Eleven conference commissioners and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick gathered Wednesday in Chicago in an attempt to hash out a plan for a new college football postseason, starting in 2014. Most indications point toward a four-team playoff eventually emerging from these talks after more than a decade of the controversial Bowl Championship Series.
Whatever new system these commissioners come up with will need to be presented to, and approved by, the 12-member BCS presidential oversight committee, which is composed of university presidents. The chair of that committee, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, issued his first comments Tuesday on college football’s postseason negotiations through a school spokesman.
“This is an important decision that will not be taken lightly,” Steger said. “The group will weigh the upsides and downsides carefully. It is the group’s desire to maintain college football as an element of higher education, to preserve the importance of the regular season, and to continue the bowl tradition and experience.”
Steger declined to comment further, saying he would prefer to wait until after the committee of presidents meets in Washington on June 26. In the meantime, the conference commissioners will move forward trying to work out the details for a new postseason system that wouldn’t take effect for two more seasons.
The commissioners from all Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Swarbrick will re-convene in Chicago next week for the NCAA Division I Conference Commissioners Association meeting, where the hope is that a final plan will emerge to present to the presidential oversight committee.
But there are significant details yet to be hammered out, even though it appeared there was a consensus building for a four-team playoff when the commissioners met for three days in April. Since then, though, each major conference has held its annual spring meetings and stances have changed slightly.
Some, like SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, want the top four teams in the country in a playoff regardless of whether they won a conference title. Others, like the Big Ten’s Jim Delany, have voiced support for keeping the status quo to preserve the bowl system – and in Delany’s case, the tradition of the Rose Bowl. But Delany also seems amenable to a four-team playoff whose teams are chosen by a selection committee, much like the NCAA basketball tournament.
Delany’s counterpart in the Pacific-12, Larry Scott, has suggested a plus-one format in which a national championship game is played following the bowl season. ACC Commissioner John Swofford, meanwhile, would prefer a system that favors conference champions as long as they meet certain criteria in the rankings, a nod to the fact that this past season was the first time the ACC had a team earn an at-large berth to a BCS bowl game (Virginia Tech and the Sugar Bowl).
Where these hypothetical games would be played – as part of the bowl system, on campus sites or at neutral fields – is also a point of contention that must be addressed. Even harder to decide could be how to divvy up the potential windfall that would come from a revised television contract as a result of whatever postseason emerges from these discussions.
One thing seems certain, though: These commissioners and school presidents have a lot of work ahead of them in the coming weeks.