published Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

SEC backs four-team playoffs

In a unified stance that was anything but unexpected, Southeastern Conference football coaches on Tuesday expressed their desire for a four-team national playoff to consist of the four highest-ranked teams.

That came as the league opened its spring meetings in Destin, Fla.

The SEC is riding an unprecedented wave of success in the sport with six consecutive national championships, and the league this past season became the first to have two participants -- LSU and Alabama -- in the BCS title game. There also have been two SEC teams in BCS bowls each of the past six seasons, with league members winning 10 of those 12 games.

"If you want to just to take the top four teams in the BCS instead of the top two, that's one way of doing it that's already in place," Georgia's Mark Richt told reporters at the meetings. "You wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany suggested earlier this spring that only conference champions should be included in the playoff, though his league came out of its spring meetings leaning toward a proposal with three conference champions and an at-large selection. The SEC is expected to adopt its proposal by Friday.

Conference commissioners are scheduled to reconvene late next month to develop the playoff system that university presidents can approve by July 4.

"I think it needs to be the four best teams in the country," Florida's Will Muschamp said. "I don't think it needs to be just the conference champions, because in our league we might have four of the best teams in the country."

Delany admitted his opposition to allowing a team that doesn't win its division -- which Alabama didn't last year -- into a playoff, adding that he didn't have "a lot of regard for that team." Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban did not mention Delany by name Tuesday but had pointed remarks in an interview on

"It's self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what is best for college football who would want to do that," Saban said.

Tuesday's playoff talk overshadowed South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's proposal that only division games should count when determining the SEC championship participants. LSU's Les Miles again offered his support to weighing division games differently from cross-divisional matchups, but nobody else seems to be on board.

"I think every man has a right to his own opinion," Richt said. "If it gets changed, then good for him, I guess, this year. I don't know if he would feel that way every year.

"This year he would probably feel good about it, but I don't think it's going to change."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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