Joe Castiglione warned us last week that a four-team college football playoff might not be automatic, as we all assumed. Warned us that a compromise might be necessary to take any steps in the eternal quest for postseason satisfaction.
Now we know what the OU athletic director was talking about.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told The Wall Street Journal a few days ago that the new Big 12/SEC partnership could bring about a “plus-one” model for college football.
Plus-one would not be good news for playoff zealots. Plus-one is a two-team playoff, only the teams are selected after the bowls instead of before.
But a plus-one would be great news for the new Big 12/SEC bowl game, which purports to match those conferences' champions in a bowl starting with the 2014 season.
In a four-team playoff system, such a bowl would really be nothing more than the current Cotton Bowl, which matches Big 12 and SEC runners-up. The champs of both leagues would be included in a four-team playoff most years.
But in a plus-one system, the new Big 12/SEC bowl — modeled after the Rose Bowl — would be a virtual national semifinal most seasons.
And the plus-one seems to be a viable option right now.
“We might not get to one of those (four-team) models right now,” a Big 12 insider told me the other day. “We may not see enough support for one of these models. Best first step might be a plus-one.
“I heard a little bit of chatter about that in the last few weeks. Almost like if we can't get to an agreement on these other models, the best we can do is an agreement on the plus-one.
“Everybody realizes change is imminent, but will people be able to accept a lot of change is the question.”
A Big 12/SEC champions showdown with a plus-one format would have placed the winner in the Big Bowl most seasons in the 2000s.
Certainly in 2011 (OSU-LSU), 2009 (Texas-Alabama), 2008 (OU-Florida), 2007 (OU-LSU) and 2004 (OU-Auburn).
In other years, one of the two teams would have been automatic with a victory: 2010 Auburn (vs. OU), 2006 Florida (vs. OU), 2005 Texas (vs. Georgia), 2003 LSU (vs. Kansas State), 2001 Colorado (vs. LSU) and 2000 OU (vs. Florida).
But absolutely, a plus-one would elevate the Big 12/SEC bowl into the most elite of status. Because of the SEC's and Big 12's prowess, their bowl would trump all.
The Big 12 insider said talks with the SEC began before the realignment craze the last two years — which means Missouri and Texas A&M were, or should have been, privy to such information.
The talks resumed recently, and the leagues pulled the trigger because it works on a variety of fronts.
“With the wide range of options, we're going to make this move because it's going to do several things, including work towards stability for our league and the postseason,” the insider said.
“We wanted to make sure our leagues were in sync and in the right place to move or adapt in whatever comes forward.
Is it the last move we'll make? I don't know. We felt like it was the best move that gives us the chance to make other moves.”
Let's be clear. Neither the Big 12 nor the SEC favors the plus-one. Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas has expressed his desire for a four-team playoff, and SEC commissioner Mike Slive was emphatic a couple of days ago.
“What's in the best interest of college football is a four-team playoff,” Slive said. “I think it's better for everyone involved in the game.”
But if a plus-one becomes the compromise position, the Big 12 and the SEC are in good shape, with the premier bowl game.
The Pac-12's Scott said that before the Big 12/SEC partnership, the “idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement's a game-changer.
“We're pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it's possible that could get some traction.”
I don't know what will happen. A plus-one now would be a bummer for those who have longed for an expanded playoff.
But in this part of the country, at least there's this consolation: the Big 12/SEC champions bowl puts the Big 12 in prime position either way.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.