One of the immediate lessons coming out of the 2011 college football season is that a playoff is coming to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Even the traditionally anti-playoff Big Ten has leaked a plus one plan, though it's more to make the conference look like its not standing in the way of progress than anything. The wheels are turning and momentum is gaining.
It's kind of odd then to see Mike Slive of all people, who proposed a plus one back in 2008, trying to pump the brakes on the playoff speculation:
"Really a lot of this discussion is premature, and I want to respect the process that we're in," Slive told members of the Nashville Sports Council during a question-and-answer session. "We've had four-year formats since we started. We've done it on the basis of four years, so each four-year period you have to sit down and decide what format is going to be going forward. So we have decided to sit down and talk about this from every different side"...
"What would [a possible playoff format] look like and whether it's actually going to happen, all of that is premature," Slive said. "I think we need the time to sit down and analyze it. We need time to take ideas back to our respective conferences and ... a decision to be made sometime later this year as we begin to talk about the ... next format."
Given that Slive is nothing if not a lawyer, it's actually not so strange at all when you think about it. There is a negotiating process, and by God, they're going to do some negotiating. Calm down people, nothing to see here just yet.
Slive has also been an under-promise/over-deliver kind of commissioner, preferring to handle things in the background before making any public statements. Think about how conference expansion went. Every statement from the SEC attempted to pour cold water on the fires of speculation right up until the announcements and helmet-trading ceremonies were made. Plus, his policies for the league about coaches and schools handling their grievances in private first rather than in public (shout out, Lane Kiffin!) also reflect that instinct of his.
Slive and the SEC are certainly not going to be standing in the way of a college football playoff. I think the commissioner just doesn't want to get people's hopes up that a format will be announced later this spring. The current BCS contract runs for another two seasons, and it may take most of that time to hammer out details among the various conferences and their disparate desires.