Pac-12 Conference football coaches won’t know what to think about a proposed four-team national championship playoff until they get the details.
“The questions all of us had are how are the teams going to be picked,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said on a Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday. “No one really has that answer. Until you get that answer, I reserve judgment on whether it’s good system or a bad system.”
New Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said the topic was discussed at length during Pac-12 meetings last week in Arizona. “The biggest thing is how is it going to get voted on, who’s going to make the decision on who’s 1 through 4?” he said.
The tide seems to have turned from the much-criticized Bowl Championship Series format to a playoff. A proposed four-team playoff would begin in 2014.
Until the nitty gritty is hammered out, most coaches aren’t quite sure what to think.
“There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
Tedford is among the coaches who favor an eight-team playoff over a four-team setup.
“One of the sentiments is an eight-team playoff probably gives everyone an equal chance,” he said. “I don’t know if you’re ever going to have a situation where everyone is happy.
“If we’re going to do the playoff thing, let’s do it whole-heartedly and go after it.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham agreed.
“If we’re going to go into the playoff system, let’s go full-fledged into it with eight teams,” he said. “At first glance, that would be six BCS conference champions and two at-large teams. To me, that seems like a pretty good formula.”
By going that route, Whittingham said, the subjective human element is minimized. “I want to get away from people voting to determine who’s going to have a shot, to get away from the popular vote and settle it on the field.”
Whittingham suggested that time zone differences hinder the Pac-12 because many poll voters are in bed before Pac-12 night games are complete. Arizona State coach Todd Graham confirmed that was a problem for him when he was at Tulsa and had a vote in the coaches poll.
“I had to get up the next morning before I found the outcome of a lot of the scores in the Pac-10,” Graham said.
If the format is going to involve just four teams, there seems a consensus among the Pac-12 coaches interviewed that those spots should go to confererence champions. Translation: A four-team playoff should not involve two entries from the Southeastern Conference.
The SEC has won six straight BCS national titles, and last season climaxed with a championship game matching SEC rivals Alabama and LSU.
“I would hate to see a four-team playoff and have two teams in the same conference,” ASU’s Graham said. I hope we don’t have that.”
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently told CBS Sports that conference champions ranked among the top six in the national poll would have preference, according to one model being considered. If there are not four top-six champs, a non-champion at-large team could be picked.
Pac-12 coaches worry that their nine-game conference schedule is disadvantageous in terms of maintaining an elite national ranking. Most conferences, including the SEC, play just eight league games, allowing them to hand pick another non-conference foe.
“Obviously, if you expand the number of teams, then the criteria can be a little bit different,” Kelly said. “If it’s going to be a smaller number, I think you have to do something on the field to get there.”
Asked what format he favors, Kelly joked, “The top team in the state of Oregon gets an automatic bid and then . . .”