creatively, and an SEC-only playoff is a different idea that we should absolutely consider an option.”

Added Sankey: “As we think as a conference. … it’s vitally important we think about the range of possibilities.”

You’re probably thinking to yourself: “An SEC-only playoff? That’s insanity! That’s the height of SEC arrogance! A playoff would never work without Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, USC, Penn State, Oregon, etc.”


Pardon my French, but … Au contraire mon frère.

A potential eight-team, SEC-only playoff wouldn’t be as appealing, but it would certainly work and we’d watch it and here’s the best part of all: The SEC gets to keep all the money for itself.

“You have to have SEC involvement for something to be legitimate,” Stricklin told reporters from the Orlando Sentinel and Gainesville Sun a few days ago. “The SEC has taken up a majority or certainly it’s taken up more playoff spots than any other conference. We’ve proven you could have a national championship with two SEC teams. Our league is strong and my guess is it is getting stronger. In a perfect world, I think it [a playoff] would be a national approach, but there’s got to be agreement and everyone has to be on the same page. I don’t think we should hold our league back in the name of a national approach, if a national approach is not achievable.”

Allow me to translate what Stricklin is saying:

“Memo to the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12: You need the SEC more than the SEC needs you. You either get on board the expanded playoff train or you’re going get flattened by SEC’s unstoppable locomotive.”

It’s no secret that Sankey, the godfather of college football, is still livid about the way College Football Playoff expansion talks collapsed a few months ago after he and others spent two years working on a carefully crafted plan for a 12-team playoff.


The plan was quashed by conference commissioners from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC who got their feelings hurt when the SEC pulled off a monumental coup last summer by adding Texas and Oklahoma into its already formidable lineup of teams. Of course, all three of those other leagues would have added Texas and Oklahoma, too, if only given the opportunity, but they threw a hissy fit because Sankey and the SEC actually pulled it off. In response to the SEC’s expansion, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC formed “The Alliance” and spitefully trashed the 12-team playoff plan Sankey worked so hard to construct.

So now Sankey and Stricklin are at least floating the idea of turning the Power 5 into the SEC and its four little bubbas. Just the mere mention of the SEC exploring the idea of its own playoff is just another way for league officials to flex their muscles and tell the rest of college football that SEC stands for “Superior in Everything Conference.”

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The SEC has won 12 of the last 16 national championships with five programs (Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and LSU) winning titles during that span. The other four Power 5 leagues have had three programs (Clemson, FSU and Ohio State) win the remaining four national titles.

In addition, the SEC has the most passionate fans (the largest average attendance in college football for 23 straight years), the best players (the most overall NFL Draft picks for 16 straight years) and the most money (10 of the 20 biggest revenue-producers in college athletics come from the SEC).

Obviously, for the overall health of college football, we would all love to see an all-inclusive, all-encompassing expanded college football playoff.

However, if the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 are going to continue to whine and pout and block playoff expansion then they need to face the consequences and recognize the reality.


And the reality is this:

An eight-team playoff with only SEC teams is a lot more appealing than a four-team playoff without any SEC teams.

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and HD 101.1-2

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