Gene Smith Weighs in on College Football Playoff
By Tony Gerdeman
A little over a week after the Big Ten came out proclaiming their desire for the status quo, Gene Smith did the same. Appearing on SiriusXM's "College Football Playbook" last week, Smith stated that he was in line with the Big Ten's thoughts on the future of college football's postseason, and just as resigned to the fact that those desires didn't matter.
"We've always presented our view on to our commissioner and he's carrying the water for us and the rest of our conference," he said. "We've been included in all of the discussions that they've had this far. We would prefer very much to stay status quo, but that's not going to happen."
With the understanding that a playoff is coming and the status quo is dead, Ohio State's attentions then turned to their playoff preferences. Smith didn't sugarcoat his own inclinations, nor the possibility of those inclinations coming to fruition.
"We know it's going to be a playoff, probably a one-through-four model, and our preference would be to host the semis on campus sites, but we don't think we can get enough votes for that, so we compromised our position and we're very supportive of a one-through-four, playing the semis in the bowl system and playing the national championship game at a neutral site."
When it comes to what type of playoff there will be, there has been nearly universal backing of a four-team playoff from those who would make such a decision. However, there is still the small matter of how those teams will be chosen.
There are essentially two camps—those who think it should simply be the top four teams in whatever ranking is chosen, and those who think there should be special consideration for conference champions.
The Big Ten is firmly in the conference champions camp, while the SEC is firmly not. But even the Big Ten isn't asking for only conference champs to be included, because they understand that there is the possibility of having other deserving teams, such as those in their own conference.
"We would like to see some consideration given to conference champions if the conference champions are ranked in the top six or top eight, or however it ends up," he said. "We would like to see some consideration given to that because we believe that, particularly in the FBS conferences, your upper tier conferences, if you go through your conference and win that gauntlet, there ought to be considerations.
"But there ought to be some leeway, some flexibility for a team that may not necessarily win their conference, but is clearly a team that maybe should be in the mix. So we want our cake and eat it too, in that regards."
One area where Smith doesn't seem interested in compromising is who will be choosing the participants.
"We do believe that there should be a human element in determining who the top four teams will be," he said, echoing the Big Ten's own preferences for some type of a selection committee from earlier in the month.
Another area where Smith has no desire to budge is on the number of playoff teams. There will certainly be unhappy teams who find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff cusp, but for Smith, that's just the way it has to be.
"Once you begin to take the playoff format and make it larger, you're going to begin to deteriorate the regular season, and you're going to put too much pressure on the individual student athletes.
"This is not division two, it's not I-AA, this is hard-hitting big-time football at the collegiate level. We're not a pro sport. If we keep going to a playoff that's larger than four, we're going to hurt the regular season and probably put our kids at risk."
While college football administrators have fought like gypsies at a swap meet to keep the bowl system intact, the larger priority is protecting the regular season and keeping it the most important regular season in sports.
The fear is that opening up a playoff to more than four teams would lessen the importance of every big game, and in turn, lessen the importance of every single Saturday. This is something that college football cannot have, and it's something that the BCS has kept sacred since its inception according to Smith.
"People forget, the BCS has its flaws, but the reality is that the regular season is more exciting than it's ever been. And a part of that is attributable to the BCS—not all of it, but a part of it."
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