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Cutcliffe Opposes Obama's Push For Playoff

Photo by Lawson Kurtz/Chronicle File Photo

President-Elect Barack Obama likes sports—that much became clear in the two-year long run-up to his election to the presidency of the United State.

He played basketball with North Carolina, his brother-in-law is the head men's basketball coach at Oregon State, his body man is former Duke football and basketball player Reggie Love, he hit the hardwood on every primary and election day for good luck and even played with former Blue Devils Alison Bales and Chris Duhon. Before you know it, Obama will show up to the Duke women's basketball team's games in Chicago this weekend, just because he can.

Obama's willingness to stray from normal politics and stray into athletics has once again emerged in the transition period from Grant Park on Nov. 4 to the Washington Mall on Jan. 20. We didn't learn much new about Obama in 60 Minutes' interview with him Sunday, but the man with too many sports connections once again articulated his stance on perhaps the hottest policy issue in all of sports.

Obama joined many critics of the Bowl Championship Series—he's reaching across the aisle already!—and pitched his own version of an eight-tea, three-round college football playoff.

"If you've got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there's no clear decisive winner. We should be creating a playoff system," he said. "It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."

Not so fast, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said Tuesday. It's not surprising that Cutcliffe had heard about Obama's suggestion—he has a keen sense of political news, and heard it originally when Obama first broached the subject on Monday Night Football—and BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner John Swofford issued a statement Monday responding to Obama. (We can only imagine what must have been going through his mind when the next leader of the free world condemned his system.)

"For now, our constituencies—and I know he understands constituencies—have settled on the current BCS system, which the majority believe is the best system yet to determine a national champion while also maintaining the college football regular season as the best and most meaningful in sports," Swofford said in the release. "We certainly respect the opinions of president-elect Obama and welcome dialogue on what's best for college football."

Cutcliffe echoed the thoughts of his league's leader, claiming that the enduring team is almost always the one that deserves to hoist a trophy on the season's final day.

"I'm not a real fan of the playoff. I think there's a lot of issues to solve before you go that route," Cutcliffe told The Chronicle. "One of the things is we have the greatest regular season of all sports, and we also have the toughest championship to win, because it's wire to wire. You have to remember that a playoff is a tournament, and even in the NCAA Tournament, in a sport where there aren't so many collisions—basketball—the team that's the best team in the country doesn't always win that tournament. And football, that's all you'd be doing. I'm not worried about deciding who gets in the tournament, I'm just saying it's not going to decide the best team."

Cutcliffe, who won the 1998 national championship with a Tennessee team that finished undefeated, proceeded to make a point that others have ignored. What would any college football fan do without the playoff debate? That is, if Obama hypothetically exercised his executive powers in the NCAA's realm, would we be bored with—gasp!—just the games themselves?

"What I love is the argument," Cutcliffe said. "Isn't it great? Shoot, you're talking about fun! 'I said, he said, she said, we did, next year...' That's part of the fun."


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