Big Ten executives have floated the idea of using campus sites for a potential four-team playoff in college football. The advantage for the league is obvious: Big Ten teams might not always have to play postseason games in enemy territory, and southern teams might actually have to come north and play in some challenging weather conditions.
You might expect the SEC to oppose such a plan. After all, that conference has won six straight national titles, so things have worked out pretty well for it in the current system. And SEC teams are not known to have a fondness for playing tough games out of their region.
But SEC commissioner Mike Slive told the Birmingham News' Jon Solomon that he is at least open to the idea of using campus sites.
"There are pluses and minuses to that concept," Slive said. "One is that you're playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage. The NCAA men's basketball tournament is not played at the homes of the higher seeds. So you have to look at that.
"The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games. You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) -- for one team. It needs to be looked at carefully. It's on the table and it should be on the table."
Slive does not sound nearly as enthusiastic about the Pac-12's idea of restricting the four-team playoff to only conference champions. That's no surprise, given that his league just put two teams in the BCS title game and had a division runner-up, Alabama, win the whole thing.
"I'm willing to have a conversation about [only conference champions], but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go," Slive said. "It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There's still a lot of information that needs to be generated."
The SEC is obviously going to be a major power broker in whatever system the conference commissioners decide upon. The fact that Slive is open to considering campus sites is a good thing for the Big Ten -- though of course a Big Ten team still has to finish No. 1 or No. 2 to make it an advantage. I'm in favor of the campus sites idea, both because the atmospheres of home stadiums are a huge part of what makes the sport special and because it would be easier on at least one group of fans.
And while Slive's dislike of the conference champion idea is understandable since his league would have a great chance of putting two teams in the playoff on a consistent basis, I think he's also right. Champions in other sports don't always win their conference or division in the regular season, so why should college football be different? Big Ten fans may have hated the all-SEC title game this year, but a champions-only concept would have been viewed as unfair by the Big Ten in 2006, when Ohio State finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings and Michigan was No. 3.
There's still a long way to go in this process. But it's encouraging to see that decision-makers such as Slive are keeping an open mind about some fresh ideas.