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Now We're Talking

One wouldn't expect a president of a university with a powerhouse program, which most recently captured its second national championship in a decade in traditional poll form, to be the catalyst for a college football playoff. But remember that Florida's Bernie Machen was on the other side of the issue as the president of Utah when the Utes were undefeated in 2004, and that his new coach - same as his old coach - has consistently advocated for a playoff, even after the current system broke in his team's favor. And maybe Machen's all caught up in the whole March Madness thing, where the Gators are doing pretty well in the tournament for the second year in a row (Florida is the first school, actually, to make three Final Fours this decade). Or perhaps he's only motivated by the voice of reason on the matter.

Whatever Bernie Machen's motivation, he told The St. Petersburg Times Sunday the rest of the presidents in possibly the most influential football conference in the country are finally willing to talk in May about a playoff format to replace the BCS when its television contract expires in 2010:

ST. LOUIS - University of Florida president Bernie Machen said Sunday that he and his fellow Southeastern Conference presidents will discuss his proposal for a college football playoff at the conference's spring meetings in Destin in May.

Machen said the fact that other presidents are receptive to discussing a playoff is a major step forward for those who want to see a Division I-A football national champion determined in the same fashion as all of the NCAA's other team sports.

"I could never get anybody to talk to me before," Machen said as he celebrated the Florida basketball team's Elite Eight win against Oregon at the Edward Jones Dome. "Now we're talking."

"The presidents," nefarious, impenetrable entities of stone-faced greed as they must be, have typically been invoked as irreconcilable playoff enemy numero uno, but here we are. "A few feet away" from the reporter's discussion with Machen, SEC commish and residing BCS guru/rotating coordinator Mike Slive made a general non-statement about playoff talks ("The future is coming and we know the future is coming so we should enter into discussion to try to prepare for the coming future with discussions about preparation," or something along those lines), but Slive was "very, very open-minded" to discussion of adding a formal "plus-one" game following January's mythical title game, and he doesn't have much choice but to be similarly amiable to this discussion. His past promulgation of and current standing with the BCS is evidence Slive is not exactly a traditionalist, but even as staunch an advocate of retrograde bowling as Kyle King can read the writing on the wall: however incremental their demise, the BCS and poll-driven championships are in their death throes. For years, the notion of a tournament has been occasionally dismissed as wishful fantasy opposed to monolithic interests from above, but here we are, to the extent SMQ must say (in admittedly cliched fashion) it's not "if," but "when" and "how."

Maybe that's a little rash. Maybe a lot, actually. But this is exciting for the sport: Presidents to discuss playoff format. The Big Ten will be slower to the table, but this discussion, SMQ guesses, will be archaic by start of the 2011 BCS playoffs. Is that too optimistic?