That’s what DeLoss Dodds called college football’s unveiling of a four-team playoff that will be ushered in at the end of the 2014 regular season.
“It’s a baby step,” the Texas athletic director said Thursday, during the second day of the Big 12 meetings. “But a good step.”
It’s an apt analogy since a lot of folks — from tunnel-visioned football coaches wanting to celebrate their minor-bowl victories to anxious presidents concerned about the over-commercialization of the sport — had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new century.
The first playoff games are still 20 months away, but Dodds is already pushing for expansion. Playoff expansion, that is, in the form of an eight-team field. Not Big 12 expansion, because on that front, Dodds said, “There is no conversation, which is a good feeling.”
Oliver Luck, Dodds’ counterpart at West Virginia, concurs. Asked if he’d like to add to the league an Eastern school for travel convenience, Luck said, “Not necessarily.”
Dodds would like to see change, however, in the NCAA governing process with a greater voice for athletic directors in rules-making and more say by the large-revenue programs in areas that more specifically affect them.
“It just needs to be recalibrated,” Dodds said. “The NCAA needs to be more reactive to the world it’s in. We’ve got a structure managing thousands of schools that are not like each other. We need to federate and have common programs vote on common issues. I hope it happens down the road.”
That said, he is not promoting a mass movement away from the NCAA, just more flexibility. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke of “an apprehension” amidst the membership and “a general uneasiness” with how the NCAA is operating currently.
“The NCAA can be fixed,” Dodds said. “I’m not worried about (schools breaking away). There are just too many diverse members and interests.”
Mark Emmert thinks so as well, and the embattled NCAA president said he welcomes discussion of such changes within the framework of the association of 350-plus schools. He did acknowledge that “perhaps” a fourth subdivision could emerge under the NCAA umbrella. Maybe a Super Division I. It’d be a huge undertaking.
“I don’t sense from the members nor have I heard from any of them that there’s an interest in going out and starting another association,” said Emmert, who addressed the Big 12 power brokers Thursday. “I do hear about trying to find greater flexibility for schools with larger budgets, the predominantly big five conferences, to make decisions on their own. I think a lot of people have an interest in doing that. I don’t think it would send anyone over the wall.”
Bowlsby said those five leagues have won about 85 percent of all NCAA championships. But change is slow. Just look at how long it took to adopt a playoff.
As someone who has long fought for a playoff, lobbied recalcitrant administrators and toiled on NCAA post-season subcommittees, Dodds is glad a playoff has arrived.
He wishes the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick who set up the playoff had gone further and adopted a bigger, eight-team playoff. He thinks the larger field would be more fulfilling for fans and less controversial for teams.
“I’m kind of an eight-team person,” Dodds said. “I think there will be a lot of conversation about the fifth team that doesn’t get in, an 11-1 team that didn’t get in. If you take eight teams, the ninth team has a concern, but not like the fifth team (will).”
Amen to that.
There’s hubbub enough over the 69th team being excluded from the NCAA basketball tournament. Just think of the fury over an Alabama or an Oklahoma getting omitted from a four-team football field.
Luck, however, isn’t sure how big to go.
“Let’s give four a shot,” he said. “A lot of years there are three or four really good teams. I’m not sure I would advocate eight yet.”
While Bill Hancock, executive director of the CFP, insists the 12-year agreement allows for no flexibility for a larger field, just wait and see the outcry if one of the game’s most hallowed programs is excluded. Bowlsby said, “You can always extricate yourself from contracts, but I don’t see it expanding to eight anytime soon.”
As for Dodds, he wants no part of the selection committee, which Bowlsby guesses will be between 15 to 18 members.
“I’m not interested,” Dodds said. “There are lot of good people who can do it.”
Luck was right there with him. After all, he saw every game his son, Andrew Luck, played for the Indianapolis Colts last season and plans to again, so count him out.
“I’m not sure I’d have the time,” he said.
But at least the time for the playoff is drawing near.
Dodds: LHN to air three games
The Longhorn Network is expected to exclusively air three Longhorns football games this fall, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said Thursday.
The Aug. 31 season opener against New Mexico State is expected to be one of them; LHN has aired Texas’ past two openers. The Texas-Kansas game on Nov. 2 also is expected to be carried on LHN.