Monday, June 25, 2012
BCS presidents' meeting primer
By Adam Rittenberg
The BCS presidential oversight committee meets Tuesday afternoon in Washington D.C. to discuss college football's future postseason. The 12 presidents will hear from the FBS commissioners who last week endorsed a seeded four-team playoff beginning in 2014, which would have semifinals at bowl sites and bid out the championship game nationally. The commissioners are expected to present multiple models and discuss the evolution of their discussion, which came to a head last week in Chicago. Although the commissioners are unified, they’ve made it clear the presidents have the final say here.
The oversight committee begins its meetings at 3 p.m. ET, and while initially scheduled to meet four hours, the session likely will last well into Tuesday night.
To get you prepared for a long day and night, here's a primer, in question-and-answer form.
What action will the presidents take Tuesday?
It's likely they'll approve the four-team playoff model endorsed by the commissioners. ESPN.com has learned that the two most evolved elements of the playoff are the basic four-team model and the use of a selection committee to determine the four teams. Two elements that still must be discussed further and likely won't be resolved Tuesday: understanding playoff access and revenue distribution. Although there's an agreement in principle among the commissioners for how the revenue should be divided, the presidents want to have a thorough discussion on this topic.
What elements unified the commissioners in Chicago?
The two big ones were the selection committee and having the semifinals played inside the bowls. Commissioners who have chaired the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee -- such as the SEC's Mike Slive, the Big Ten's Jim Delany and the Big 12's Bob Bowlsby -- strongly advocated for it, and others, like the Pac-12's Larry Scott, warmed up to the idea. They see the committee as more transparent, more rational and having fewer conflicts of interest than the current polls used in the BCS formula.
The commissioners emerged from their April meetings in Hollywood, Fla., with two models: a four-team playoff inside the bowls and a four-team playoff at neutral sites outside the bowls. ESPN.com has learned three leagues -- the SEC, Big 12 and Conference USA -- advocated neutral sites for semifinal games, which likely would bring in more revenue but devalue the top bowl games. The Big Ten and Pac-12 didn't want to see the Rose Bowl drop down several notches (think NIT) and endanger the other bowls. This was a deal breaker, and it eventually pushed the group toward an inside-the-bowls model.
How will the model work inside the bowls and with access?
It's very likely that five or six bowls, not just the four BCS bowls, will be part of the playoff structure. There will be the familiar four -- Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta -- as well as one or two yet-to-be-determined bowls (Cotton, Capital One, etc.). Although the commissioners spent a lot of time discussing an anchor plan -- where the No. 1 and No. 2 playoff participants would play at regional sites -- they determined it would be too difficult because of television sponsorships, ticket distribution and other factors. So the semifinal games will be predetermined and rotate between the bowls. For example, if the TV contract is for 12 years and the rotation includes six bowls, each game could host a semifinal four times.
The selection committee could end up selecting participants for more than just the four-team playoff, especially because the additional bowls will provide access for champions from smaller conferences. The same guidelines applied to selecting the playoff participants – strength of schedule, valuing conference championships -- also will be used to determine who appears in some of the additional bowls. For example, if the Mountain West champion and the Big Ten's No. 2 team have comparable profiles, including strength of schedules, and are ranked 12th and 13th, the Mountain West champion likely would get the nod to a big bowl because of its championship.
While there will be access for smaller-conference champions, the bowls who have contracts with certain leagues will continue to feature teams from those leagues. If the Rose Bowl isn't a national semifinal and loses the Pac-12 and/or Big Ten champion to a semifinal game, it will replace them with Pac-12 and Big Ten teams. The only way the Rose Bowl features teams not from the Big Ten or Pac-12 is if it's a semifinal.
How much traction does the plus-one model have?
None. It will be discussed Tuesday because the presidents want to look at multiple models, but everyone is so far down the road toward a four-team playoff and they're highly unlikely to turn back. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, a playoff opponent who prefers the status quo and a plus-one over a four-team playoff -- as do the Big Ten colleagues he represents and some Pac-12 presidents -- will have his say, but he also understands where this is headed. Perlman realizes he can't be Mr. Davis in "12 Angry Men" and sway everyone else in the room.
How would the selection committee operate?
The group will have certain guidelines for selection, such as valuing strength of schedule conference championships. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but these guidelines will help break ties. Expect the committee to be around 15 members, and it will meet throughout the season. It's unclear who will serve on it, although former coaches as well as school and league administrators are the likeliest candidates.
According to a source, the committee could reveal a poll midway through the season to let the public know where things stand with certain teams. Such a poll likely would debut around the time the initial BCS standings do (Week 8 or so).
When would the playoffs take place?
The five or six bowls in the playoff rotation likely will take place around Jan. 1. The Rose Bowl will keep its traditional New Year's Day afternoon time slot, whether or not it's a national semifinal. A new contract for the Rose Bowl is expected this week and will last through the 2026 game. The Rose Bowl contract always has been completed before the BCS contract.
We could end up seeing three of the bowls take place Dec. 31 and the other three, including the Rose, on Jan. 1. The championship game then would take place about 10 days later.
Colleagues Mark Schlabach and Heather Dinich will be in D.C. for the presidential oversight committee meeting, so be sure and check in with ESPN.com throughout Tuesday afternoon and night.