An architect by trade, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger is far less visible, and appears far less active, in Hokies athletics than his predecessor, Paul Torgersen. But Steger was praised Tuesday for his leadership of the panel that produced major college football’s first playoff.
Steger chairs the Bowl Championship Series’ Presidential Oversight Committee, a 12-member group that Tuesday approved a four-team playoff that starts with the 2014 season and runs 12 years. The presidents, one each from the 11 Bowl Subdivision conferences plus the Rev. John Jenkins from Notre Dame, conferred for less than three hours at a D.C. hotel before adopting a plan presented by league commissioners.
“Charles Steger just did a tremendous job in chairing this group,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “He’s got a terrific way about him. He’s an outstanding consensus-builder, and he was very well-versed in running the meeting. I think he was prepared to lock everybody in the room until 10 o’clock and not feed them before letting anyone out without a decision.”
Much to the relief of deadline-pressed newspaper hacks, the presidents emerged at 6 p.m.
Unlike Torgersen, Steger has not booted extra points at a Tech football practice. In fact, in retirement, Torgersen remains more visible at Hokies sports events.
But another source who participated in BCS-related discussions with Steger said “he really seems to get it.”
Moreover, during his 12-plus years as president, Steger has green-lighted a series of upgrades to sports facilities, including the expansion and modernization of Lane Stadium and the construction of a basketball practice complex.
“I think that’s part of why he’s so effective,” Swofford said. “He’s not an individual who leads by stroking his own ego. He’s got a quiet strength and confidence about him. … He trusts people around him and he’s got a way of bringing people together, and this group may be the ultimate challenge in terms of bringing something like this together, not only at the commissioners level but at the presidential level as well. … He is the perfect president to be sitting in that chair as this came about.”
Steger said he conferred “informally” with Tech football coach Frank Beamer and athletic director Jim Weaver throughout.
“The ACC presidents were unanimously in favor of the four-team playoff,” Steger said, “and I wanted to be sure they [Weaver and Beamer] were comfortable with it. Frank’s the one who’s got to coach the team. Not me. He’s very supportive.”
Echoing Swofford, Steger endorsed a playoff selection committee – with parameters.
“We think a committee is useful because they bring different dimensions of understanding,” Steger said. “But, this committee will have some pretty clearly articulated guidelines, one being evaluation of a conference championship. So this won’t just be a committee sitting around.”
* Also Tuesday, Swofford all but announced that the ACC will renew ties with the Orange Bowl, contracting the conference champion to the Miami-based game.
“We’ve got a great relationship with the Orange Bowl,” he said. “A lot of prestige in that game. A lot of great history in college football in that game, and we’ll probably have something on that in the very near future.”
That arrangement will include possible Orange Bowl opponents for the ACC, and I’d bet on Notre Dame’s involvement.
“Those discussions are ongoing right now,” Swofford said. “Certainly it will be a quality opponent in all likelihood on New Year’s Day, and that’s a great circumstance for the ACC.”
Indeed, all six of the bowls in the playoff semifinal rotation will be News Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, a welcome change from the BCS, which stages games without regard to fans’ convenience.
If the ACC champion does not qualify for the playoff in a year the Orange Bowl hosts a semifinal, the ACC team will be guaranteed a spot in another BCS game.
Of the four-team playoff, Swofford said, “I think it’s good for the ACC and good for college football.”
* One final nugget from Swofford: More than two months after rumblings began of Florida State and Clemson possibly leaving the ACC for the Big 12, I asked him if he still believes his conference is stable.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Absolutely. I did then and do now.”
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns, including one from Tuesday’s BCS meeting.