Get ready for a year with two Rose Bowls. Organizers of college football's Bowl Championship Series formally announced plans yesterday to add a fifth game but to keep the four current sites, creating a model in which one of the current BCS bowls will host both its traditional game and the national title game within a week of each other.
Under the so-called "piggyback" or "double-hosting" plan, the as-yet-unnamed national championship game will continue to rotate among Miami; New Orleans; Pasadena, Calif.; and Tempe, Ariz. But it will be played about a week after those four cities stage their traditional bowl games -- the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta bowls, respectively. The model will go into effect after the 2006 season.
"This is a new model that presents a unique opportunity for the bowls that will be hosting [the national championship game]," said Kevin Weiberg, the commissioner of the Big 12 and the incoming coordinator of the BCS. "We think it's very possible for this to work in a positive way."
The new model only partially addresses one criticism of the BCS -- that it excludes schools from the five Division I-A conferences whose champions don't automatically earn BCS berths. By adding a fifth game, the plan opens two more at-large slots, but there is no guarantee one of those slots will be filled by a team from outside the six original BCS leagues.
The BCS was also criticized last year because the No. 1 team in both the writers' and coaches' polls -- Southern California -- didn't qualify for the national championship game. A new formula, which will rely more heavily on the writers' and coaches' polls, is still being tested, Weiberg said, and won't be announced for a couple of weeks at the earliest.
The Rose Bowl begins negotiations with ABC on a new television contract today, and BCS organizers wanted to approve the new model before those talks began. In April, ABC proposed a "plus-one" model, in which the opponents in the national title game would be determined after the traditional bowls were finished. BCS officials rejected that plan.
"Obviously, we love being in the BCS now, and want to stay in the BCS," ABC Sports vice president Mark Mandel said. "Now that they've determined this, we'll have to look at what it means."
A group of college presidents, who have staunchly opposed a playoff system in college football in large part because it would extend the season, approved this proposal. University of Oregon President David Frohnmayer, chairman of the presidential oversight committee, said a game held between, say, Jan. 6-10 would impact the academic calendar at only 10 more schools.
"There is certainly a strong feeling that there would be at least a month's notice, and there would be a chance to plan for any academic impact, unlike in a playoff system," when the opponents would be known only a week in advance, Frohnmayer said.
In selecting the double-hosting model, BCS officials rejected a proposal to add a fifth city to the mix, which would have allowed the current BCS bowls to host the national title game only once every five years.
"The five-game rotation was something [our sponsors] had no interest in," said Keith Tribble, CEO of the Orange Bowl.
Tournament of Roses CEO Mitch Dorger said that while the Rose Bowl prefers to stage a game between traditional Pac-10 and Big Ten opponents, it is open to hosting schools from other conferences should the Pac-10 or Big Ten champ qualify for the national title game.
Weiberg said the rotation for which bowl hosts the national championship game, as well as the name of such a game, are among several details still to be determined. The other BCS games begin negotiations with ABC in the fall.
Some within college football wonder whether this model will work.
"There are two concerns," said Gary Stokan, president of the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. "One is the marketplaces that the existing BCS games are in. Is there enough local marketplace there to help sell out two games? . . .
"The other concern is: Can they get a sponsor [for the national title game, wherever it may be held] that will effectively help to grow college football and grow that game?"