BCS Playoff Meetings 101
By Matthew Osborne
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A breakdown of each of the six major BCS conferences and their stances on a potential playoff format.
Today could mark the beginning of a pivotal change to the college football landscape, as commissioners of the 11 FBS conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are set to meet in Chicago to begin discussions on the implementation of a four-team playoff.
The current BCS system, which has helped determine national champions since 1998, will remain in place for at least the next two seasons, meaning that a prospective four-team playoff would not begin until 2014.
Many of the leading figures were initially hesitant to discuss a potential playoff format, but increasing pressure from the fans made it necessary for serious talks to commence.
"They are listening to the fans," BCS chairman Bill Hancock said of the FBS conference commissioners. "They get it that people would like to do something different. The worm didn't turn all of the sudden. This is not a revolutionary process; it's an evolutionary process."
Today’s meeting will be the first in a string of meetings which could ultimately result in the formation of a four-team playoff in 2014. The NCAA Division I Conference Commissioners Association meeting will take place next week in Chicago. If the conference commissioners can come to an agreement on the terms of a four-team playoff format, the proposal would then be taken to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, which will meet in our nation’s capital on June 26.
While there is tremendous reason for optimism that a four-team playoff format could be in place in the near future, there are still three issues which must be worked out before an official proposal can be submitted: How the four teams will be selected (conference champions, four best teams overall, three conference champions and one at-large bid, etc.), whether the teams will be selected by the current BCS formula or by a human selection committee, and whether or not the semifinal games will be played within the current BCS bowl structure.
In order to get a better idea of the current state of affairs, here is a breakdown of where each of the six major conferences and Notre Dame stand on these issues.
John Swofford is in favor of a four-team playoff which would only feature conference champions. Ideally, the conference would like the semifinal contests to be hosted by the current BCS bowls, while the national championship game would go to the highest bidder.
Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas is in favor of the four best teams, regardless of conference affiliation, being selected for a playoff. Unlike the SEC, however, the Big 12 is strongly in favor of implementing a human selection committee in order to select the nation’s four best teams. Just like the ACC, the Big 12 would want the semifinal games to be hosted by the current BCS bowls, with the championship game going to the highest bidder.
The Big East is strongly in favor of a conference champions-only format, although a hybrid model could be supported by the conference. Like the others, the Big East favors semifinal games being hosted by the current BCS structure, with the championship game going to the highest bidder.
Jim Delaney, who is likely the biggest figure in this debate other than Mike Slive, is actually in favor of keeping the system as it is now or going to a plus-one format, although he says that he would be willing to agree to a four-team playoff. In such a four-team playoff, Delaney originally stated that he would prefer a selection committee choose the top three conference champions and one at-large team. Since then, however, Delaney has said that the four best teams should participate in the playoff. The Big Ten would like to keep the Rose Bowl a part of the semifinal contests and have the championship game go to the highest bidder.
Commissioner Larry Scott has not been as adamant and firm in his positioning as many of the other conference commissioners. To this point, Scott has really only made it clear that he would like a playoff system to include conference champions and that he would like the Rose Bowl to remain a part of the semifinal games.
Mike Slive has made it perfectly clear that he wants the four best teams, regardless of conference affiliation, to be included in a four-team playoff. The conference would prefer that tweaks be made to the BCS formula in order to select the four participating teams, although Slive would be willing to listen to arguments for a selection committee. Like the other conferences, the SEC prefers that the semifinal games be hosted by the current BCS structure, with the championship game going to the highest bidder.
As an independent, Notre Dame is in favor of any type of system which allows a non-conference champion to participate in the playoff. A conference champion-only system would likely force the Fighting Irish to promptly join an automatic qualifying conference.
It will still be at least another couple of weeks before we know anything definitive regarding a future college football playoff, but this should give you a better understanding of where each of the parties stands heading into this important sequence of meetings.