Georgia's Adams has bad timing, but a good idea

ATHENS, Ga. --- Michael Adams and the University of Georgia's sports fans haven't always -- or even often -- seen eye to eye. The school president who famously feuded with Bulldog icon Vince Dooley still routinely brings out the "boo" in boosters.


However, Adams' latest mission meshes with wishes of the Bulldog Nation -- and most of the rest of the nation as well. The president suddenly decided to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

Adams issued his proposal Tuesday to put an eight-team Division I-A football playoff on the agenda. He endorsed an idea that he would have no part of just seven months ago when Florida president Bernie Machen made similar noise before getting shot down overwhelmingly by his Southeastern Conference peers.

"This year's experience with the BCS forces me to the conclusion that the current system has lost public confidence and simply does not work," said Adams, who is serving a two-year stint as the chairman of the NCAA executive committee.

Let's forget for a minute the discourteous timing of Adams' epiphany or that it might smell of sour grapes on the day the Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press football poll. That Adams leaked his plan on the same day Louisiana State was wrapping up the SEC's second consecutive BCS title with another blowout victory over Ohio State was yet another public relations gaffe by the UGA president.

The last thing SEC commissioner Mike Slive and LSU coach Les Miles wanted to address during the Tuesday morning slap-and-giggle trophy presentation ceremony in New Orleans were questions about the legitimacy of the championship system from one of their league brethren, and they both expressed disappointment with the timing.

That aside, timing is part of Adams' reasoning. With the current BCS contract running out in 2010, any potential overhauls need to be addressed now before another window of opportunity closes to fix everything that is wrong with college football's postseason.

"It's time to put it on the agenda," Adams said. "There needs to be a mutual conversation."

That's very similar to what Florida's Machen said last year when FOX began angling for a contract extension with the BCS.

"My pitch is simple," Machen said last spring. "This is in the best interests of college football. We need to get some serious thinking. I've talked to several of the bowls. If we're going to do it we need to give the bowls a chance to be a part of it. To be honest, the only entities to be stuck about it are the Big Ten and the Pac-10. They like their sweetheart deal with the Rose Bowl."

Adams admits that for 20 years he's been against anything that might extend football season into a new academic semester. But the circumstances of this football season driven by parity and weekly upsets persuaded him to change course.

"It's a process that the closer you get to it the less you like it," Adams said of the BCS and the undue influence of television, bowl and conference commissioners on the BCS selection system. "I simply think there's an equity and fairness issue that would take this out of the beauty contest realm. It allows the teams to make statements on the field and not just in the press."

When the BCS bowl pairings were unveiled to groans and yawns, Adams started formulating his own plan.

"I think what we just experienced is perhaps the most exciting season in memory with the least exciting bowl season in memory," Adams said. "It's too early to judge how completely the landscape has changed. But this is at least on a plausible track if not the right track."

In a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand, Adams suggests an eight-team playoff be chosen and seeded by an NCAA selection committee.

"I am confident the NCAA has and will have a better record of managing events of this type that the BCS has exhibited to date," Adams said.

The four traditional BCS bowls -- Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose -- would play host to the first round games in the usual New Year's holiday spot. Semifinals would be played the first Saturday at least a week after the bowls, and the championship game would take place the next Saturday.

Georgia coach Mark Richt -- whose team posted its highest finish in the AP poll with a strong closing stretch of the season -- agrees in principle to a playoff concept.

"I think most coaches would be in favor of that," Richt said via a conference call from California. "I think eight is the limit. Any more would diminish the regular season."

Georgia's president has a long way to go to get other collegiate officials to stand up and agree with him, and he understands the "turf issues" that lay ahead. Ohio State president Gordon Gee, channeling Charlton Heston, recently laid down the gauntlet: "They will wrench a playoff system out of my cold, dead hands."

While Gee, the former chancellor at Vanderbilt, believes presidents would be overwhelmingly against any playoff, Adams believes sentiments have shifted after the latest unsatisfying resolution to a scintillating season.

"I think it's at least 50-50," Adams said of the chances of his proposal leading to some kind of substantive postseason change.

"I know many of the presidents in the Pac-10 and Big Ten and they are not united either."

Slive and the commissioners of the ACC, Big East and Big 12 have all expressed support of a "plus one" arrangement that would have a national title game set after the completion of the BCS bowls. While some consider that at least a step in the right direction, Adams doesn't believe that's enough of a fix.

"I don't think with a 'plus one' you'd end up with the level of security as a playoff," Adams said. "The beauty contest is still in place. It would probably be a tough call which two teams to take after these bowls. It just delays the debate and argument another week."

While waiting a few days for the confetti to stop falling from the Superdome rafters might have been prudent, Adams is at least moving the debate in the right direction. Capitalizing on the drama and trauma of the 2007 season might finally alter the landscape.

"I can see change is on the horizon," Richt said. "I really believe that it is."

If Adams can be that agent of change, even Georgia fans would cheer him on.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or



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