Tramel's ScissorTales: A 16-team College Football Playoff might be just what Big 12 needs
The Southeastern Conference will demand as many spots as possible for itself when the College Football Playoff is revamped after the 2025 season.
Those are two combative desires. And in such a tug of war like that, there is no doubt who will win.
But Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith seemed to throw the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference a lifeline Tuesday when suggesting the playoff could expand to 16 teams.
The Wednesday ScissorTales rank the ACC non-conference schedules and salute a hometown hero from Tecumseh. But we start with the idea of a 16-team college football playoff.
A 16-team playoff could provide what a 12-team playoff would not – lots of space for SEC and Big Ten down-standings teams, plus room for as many as six conference champions.
As the Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 struggle to not just stay within shouting distance of the SEC and Big Ten in revenues but to stay relevant on the national landscape, playoff access becomes vital.
An eight-team playoff with no automatic qualifiers could mean as many as six SEC and Big Ten teams in the field, leaving scant opportunity for everyone else. If the SEC and Big Ten dictate such a playoff, they could not only stack the election committee, but set the criteria to their advantage.
But it appears that the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC at least have one ally in high places. Smith is one of the most influential people in collegiate sports. And Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson is on the board of managers for the College Football Playoff.
Late last year, the playoff was set to expand to 12 teams, probably for the 2024 season. But after the announcement that OU and Texas would leave the Big 12 for the SEC, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC formed a self-proclaimed alliance and voted against the expanded playoff.
That vote now looks foolish for the Pac-12 and ACC, with the Big Ten adding UCLA and Southern Cal.
The 12-team proposal included automatic berths for the six highest-rated conference champions.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey grew quite agitated at the rebuff and has since indicated his league might not support any automatic qualifiers.
Last week at SEC Media Days, Sankey reminded reporters that much compromise was needed to arrive at the 12-team model and that he might not be in such a compromising mood next time.
"People rejected that, not me," Sankey said. “And so now, as I look at the future, I was clear at that time trying to take a step back, because we weren't unanimous for the format. That's my responsibility to move people along.”
The 12-team proposal included byes for the four highest seeds, with seeds 5-8 hosting games against seeds 9-12. Then bowls would host the quarterfinals and semifinals, before a national championship game.
A 16-team playoff could have much the same format, except seeds 1-8 would host games. That would give the playoff 15 games instead of 11, which would increase profits, but wouldn’t likely make for better football games.
Using the 2021 season as an example, the four added games would have been OU at Alabama (16-seed, 1-seed), Iowa at Michigan (15-2), Oregon at Georgia (14-3) and Brigham Young at Cincinnati (13-4).
OU-Bama would have been a mismatch. Michigan had just beaten Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten title game. Oregon was coming off a three-game stretch in which it had been thrashed twice by Utah. Maybe BYU-Cincinnati would have been entertaining.
If the Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 typically get shunted to the lower end of the 16 seeds, they will encounter little success. Road games against Alabama/Ohio State types. But if they can routinely find seeds in the 7-10 neighborhood, more reasonable matchups, sometimes at home, would be quite adventurous.
Tramel's ScissorTales:Which Big 12 football team has best nonconference schedule in 2022?
“I can live with 12, I can live with 16 — I just think we need to expand," former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez, the Big Ten’s special adviser for football, told ESPN. "I think access is important. I can live with 16.”
When voting down the playoff proposal, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren argued for automatic qualification for all the Power Five Conferences. It was a hollow debate; rare would have been the year one of the five major conferences would have been excluded, and virtually never would the Big Ten have been left out.
At Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday, Warren said he’s 100 percent supportive of playoff expansion and "you can't ignore" the persistent talk about the 16-team idea.
“It's heavy on my radar,” Warren said. “Someone had raised it to me probably about six months ago, and then it seems like over the last couple weeks, it's been raised a lot.
“Yes, it's been coming up a lot lately, but that's why I think going through this stage of conference realignment and expansion, it'd be interesting to see where all that lands. I don't know what the right number is, but it's this interesting the people have raised it to me, it has been an interesting proposal."
The problem with automatic qualification for some conferences and not others is the possibility of anti-trust lawsuits from the mid-major leagues: American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA and Mid-American.
Former Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who was with Sankey on the four-man working group that devised the 12-team proposal, said avoiding legal action was part of the committee’s thought process.
"I'm a big believer that you have to get some credit for winning your conference championship," Warren told ESPN. "Because otherwise, if you don't give individuals credit for winning their conference championship, you have basically watered down the regular season, right?
“Whatever we call it, I don't know the right deal, but I will say I've softened my stance on kind of what that automatic qualifier lists look like. I just want to make sure that the whole construct of the College Football Playoff is not dictated and governed by some third-party committee who decides who goes into it, that there has to be some credit given for winning your conference championship."
That’s music to Big 12 ears. The thought of routinely being shut out of a playoff would hurt the conference much more than the disparity in revenue.
The Big 12 has gone back-to-back years without a team in the playoff. The Pac-12 has not had a playoff representative since 2016.
But the Big 12 seems to have support in high Big Ten places, like the commissioner’s office and the Ohio State athletic director’s chair.
Ranking the ACC non-conference schedules
ACC football teams play only eight league games each. The ACC usually makes up for that scarcity with solid non-conference schedules, and 2022 is no different.
Compared to the Big 12, the ACC plays a lower percentage of home games, a lower percentage of games against Division I-AA opponents and a lower percentage of games that are not part of a home-and-home series. The ACC also plays a higher percentage of games against Power Five Conference opponents.
Here’s how the ACC schedules rank, as we continue our series of Power Five non-conference scheduling:
1. Georgia Tech: Western Carolina, Ole Miss, at Central Florida, at Georgia.Tremendous schedule. When either Gus Malzahn’s or Lane Kiffin’s team is your third-toughest opponent, you’ve got quite the schedule.
2. Florida State: Duquesne, Louisiana State in New Orleans, Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida. LSU and Florida. Few teams in history have taken on that duo non-conference.
3. Clemson: Furman, Louisiana Tech, at Notre Dame, South Carolina. Notre Dame-Clemson is turning into quite the rivalry.
4. Syracuse: at Connecticut, Purdue, Wagner, Notre Dame. Purdue is not a traditional power, but the Boilermakers aren’t half bad. Plus Notre Dame.
5. Louisville: at Central Florida, South Florida, James Madison, at Kentucky.A couple of tough road games, and no I-AA opponent, since JMU has moved up to the Sun Belt Conference.
6. Pittsburgh: West Virginia, Tennessee, at Western Michigan, Rhode Island.Not a great schedule but not bad. Two sleepy Appalachian majors in West Virginia and Tennessee.
7. North Carolina: Florida A&M, at Appalachian State, at Georgia State, Notre Dame.Very strange schedule. Two road games at mid-majors.
8. Boston College: Rutgers, Maine, at Connecticut, at Notre Dame. Scarlet Knights keep it local before the Fighting Irish. Two New England teams, plus a fellow Eastern Seaboard metropolis squad in Rutgers.
9. Miami: Bethune-Cookman, Southern Mississippi, at Texas A&M, Middle Tennessee.The game at College Station is fascinating, but the rest of this schedule is yuck.
10. Virginia Tech: at Old Dominion, Wofford, West Virginia, at Liberty. Wait, the North Carolina model. Two road games at mid-majors.
11. Duke: Temple, at Northwestern, North Carolina A&T, at Kansas. Give the Blue Devils credit. They play to type. A fellow brainiac Power Five (Northwestern) and a fellow basketball blueblood (KU).
12. Wake Forest: Virginia Military Institute, at Vanderbilt, Liberty, Army. Nobody should blame the Deacons for scheduling down.
13. Virginia: Richmond, at Illinois, Old Dominion, Coastal Carolina. Richmond and Old Dominion. Is that a football schedule or an historic tour of the state?
14. North Carolina State: at East Carolina, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, Connecticut. Not a very challenging schedule for a team that’s supposed to be good.
Games against Power Five opponents: 20 of 56 (35.7 percent; 39.3 percent if you count future Big 12 member Central Florida).
Home games: 36 of 56 (64.3 percent).
Games against Division I-AA opponents: 13 of 56 (23.2 percent).
Percentage of guarantee games (no home-and-home): 23 of 56 (41.0 percent).
Mailbag: Big 12 falling behind?
Conference realignment never fails to generate interest from readers.
Calvin: “I love reading you, but I feel you don’t give readers the real story when it comes to the Big 12. It does not matter who they ‘poach’ from the Pac-12. This conference is in deep trouble financially. When the dust settles, they will be so far and away monetarily from the SEC and Big Ten, yet you never mention this. Think about it. What is an attractive TV matchup for the Big 12? This is all that matters. Again, I like reading you, but I feel you’re not realistic about the Big 12 future.”
Tramel: I don't know what you mean by realistic. Of course the Big 12 is way behind, and we all have well-documented that. But the Big 12 is not in competition with the SEC and the Big Ten. The Big 12 is in competition with the ACC and Pac-12. Win that race, and the Big 12 will be just fine.
No, the Big 12 isn’t likely to win a national title in football. But the Big 12 wasn’t likely to win a national title anyway.
Yes, the SEC and Big Ten will have twice as much money coming in. And they will find ways to spend it. They will build new buildings to replace the buildings that don't need replaced, and they will hire big-name coaches so they can fire them and pay them off to hire someone else they can fire.
No Big 12 team consistently is going to be in Alabama's or Georgia's or Ohio State's or Oklahoma's class. So what? They're not in that class now, at least not financially.
OSU and Baylor and Texas Tech and Kansas State don’t need to try to keep up with Michigan’s budget. OSU and Baylor and Tech and Kansas State need to keep up with OSU’s and Baylor’s and Tech’s and Kansas State’s current budget.
Sure, the Power Five Conference structure is changing to a Power Two. But that doesn’t mean the Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC conferences fall into mid-major status.
Whoever emerges as the strongest among those three leagues – or the two strongest – matters hugely in playoff access and more importantly in TV negotiations. The more leagues angling for contracts, the less power those leagues have. The fewer leagues, the more negotiating power available. If the Big 12 jumps the Pac-12 (or wipes out the Pac-12), the Big 12's financial situations is much greater.
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The List: Greatest golf movies
On the Sports Animal, I mentioned that Monday was my 42nd wedding anniversary. Trish the Dish, without debate, is my life’s greatest blessing.
And I got a cool email from a listener/reader. A snapshot of the Wikipedia entry from “Caddyshack,” which showed it premiered on July 25, 1980. The day we got married.
Caddyshack still is going strong, and so are we. In honor of our 42 years, here are the five greatest golf movies ever, courtesy of theleftrough.com:
1. “Caddyshack” 1980: Bill Murray and Chevy Chase star, Rodney Daingerfield and Ted Knight have unforgettable appearances, and a gopher steals the show of this slapstick comedy.
2. “Happy Gilmore” 1996: A little more modern slapstick. Adam Sandler stars as an angry hockey-player-turned-golfer who finds success on the links.
3. “Tin Cup” 1996: You’d think Hollywood would have spread out its golf movies a little better, but “Tin Cup” is at least not slapstick. Kevin Costner stars as a golf pro making a comeback, and there’s lots of good golf going on.
4. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” 2005: Golf loves its history, and this movie focuses on one of its greatest moments – the 1913 U.S. Open, when young Francis Ouimet dueled the great Harry Vardon. Shia LeBeouf stars as Ouimet, a working-class kid trying to crack through the stodgy, wealthy golf world.
5. “The Legend of Bagger Vance” 2000: Robert Redford directed, and Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron and Jack Lemmon starred, a collection of talent not even the Saudis could buy. Smith is the title character, a caddy in the 1930s world of segregation.
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Alva Melot: Hometown hero in Tecumseh
Tecumseh is not an athletic power in the Oklahoma high school ranks. Tecumseh has won three state championships in its history, any sport, including the 1993 girls basketball title.
I believe I’ve covered a game at Tecumseh just once in my life, January 1979, when I was a high school senior and the Norman Transcript sent me over to cover a Noble hoops doubleheader.
Former Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin hails from Tecumseh, as does the Sports Animal’s Gideon Hamilton, and I’ve got some friends who live in Tecumseh, and I ate dinner once in Tecumseh.
Mostly, the Pottawatomie County town minds its own business.
But Tecumseh is like many an Oklahoma hamlet. People live their lives outside the spotlight. They go to work, they go home to their families, they cheer on their kids and their schools.
There are heroes in towns like Tecumseh. They don’t necessarily get plastered in The Oklahoman as coach of the year, but they make a difference in people’s lives.
My friend Dom Rominger alerted me to a Tecumseh hero. Rominger, 82, is an historian, and you know I like historians. Rominger tries to keep alive memories and institutions that might otherwise fade from our knowledge.
And Rominger wrote me about Alva Melot, Tecumseh Class of 1937. Melot died earlier this year at age 103. Rominger called Melot Tecumseh’s “Renaissance Man.”
Tecumseh has had two undefeated football teams in its history. Melot played on one and coached the other. Melot also coached the Tecumseh boys basketball team to a 31-2 record in 1954-55, which remains the best team in school history.
Melot spent over 40 years as a Tecumseh teacher, coach, principal and superintendent. Melot’s obituary from April noted that “in his spare time, he mowed school property, painted whatever needed paint, dug water lines, performed repairs and attended thousands of school sporting and musical events, graduations, recognitions, and celebrations of all kinds.”
Melot was member of the Tecumseh Historical Society, but that seems silly. Melot was Tecumseh history.
“Alva Melot was truly Tecumseh’s renaissance example,” Rominger wrote for the Countywide News and Shawnee Sun. Rominger calls Melot, a distant cousin to the Sac and Fox legend Jim Thorpe, perhaps Tecumseh’s greatest athlete ever.
Melot made the 1937 OU freshman football team but gave up the sport when he developed ulcers and had to hitchhike back and forth from Tecumseh to Norman on Highway 9, then a gravel road.
Melot was disqualified from the military draft due to the ulcers, and he began teaching in 1943 at nearby Tribbey, before moving to Tecumseh a year later.
Rominger holds a doctorate degree and credits Melot for the academic inspiration, teaching history and art. Rominger noted that most Tecumseh players always called Melot “Mister,” not “coach.”
Melot and his brother, Glen, would help a neighboring widowed dairywoman with her milking. Rominger remembers as a young boy during the drought of 1955, the Melot brothers helping his family hammer fence posts into the rock-hard ground.
Alva and Betty Melot were married for 53 years, before her death. They raised three children, and in retirement, they traveled extensively, but always returned to Tecumseh, his home for almost 100 years.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.