Nebraska chancellor ‘disappointed’ in four-team college football playoff, wants plus-one format


How this trophy will be rewarded is still up for debate next week in Washington. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)
June 21, 2012

A day after college football moved closer than ever to a four-team national championship playoff, one university president charged with approving the plan next week in Washington said he would have to be convinced such an idea was good for the sport.

Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman, the Big Ten’s representative on the Bowl Championship Series presidential oversight committee, said Thursday afternoon he was “disappointed” with the consensus reached Wednesday by commissioners from every major BCS conference and Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.

When the Big Ten emerged from its conference meetings last month, the league’s presidents ranked their preferences for the future of the college football postseason, with a desire to keep the status quo of the BCS at the top of the list. Their second choice, Perlman said, was to adopt a plus-one format that would pit the top two teams in a national championship game following the conclusion of the bowl season.

If those two options weren’t viable, only then were the Big Ten presidents interested in looking into a seeded playoff system.

“I don’t like the idea of a four-team playoff,” Perlman said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I’m certainly open to hearing what [the commissioners] believe to be the best for the game. Personally, without that, I still think a plus-one, properly structured, would be better for college football, for fan interest and for bowls.”

The commissioners will present their case for a four-team playoff when the 12-member presidential oversight committee, which is chaired by Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, meets in Washington on Tuesday. Before the playoff can be adopted, the committee must approve the plan.

Perlman believes a plus-one model would serve the sport better because there would be more games each postseason that could implicate the national championship. “I’d rather have five exciting games instead of two exciting games,” he said.

But Perlman, who served as the committee chair during the 2009-10 season, insisted he would come to Washington willing to be convinced as to why a playoff is a better option for college football than the plus-one model Big Ten presidents prefer. He said he will be particularly interested in learning more about a proposed selection committee and how the rotation of bowl games would work if they were to serve as the sites for semifinal games.

“Clearly, that all the commissioners reached a consensus of some sort is a big step,” he said. “I think the presidents would be reluctant to overrule the people that actually work in the area unless there was good reason to do so.”

The commissioners spent Thursday morning in Chicago tying up loose ends and finalizing their presentation for the presidents after the historic announcement Wednesday, when the conference commissioners reached consensus on a four-team playoff beginning in the 2014-15 season.

One of the biggest points of emphasis was the development of a mathematical metric that would guide the proposed selection committee instead of the two polls and six computer rankings that have caused much controversy since the BCS was instituted in 1998.

Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said there are not enough “data points” during the college football season to replicate the Ratings Percentage Index metric used by the NCAA tournament selection committees in men’s and women’s basketball.

The commissioners also have yet to decide exactly who would serve on the proposed college football committee, although Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and ACC Commissioner John Swofford both suggested it might need to be larger than the basketball committee because there could be more conflict of interest selecting just four teams.

But neither the unresolved details nor the looming presidential meeting Tuesday could dim Neinas’s spirits as he emerged from Thursday’s two-hour session. He even revealed that the public would be able to enjoy “a tremendous holiday season” because the plan is to hold the two semifinal games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“What we’re going to do is reclaim New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve for college football. Turn back the clock, so to speak,” Neinas said. “These are the games you can’t miss.”

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