BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — We sat and chewed the fat Monday, hitting on all the hot topics in college athletics.
Mike Slive, the powerful commissioner of the powerful SEC, was parked in a chair, flanked on either side by the commissioners of the Atlantic Sun Conference and Conference USA. The retiring Sun Belt commish also was in the mix.
Four smart men and a bunch of sportswriters. Football playoffs, expansion, ridiculous coaching salaries. We hit it all, except, come to think of it, nobody thought to mention Bobby Petrino.
I can't bring you any breaking news. But with some confidence I predict the SEC isn't going to add a ninth football game to the schedule any time soon.
Oh, the University of Shanghai is not on the expansion agenda. Seriously, this was mentioned.
And the Atlantic Sun is adding Northern Kentucky University. There is that nugget.
There was discussion of multiyear scholarships and funding the full cost of a school year. But I doubt you really want to hear about any of that any more than you want to hear about graduation rates or Lane Kiffin's latest commitment.
A topic of real interest, on the other hand, is when Tennessee is ever going to play Texas A&M in football. Or whether the Vols and Auburn will meet more than once every decade.
To accommodate the Aggies and Missouri, the 2012 SEC schedule has been tweaked. But a permanent format is still in the works. If the plan is to stick at eight games, there is going to be little contact between the East and West in the regular season.
"In the past there has not been any interest in moving to nine games," Slive said. "I think there is a comfort zone with eight."
A comfort zone among whom? Certainly not among UT fans who have
enjoyed a rivalry with Auburn, LSU or Ole Miss.
Among the athletic directors, said Slive. They will present a scheduling format to the presidents for approval. Bottom line, UT fans might not be traveling to Baton Rouge for a while.
"There's no perfect solution," said Slive.
Maybe not. But most of the other BCS conferences are already playing nine games or moving that way.
"Maybe good for them," said Slive. "All I can do is think about us."
Slive, as czar of the SEC, was the 800-pound gorilla in the room, a meeting of Associated Press Sports Editors and reporters.
I'm not sure what common ground he and Atlantic Sun commissioner Ted Gumbart have to discuss. The only time their paths might cross is in a first-round NCAA tournament game, with, Kentucky as a No. 1 seed and Mercer as a 16.
When the SEC moves, other conferences absorb the tremors and react. No one has been shaking and baking more than Britton Banowsky, trying to hold Conference USA together.
He's lost four schools to the Jerry-rigged Big East in the past year and is in the process of merging with what's left of the Mountain West for football. It's all for the sake of trying to latch on to automatic qualifier status with the BCS.
"You have universities trying to do things to associate with automatic qualifier conferences," said Banowsky, "that have people scratching their heads because of distance and geography."
Like UTEP and East Carolina, in C-USA's case. Or Rutgers and San Diego State in the ridiculous Big East/West.
But to cut to the chase, discussion of a playoff for big-time football is in the air.
Slive and the other players will meet again next week to further zero in on four options that range from basically staying at the status quo to a plus-one or even a couple of variations of a four-team playoff.
"There's an intent for meaningful change," said Banowsky.
One option is a four-team playoff with the Pac 12 and Big 10 linked to the Rose Bowl.
"Not one of my favorites," said Slive. "I don't think that adds to the simplification of the postseason."
No one has contributed more to the ultimate simplification of the postseason than the SEC.
After six years, we know the SEC is going to take home the crystal football. It doesn't get any more simple than that.