SEC commissioner visits Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive says next week’s meeting of Bowl Championship Series leaders is “just another step in the process” toward refining the oft-criticized system.

Slive visited Texas A&M on Friday and met with reporters before he participated in a panel on conference realignment.

BCS leaders are scheduled to convene Monday in Hollywood, Fla., when the Football Bowl Association holds its annual meeting. Slive would not say what he hopes the meeting will accomplish, characterizing it as a “sharing of ideas.”

Options up for discussion include minor tweaks to the current system, a four-team playoff and a playoff that tries to preserve traditional bowl rivalries for the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Part of the discussion includes whether the games should be at bowls, on campus or at neutral sites.

“It would be really silly for me to start talking about the BCS when we’re going to start meeting again on Monday,” Slive said. “It’s not productive.”

The 11 BCS league commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director met in Texas last month and Slive said then that “there’s no consensus yet on anything.” The upcoming, weeklong meeting in Florida will be the fourth of the year for BCS leaders.

The BCS is in the middle of a four-year deal with ESPN that runs through the 2014 season. A new BCS format must be in place before the fall when television negotiations with ESPN open.

“We’re going to go back (this week) and hopefully refine our thinking,” Slive said Friday. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. We don’t really have to make a decision until summertime. This set of meetings is our annual meetings, but it’s just another step in the process.”

Slive joined American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff, Cotton Bowl chairman Tommy Bain and Texas A&M president Bowen Loftin on the symposium panel, conducted in the end-zone club at Kyle Field.

Teaff and Slive said one of the main arguments for keeping the current system is preserving the importance of the regular season. And Teaff said the sport’s popularity is validation for the BCS system, created in the 1990s.

“If you just think about where we are in football,” Teaff said, “it’s never been more popular. College football is THE game. And that all stems back from these decisions that were made early on.”

Slive said the BCS has created more fan interest and connected fan bases from coast-to-coast.

“Games in other parts of the country that really wouldn’t have mattered to other parts of the country, now mean something to the nation,” Slive said.

Teaff called the BCS the most significant step for college football since President Theodore Roosevelt demanded reforms to the game in 1905. His meeting with the coaches from Harvard, Yale and Princeton at the White House led to the creation of the NCAA.

“No matter how much criticism the media and the fans and everybody else wants to give the BCS,” Teaff said, “the BCS has played the most important role in college football since Teddy Roosevelt called everybody together and said, `You better fix this, or I’m going to eliminate it from the American scene.'”

The panel touched on several other issues, but focused mainly on realignment. Texas A&M and Missouri bolted from the Big 12 last year and will begin competing in the SEC in July. A&M’s departure ended the program’s annual football series with Texas, and Teaff acknowledged that the ends of rivalries and traditions can be a regrettable by-product of realignment.

Teaff takes solace in knowing that the presidents at each school have considered the effect on rivalries and traditions before committing to a conference switch.

“It is bittersweet for most coaches,” said Teaff, the former coach at Baylor. “You change rivalries, there’s a bigger distance to travel in certain cases. But again, in the times that we live in now, my answer has always been that these are very wise, intelligent individuals and they look at the broader picture and they have to take care of their own, so to speak.”