At 71 years old, Mike Slive is a nice man. He is an exceedingly polite, grandfatherly gentleman with a disarming smile.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
And he is the toughest man in college athletics.
Slive, the Southeastern Conference commissioner, made it clear from the start that he wanted no part of the upcoming four-team playoff being limited to conference champions. As FBS conference commissioners met to talk about the future of the college football postseason, speculation swirled that, this time, Slive would not get his way. Most of us thought there would be a compromise.
It was widely expected that the final compromise would be that the field would include three conference champions and one wildcard team.
There was talk that the Big Ten and Pac-12 would hold out for a true "plus-one" in which the top two teams would be picked after the bowl games. Those two teams would then play for the national championship.
Slive didn't want either of those things. And that meant they weren't going to happen.
As details emerged Wednesday about the plan that will be presented to the presidential oversight committee, it became obvious that Slive had won again. He always wins.
Previous commissioners Tonto Coleman, Boyd McWhorter, Harvey Schiller and Roy Kramer all contributed to the SEC's rise to its place as the most powerful and most successful conference in college athletics. But Slive, hired away from Conference USA by league presidents in 2002, is a different breed of cat.
People used to call Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany the most powerful man in college athletics. The Pac-12's Mike Scott has been praised as a visionary, a new kind of commissioner. But when it comes down to it, they all bow before the power of Slive and the SEC.
So now we move forward. It appears that, starting in 2014, there will be a four-team playoff. It won't be required that the participants be conference champions. According to reports, the participating teams will be chosen by a selection committee.
That's going to be one pressure-packed job, far tougher than choosing the teams that will play in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Though some are always unhappy, with 64 teams, no potential national champion is going to be left out in basketball. With four teams in the football playoff, more than one potential national champion could be left out.
Whatever emerges will be better than what we have today. Fans will love it, and it will be extremely lucrative.
And Mike Slive will smile.