Three years ago I asked SEC commissioner Mike Slive whether he foresaw a college football playoff anytime soon. He grinned and shook his head, "I think," Slive said, "you'll have to wait for us to die off." The "us" in question was his generation of college football power brokers. Yesterday a four-team playoff became a reality and those same men who Slive once said needed to die off led the charge for change.
Slive will receive much of the credit for college football's playoff, and deservedly so, but that misses the point. This was a win for all the old guys out there, a generation who wouldn't change, suddenly did the right thing and evolved with the times, strengthening their sport in the process.
Since the process began Slive has wanted neutral site games, he's wanted the top four teams over conference champions, and he's favored a seeded four-team playoff.
All of those goals have been attained.
Make no mistake, in a life full of victories this is the biggest victory of a Slive's professional life. The most lasting and permanent change, this is college football's version of Nixon going to China, the Berlin Wall coming down, an existing world order that many said would never be altered collapsing. Yes, this is Slive's final valedictory to the sport he loves but it's also something more, a triumph of aging men who put aside their own personal interests and finally buckled down and did what was right for college football. The Big 12's Chuck Neinas is over 80, Mike Slive will turn 72 in a little over a month, ACC commissioner John Swofford is 64, the Big Ten's Jim Delany is 64 as well. Toss in Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds who is 72 and you've got a collection of powerful men nearing retirement age.