Four-team Playoff Details Emerge
By Matt Smith
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Current BCS president Bill Hancock spoke Monday about what has been decided regarding the playoff structure and what remains on the table.
With the 2013 BCS Championship Game now history and another crystal football on its way back to Tuscaloosa, we are down to just one final season under the current BCS model that selects only the top two teams to play for the national title. A four-team playoff, formally announced last June, will go into effect for the 2014 season.
Current BCS president Bill Hancock spoke Monday at the FWAA Awards Breakfast about what has been decided regarding the playoff structure and what remains on the table. Hancock discussed a wide array of topics, including the selection committee, dates and times, locations, and even a potential new trophy for the playoff winner.
“Is now the time to create another icon? Perhaps a crystal kicking tee,” Hancock joked.
The more serious matters, of course, will be when and where the games will be played and how the participants will be determined. The conference commissioners announced in June that a selection committee will choose the teams, but Hancock offered some additional expectations for exactly what that committee may look like.
“It would be parallel to the basketball committee,” Hancock explained. “Term lengths – I’d guess 3-5 years. It will be the most prestigious committee in college sports. It will be the most scrutinized in college sports. There will be no shortage of talented people that want to participate.”
Hancock also said every conference (and the independents) will each have a representative. A handful of at-large members should bring the grand total to 15-18 members.
Transparency has been a key issue for the committee. Hancock said that mock sessions will take place, but he does not expect the committee to issue an “if the season ended today” top four teams in the weeks leading up to football’s version of Selection Sunday.
“I think there would be danger in the committee getting itself boxed in by putting out a ranking the week before [Selection Sunday],”Hancock explained. “It would be perceived that they would be too committed to those top four teams. They need the flexibility to weigh those last games.”
The committee is not expected to use any formula or rankings mechanism, a la the RPI for the NCAA basketball tournament.
“The concept is that there will not be BCS Standings. We ran an RPI last year or maybe two years ago, and it was not accurate, because there are not enough data points.”
As far as locations, the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls have been confirmed as rotating semifinals sites. The other three locations will be spread out across the country, which, probably not coincidentally, fits the trio of the Chick-fil-A (Atlanta), Cotton (Dallas) and Fiesta (Phoenix) Bowls.
The site of the first championship game should be revealed within 90 days, with game sites for the 2015-2017 seasons announced in April. A current bowl venue will host the initial game, with Cowboys Stadium the favorite, but other stadiums will be considered in future years.
“We will keep it the first year to folks who hosted major bowls, but after that it’s open to all,” Hancock said. “I’ve heard from 12-15 cities who have expressed interest in hosting the championship game.”
The semifinals will always be played on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, with the championship game being held on a Monday night between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13. The Rose Bowl is locked into the New Year’s Day late afternoon window, with the Sugar Bowl to follow in primetime. It is likely that those bowls will host semifinals in the same year.
“The earliest [for the championship game] I believe is [January] 7th. The semifinals will always be New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. The teams will go home and then come back. Media Day probably has to be on Saturday. They would probably practice at home Friday and fly into the site on Friday afternoon or evening [for a Monday championship game].”
In the other two years of the three-year semifinal rotational schedules, the two semifinals are likely to be played on New Year’s Eve. Hancock cited equal rest days as the rationale for playing both games on the same day, akin to the NFL conference championship games. The “bowl experience” events, such as hospital visits, would take place leading up to the semifinal games, not the championship game, as teams would only arrive 2-3 days prior to the final game.
Despite the BCS being marred by controversy in almost all of its 15 years of existence, Hancock reiterated that the system did what it was designed to do and gets an unfair public reputation.
“It was the evil cartel that kept out the little guy,” Hancock said. “Then it was the evil cartel that let Northern Illinois in. Absolutely Northern Illinois deserved to be in the BCS.”
There are still plenty of i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but the four-team playoff structure is about to come into focus. Will it be different than what we have? Certainly. But will it be better? That remains an unanswered question. We assume so, but the authority now rests with the conference commissioners to make the proper decisions to allow this playoff to flourish in a manner that the process of crowning a champion in the nation’s second most popular sport should.