UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Alvarez pleased with agreement on playoff

FB_120627_Alvarez_Barry.jpegAs someone who has already personally invested so much in college football -- as a former player, head coach and current athletic director -- Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez is convinced that a four-team playoff will pay off big dividends and ensure the continued success and popularity of the sport.

"I was pleased that the commissioners were able to come to an agreement on the playoff model,'' Alvarez said. "There was a lot of positioning -- and a lot of give-and-take in the end -- and I liked what they came up with. I'm also pleased the presidents approved the changes.''

 Alvarez was one of the ADs invited to play a role in the discovery phase of the process. As a result, he has tried to keep an open mind to all potential options or scenarios. One of his points of emphasis -- making sure that nothing compromised the integrity of the regular season.

"I think everyone agrees that we have the best regular season of all sports,'' he said of the competitive element that exists from September through November. "That's why I've always felt it was so important to preserve the regular season, which we have with this four-team playoff.''

Preserving the bowls -- especially the Rose Bowl -- was also at the top of Alvarez's list. With a six-bowl rotation for the two semifinal games, the Rose Bowl will be assured of a traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup two out of every three years (or eight times over the length of the 12-year contract).

The Big Ten has been matched against the Pac-12 in six of the last 11 Rose Bowls since 2002.

"You have to give up a little bit; much like we gave up in the BCS's four-year rotation with the Rose Bowl,'' Alvarez said of the league's negotiating approach. " But this allows us to be in the mix (for a national championship) and still have our relationship with the Rose Bowl.''

When the dialogue began to heat up on the proposed playoff to replace the BCS model, Alvarez supported the concept of a selection committee, not unlike what has been used to determine the field in the NCAA basketball tournament.

"I've been a proponent of a committee all along,'' he said. "And with that comes transparency where all the criteria are known. I've never been a big fan of the computers. There are a lot of people who know football and I trust the human element more than I did the old BCS formula.

"I like the fact a committee will be taking a lot of things into consideration; they'll be giving credit to the league champion and weighing different things, including strength of schedule.''

Does that mean that Wisconsin will attempt to strengthen its schedule?

"Bret (Bielema, the UW football coach) and I have talked about that,'' Alvarez said. "In 2017, we'll add a Pac-12 opponent every year. That will leave us with three non-conference dates to fill.

"If you want to be competitive and in the (final four) mix, you have to be cognizant of your nonconference schedule. I'd like to see us put another BCS opponent on the schedule (circa 2017).

"We can go from there still knowing we have to play at least seven home games each year.''

Would Alvarez be willing to serve on a national selection committee? "I would be interested,'' he said. "With my background, I think I'm knowledgeable enough about the business.''

Alvarez would not have a problem with former head coaches on the committee, either.

Regardless of the selection guidelines, he knows that a healthy debate will likely ensue.

That comes with the turf, new or old.

"A lot of people complained about the BCS, but it was very good for college football; the sport has never been more popular,'' Alvarez emphasized. "People have said all along that it needed to be tweaked. If you go back and read my statements from previous years, I said the same things.''

Alvarez recognizes that the four-team playoff is not a panacea.

"Everybody is not going to be satisfied,'' he conceded.

But it was a positive move, he insisted, that will only enhance the product.

"You now have a chance for a truer national champion,'' he said.