The idea, first proposed by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer and endorsed by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, has gained some momentum in the college football ranks, but Saban said all conference champions are not created equal.
"I don't think there's a parity in college football like there is in the NFL, where you can make a statement like that," Saban told Outkick The Coverage while at a Jason Foundation luncheon in Nashville. "No disrespect to any conference, but there are conferences that are in the BCS that if they played in the SEC their champion may be in fourth or fifth place. So because there's not a parity, I don't think it's fair to make a statement like that."
Don't hate Saban for speaking the truth. If the top four conference champions were placed in a playoff this year, the field would have been LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Wisconsin. That means teams such as Alabama and Stanford would not have had a shot at a national title despite deserving one.
Of course, if Saban had his druthers, he might have an all-SEC playoff for the national title and that's something folks like Scott and other proponents of the conference champion format would like to avoid. At the same time, it's not fair to reward a team for simply winning its conference considering the strength of the conference might not be up to par with the strength of schedules and resumes of other teams that didn't win a conference title (Alabama).
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Roy Kramer and all commissioners of major conferences in the country," Saban said. "No disrespect to anyone. I disagree with that. If you're one of the two best teams you should be able to play in the game and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to get back in the game this year and I think we proved with our performance that we should have been in the game."
I'm of the opinion that the process should be simplified — take the top four teams in the BCS standings. Who wouldn't have wanted to see LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford square off in a plus-one format? That would have been exciting and good for the game. Did anyone else have a legitimate claim to the national title? No. So let those teams duke it out and allow the fans to enjoy an extra week of competition.
And if folks are worried about a bias in those standings, start all of the rankings in October. Do away with preseason hype and base the rankings on what is happening on the field.
This isn't rocket science. The pieces for a fair system are in place, the college football powers that be just need to be willing to put them together in a way that makes sense and gives the best teams — not the best team per conference — a chance to be a national champion.
- Nick Saban