Conferences in search of alternative to BCS

This jaunt to the South Florida beaches won't be a General Services Administration-style boondoggle with mind readers and bicycle-building exercises.

There's too much that needs to get done.

Major college football's 11 conference commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Bowl Championship Series officials and television executives will be in Hollywood, Fla., from Tuesday to Thursday for the annual BCS meetings. No one expects to spot Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wearing flip-flops.

At stake is the future of college football, and the vast majority of fans hope that future — starting with the 2014 season — involves a playoff. Let's examine some key issues:

A playoff?

Yes. But, rather comically, the word "playoff" never appears in an April 4 memo USA Today and the AP obtained. It's a "four-team event."

What are the possibilities for this proposed event?

1) Use bowls to host the semifinals and championship game. 2) Play all three games at neutral sites. 3) Semifinal games in bowls, bid out the championship game (a la the Super Bowl). 4) The Delany plan, outlined by the Chicago Tribune in February, in which the top two seeds host semifinal games.

Are there other possibilities?

Oh, yes. The original Plus-One idea was to have teams play in their traditional bowl games, and then the top two in the rankings would square off for the BCS title. That idea hasn't been spiked, but that non-playoff playoff wouldn't seem to solve anything. Can you imagine the public rancor if four one-loss teams emerged from the bowl games? A playoff should minimize unrest, not create more.

Isn't there also some oddball plan out there involving the Rose Bowl?

It's called "Four Teams Plus." It should be called the "Pasadena Plan." Or the "Let's Try to Keep the Rose Bowl from Hating Us Plan."

Try to follow: If the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion finishes in the top four, that team (or those two teams) play in Pasadena. The other four highest-ranked teams play in the "semifinal" bowls. After the three games are played, the top two play for all the marbles.


SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has dismissed it, saying it does not "simplify" the postseason. Industry sources believe Delany and Pac-12 boss Larry Scott floated it simply to show they're determined to protect the Rose Bowl's interests. Slive also said "there is no leader in the clubhouse" in terms of playoff proposals, but the Tribune's sources disagree.

So what is most likely to happen?

Sorry, Big Ten fans, but Delany's "home game" model is on life support. It makes sense in that it would boost the regular season by rewarding the top two in the rankings. And it would eliminate the sham of another LSU-Ohio State national title game in the "neutral" setting of New Orleans.

So what's the problem?

Aside from SEC teams not wanting to play in Ann Arbor or Columbus in late December, it's logistics. Many schools won't have the infrastructure then because they're on holiday break.

Stadium size would be an issue with schools such as Cincinnati (35,100), TCU (50,000) and Oregon (53,800). If there's a playoff, officials will want to maximize revenue by selling hospitality and luxury suites.

And, besides, most fans love going to bowl games in places like New Orleans and Glendale, Ariz. Delany cited the comfort of the fans when he helped choose a neutral site (Indianapolis) for the Big Ten title game.

Speaking of money ...

A four-team playoff could double the reported $180 million the BCS distributed to schools in 2011. As one source said, there never has been a better time to take a sports property to market. ABC/ESPN and Fox will bid. Turner Sports is a major player in college sports after adding the NCAA tournament. And NBC/NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) could splash some chips.

So what's the most likely scenario?

Delany and Scott agree to playoffs in bowl games in exchange for concessions that give the Rose Bowl preferred status. If the commissioners can leave Florida with an agreed-upon playoff model, they can then take it to university presidents and try to get something approved by their self-imposed "mid-summer" deadline.

What else needs to get done?

The dates of the games — strengthening New Year's Day and getting the title game closer to Jan. 1. Killing off the "double-hosting" model and automatic qualifiers for BCS games. Working to get better matchups for the best half-dozen bowls and booting six-victory teams from the postseason.

Won't be much time for sunbathing, huh?

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