Nick Saban often apologizes for speaking his mind, but sometimes he can't help it, especially when the subject of a college football playoff is on the table.
Saban's national championship Alabama squad has taken some verbal jabs from some of college football's powers-that-be for being in the national title game despite not winning its conference.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been among those proponents for rewarding conference champions even going so far as saying that he had no respect for teams that didn't meet this requirement.
Well, Tuesday, during the opening day of SEC spring meetings, Saban had his first opportunity to fire back at his team's critics. And while he didn't specifically name Delany, it was clear that the Big Ten commish was among those Saban targeted with his words.
"It's self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league rather than what's best for college football who would want to do that," Saban told SECSports.com. "It's not what's best for the fans because they've made it very clear what they want it to be."
Saban is fine with a four-team playoff as long as it rewards the best four teams and not the four conference champions, a proposal set forth by Delany. According to the Delany plan, the top four conference champions would make up the four-team playoff as long as those teams were ranked among the top six in the BCS standings. If there weren't four conference champions within the top six, then the next highest-ranked team among the top six would earn a playoff berth.
Saban has been against this from the beginning despite the fact that his Tide would have played in the playoff a year ago. But he thinks Delany's system might pass over deserving teams, especially ones that play in a really tough conference (cough, cough, the SEC, cough cough).
"People want to see the best four teams play in a playoff," he said. "The problem in college football is there's not equal parity in the leagues. Some leagues are stronger than others in different years. It's not always going to be where the SEC is stronger than another league. There's going to be years when other leagues are stronger than the SEC. It's not an SEC thing. History in recent years would say that, but that's how it's been all the way through.
"I think you're going to get a lot of real complaining if we have a four-team playoff and we go through all this that we're going through to try to implement this and execute it and, all of a sudden, next year we have the No. 1 team, the No. 3 team, the No. 7 team and the No. 11 team being the four teams in the playoffs. There's going to be a mutiny on the ship, there's no question about that."
Mike Leach would be proud of that reference.
Saban said taking the four best teams wouldn't reward the SEC, but it's been a long time since one conference has been as dominant as the SEC and I don't think anyone sees that changing anytime soon.
There's no doubt the playoff is still a work in progress especially now with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and even Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman throwing out a plus-one (again). Whatever the system, it's not going to please everyone. And yes, the players involved in solving the college football conundrum are no doubt working for their own interests and not necessarily the best interest of the game.
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