NCF Nation: 042412 BCS issues
If you are not nodding, you are either ignorant of the Rose Bowl experience or are untroubled by being wrong. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.
Our position on this is unambiguous. When the BCS power brokers meet in Hollywood, Fla., this week with the intention of transforming the college football postseason, the Rose Bowl must be given special status. Why? If you were to request a list from the sports' cognoscenti on the greatest traditions in college football, most would rate the Rose Bowl No. 1.
Some ACC, Big 12 and SEC fans might be shrugging. Their conferences don't play in the Rose Bowl, other than in a couple of BCS-mandated exceptional cases. Why should they care?
Well, I don't live in Egypt, but I care about the pyramids. We're talking about history, folks, about tradition, about maintaining a connection to the past. If our postseason endgame somehow ends the Rose Bowl, it would be like knocking down the Washington Monument because we feel like we can build a bigger and better pointy thing in our nation's capital.
We know that one of the four options that will be discussed -- as first reported by USA Today -- is the "Four Teams Plus" plan. It would make the Rose Bowl an automatic part of a "playoff" that would determine the national champion.
The four highest-ranked teams at the end of the regular season would meet in semifinals unless the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion, or both, were among the top four. Those leagues' teams still would meet in the Rose, and the next highest-ranked team or teams would slide into the semis. The national championship finalists would be selected after those three games.
This plan has been widely ridiculed, and for good reason. It's ridiculous. It continues to add subjectivity to the process instead of having more decided on the field of play. That's what we are trying to get rid of.
As I've said before, it doesn't seem that complicated to have a four-team playoff set, then let the Rose Bowl choose next, likely the best available teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten.
Why should the Rose Bowl get priority? Because it's the Rose Bowl.
Should there be flexibility to the Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup? Perhaps. It's already happened without great loss of life (though there has been a bit of wincing, particularly one year in Berkeley). It might be unavoidable. The game itself, however, is the most sacred relic.
The hope here is this won't end up being only a Jim Delany and Larry Scott crusade. The Big Ten and Pac-12 commissioners obviously have the most at stake among all the pooh-bahs in Florida, but there's no reason for SEC don Mike Slive et al to go all Sun Tzu on the Rose Bowl just to score an Art of War point.
It would be great if Slive et al would take the high-grounded position and recognize the Rose Bowl's special status in college football.
There will be a lot of smart folks in Florida. Let's hope they are smart enough not to drive a carelessly placed wingtip into the game they are charged with protecting.
After all, every other meaningful event in the sport occurs well south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany needs to make sure that changes, no matter which playoff format the BCS leaders ultimately choose. Forget the laughable "Four Teams Plus" plan that keeps the Rose Bowl in the mix for determining the national champion, but has virtually no chance of being approved by commissioners not from the Big Ten or Pac-12. While Delany loves the Rose Bowl and always will, his top priority this week in South Florida should be proximity.
If a four-team postseason plan is green-lighted, as many expect, Delany must ensure that it's possible for at least some of the games to be played in or near the Big Ten footprint. Because the current system doesn't serve the Big Ten or its fans.
There are myriad reasons for the Big Ten's downturn during the BCS era, but the location of the most significant bowl games, including the national championship, undoubtedly hurts the league, which has played several virtual road contests.
Since the BCS launched in 1998, the Big Ten has dropped two games to LSU in New Orleans, including the national title game after the 2007 season. The Big Ten also is 0-4 against USC at the Rose Bowl. While there are exceptions, like Penn State's Orange Bowl win against Florida State, Big Ten teams generally become roadkill in these matchups.
The Big Ten's destination dilemma is inherent within the current bowl/BCS system. The big bowl games always have been played in the south and west, and because of the "double-hosting" model, the same holds true for the national championship games. Most Big Ten fans understand the reasons behind this, and have willingly hopped on airplanes every December and traveled far and wide to see their teams play. It's this willingness that has made Big Ten teams so attractive to BCS bowl committees.
But the future postseason structure will bring change. A four-team setup would create two semifinals, which might take place within the current bowl structure, but most likely will not. The semis could take place at on-campus sites belonging to the higher seeds, a plan Delany advocates, or at neutral sites like Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium and Detroit's Ford Field. The Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis? Beats facing LSU in NOLA.
"Yes, has to be," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith recently told ESPN.com. "If you go neutral sites, you've got to have one in the Midwest. You've just got to. If it's campus sites, it's hard to dictate that, because it depends on the rankings. If you go campus sites, you hope some Midwest team is up there and they get to host."
Although Big Ten fans travel better than any in the country, the cost of making two long trips -- for the semifinals and championship game -- in a short span around the holidays will be too much for many to bear.
"If you think about it, just about every conference now has a [championship game], so you expect your fans to go to that," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who is attending the BCS meetings along with Delany, told ESPN.com. "Now you're going to go to a bowl site, and if you're in a championship game, that's three games you want them to travel to. It would be nice if one of those games would be at a home site, or two of them."
There's also the possibility the national championship game moves away from the bowl sites and goes to the highest bidder, which could bring venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and Ford Field into the rotation. The chance to play for a title on Big Ten soil will excite fans around the Midwest, but they'll settle for having some type of nationally relevant football game within driving distance in late December or early January.
Delany's ideal setup likely would call for semifinal games on campus, and the national title game at the Rose Bowl every year. Don't hold your breath on either element coming to fruition, but having a neutral-site semifinal in the Midwest every year certainly isn't too much to ask.
Big Ten fans have served their league and its teams extremely well by traveling in droves to big-time bowl games in faraway destinations.
It's time for Delany to return the favor by ensuring they'll have a chance to see their teams play meaningful games closer to home.
How it changes remains up in the air, as another round of discussions on the future of the BCS are set to resume in South Florida this week. But what seems almost certain is a radical shift that could have huge ramifications on the Big East.
I am not talking about the addition of a playoff.
I am talking about the loss of automatic qualifying status.
Imagine this nightmare scenario -- not only does the Big East lose a guaranteed spot in the BCS every year, it loses a portion of its incoming teams to boot. Which is the scarier proposition?
It is no secret that AQ designation for the so-called six top leagues in the nation has been on the chopping block for several months now, as ideas have been bandied about toward improving the college football postseason.
Let us not kid ourselves. The Big East has been one of the biggest benefactors of AQ status since its inception in 1998, especially of late. Three times in the last five seasons, the Big East had the lowest-ranked conference champion of the six AQ leagues. Three times in the last four seasons, the Big East representative had three or more losses. The ACC is the only other league that has had multiple teams with three or more losses make it to BCS games in the same span.
UConn would never have made a BCS game in 2010 without AQ status. You could argue the same for West Virginia last season. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 23 in the final BCS standings after going 9-3, with an unsightly loss to Syracuse on its ledger. Nationally, folks may have forgotten about the way West Virginia had to fight back to get into the BCS, because the Mountaineers so impressively and thoroughly dumped Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.
But the fact is over the last two seasons, UConn was unranked and West Virginia was in the bottom of the Top 25. And the league finished with tri-champions in the last two seasons as well, another mark against a conference that has not had a team win a national championship since Miami in 2001. The Big East and ACC are the only two leagues that have not played for a national championship since the BCS expanded to five games in the 2006 season.
It is not hard to imagine that BCS games would look elsewhere if they no longer had to take automatic qualifiers. The three lowest-rated BCS games since 1999 involve Big East teams -- the 2012 Orange Bowl between West Virginia and Clemson; the 2009 Orange Bowl between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati; and the 2011 Fiesta Bowl between UConn and Oklahoma. Look at those years -- proof again that recent history has been unkind to the Big East.
But I have not gotten to what could be the scariest part of all. If AQ status is stripped all together, what happens to schools set to join the league in 2013? After all, Boise State has been on a mission to be a part of an automatic qualifying conference. It is a huge reason the Broncos decided to leave the Mountain West for the Big East, despite having to split up its athletic programs and being nowhere near the East Coast.
If staying where they are proves to be as valuable as leaving for the Big East, would Boise State re-consider? Would San Diego State, which joined the Big East in a similar move of convenience? Remember, TCU was able to leave the Big East without a waiting period. Incoming schools are not subject to a waiting period, either, if they change their minds before joining in 2013.
So the Big East could very well be thrown into flux once again, depending on the outcome of the new-and-improved BCS. That is obviously the worst-case scenario. Boise State and San Diego State stand to benefit greatly in the Big East, with more national exposure and more money. They have pledged their word.
Commissioner John Marinatto has declined comment on the BCS, but he does not have to say anything for all of us to realize this is a crucial time for the league.
The BCS will look a whole lot different in 2014. That may be enough to impact where the Big East stands.
For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 is beginning play with just 10 teams.
Perhaps most importantly, it's beginning with no Big 12 Championship game. The Big 12 lucked out in 2011 on the season's final weekend.
Who said there was no Big 12 Championship? Oklahoma and Oklahoma State played for the Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl on Championship weekend, providing a fitting end while the SEC played its title game and the Big Ten and Pac-12 held their inaugural games.
Oklahoma State romped and stated its case for the national title game, though the Cowboys fell short.
Now, 2012 is a new year, and a new risk befalls the 10-team Big 12: Can it survive in college football's new world without a title game?
Expanding to 12 teams is a possibility, but not a necessity for the league to reinstitute a title game. The Big 12 could petition the NCAA and likely bring back the event on the season's final weekend, the same weekend the league hosted from the time it began in 1996 until 2010.
There's little motivation to do so from those who tend most to on-field matters: Coaches. At least one expressed a desire on Monday, though.
"I would like too see us add a couple more in the future to get us back to 12 and a conference championship game," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. "But who’s out there?"Everyone is kind of scrambling around trying to fill it up."
The biggest motivator, though, is the same as always: Money.
Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe convinced ABC/ESPN to honor its contract with the Big 12 in the summer of 2010, despite doing away with the Big 12 title game.
A new first-tier TV deal will likely be signed in 2014, the same year that -- gasp! -- college football could be entering a world with a four-team playoff.
Is there any doubt a new Big 12 television contract would be more valuable with the promise of a titanic clash at season's end?
By 2014, the Big 12 would join the Big East as the only major conference without a national championship game, and even that's no guarantee, with the Big East eyeing wholesale expansion and perhaps doubling the size of its league.
Perception is reality, and perception would claim the Big 12 was behind the times. The Big 12 could earn more cash with a Big 12 title game, but the respect from re-instituting it would come with a hefty price of its own.
A Big 12 team has never been thrust into the national title game, but on three occasions, Big 12 teams have lost the conference's title game when a win would have landed them in the national championship.
The Big 12 played for the title seven times, second only to the SEC's nine, but four more appearances than any other league.
Without a Big 12 title game, the Big 12 could have earned back some of that money with conference revenue from an appearance on college football's biggest stage.
Bring back the title game, though? Especially in a world with a four-team playoff?
Big 12 teams would be asked to win three games in addition to a 12-game schedule, after a Big 12 title game, national semifinal and national championship.
That's not easy.
Without divisions like the other leagues with title games, deciding the two participants for the game wouldn't be easy, either.
For now, the Big 12 will move on with 10 teams and no title game. Want to bring it back?
When the new commissioner arrives and a television contract is pieced together, prepare for plenty of debate.
Obviously, there will be many who disagree, but that same concept simply does not apply to college football conferences, which is why a playoff that only includes conference champions is more flawed than any system we’ve seen to date when it comes to determining the national champion.
Assuming it’s a four-team playoff we see adopted in 2014, the goal is to assemble the best four teams in the country -- period -- and let those four teams play it off on the field.
Why place any restraints on the process?
It’s completely understandable that the college football powers want to protect the integrity of the regular season, and it would be troubling if that weren't a priority.
But a true playoff (and, yes, that’s what it’s going to be regardless of what snazzy moniker it’s given) is open to anybody.
I would argue that three of the best teams in the country last season were from the SEC -- Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. It just so happened that they all played in the same division.
In fact, heading into the final weekend of the regular season, they occupied the top three spots in the BCS standings. All three finished ranked among the top five teams nationally in the final polls.
Alabama’s only loss last season was in overtime to the No. 1-ranked team in the country. That team (LSU) again just happened to be in Alabama’s division, and went on to win the SEC championship.
Had we had a conference champions-only format last season in a playoff, the best team in the country would have been excluded. Alabama wouldn’t have been eligible because the Crimson Tide didn’t win the SEC title -- and that would have been a farce.
It’s not just an SEC thing.
It’s a what’s-best-for-college football thing.
If USC and Oregon are among the best four teams at season’s end, they both should be in the playoff. It’s immaterial that one team wins the Pac-12 championship and the other one doesn’t.
We’re entering a brand new era of college football with this playoff talk, which means open minds need to prevail.
In short, there are going to be a lot of seasons when the Big Ten champion or the Pac-12 champion or the Big 12 champion isn’t nearly as deserving as the second-best team in the SEC.
And down the road, although it’s hard to envision now given the SEC’s recent dominance, there’s going to come a time when there might be two teams more deserving in the Pac-12 or Big 12 than the SEC champion.
Again, why paint yourself into a corner with conference champions only?
The bigger issue is going to be how the four teams are selected. Do you stick with the BCS standings, or do you go with a selection committee similar to college basketball?
The BCS standings would seem to make the most sense, because it’s farfetched to think you could truly find enough qualified people, who didn’t have a dog in the fight, to serve on a selection committee.
In in the end -- if we’re really going to go down this playoff road in college football -- let’s make sure we accomplish what a playoff is supposed to, and that’s crowning the best team in college football. Not the best team to win a conference championship in college football.
If these upcoming BCS meetings take a couple of unforeseen turns, who knows, just maybe you can provide a safe landing spot for Notre Dame, expanding your conference's footprint to the Midwest and, to an extent, across the nation in a way no other league would be able to match.
But that's another issue for another day. For now, as we said, life is good as the ACC commissioner.
As sad a commentary as it might be on the present state of college athletics, the only tangible issue for the ACC now is, frankly, a minor one: The conference has not been among the best when it comes to winning football games.
Its champion from a year ago, Clemson, was run off the field in the Orange Bowl by West Virginia, a school that valued winning the Big East so much that it is now playing in the Big 12. The runner-up, perennial conference contender Virginia Tech, managed to secure a second BCS-bowl bid for the conference, something that had never been done before. The Hokies did that despite losing the league's title game by 28 points, despite finishing four BCS spots behind Boise State (No. 7) and three spots behind Kansas State (No. 8).
Both schools went on to play in smaller bowls, and the Hokies got a trip to New Orleans, ultimately losing a winnable Sugar Bowl against Michigan. The Wolverines, by the way, did not even reach their conference championship game — they actually lost to the team that lost that game, Michigan State. But, as we said, when life is good in college football, there are benefits to be reaped.
One of those may be on display this week in South Florida, where postseason meetings will take place among the 11 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. Here, the ACC can get greedy.
The future is secure, which is more than can be said for some other conferences. But the record in BCS bowl games is 2-12, a concern generally limited to fan bases whose teams are losing big game after big game. Virginia Tech, a model of consistency in this sport, can only be tasked with carrying the mantle for the conference so much.
If a playoff format involving only conference champions arises, though, this could be the breakthrough toward occasionally cracking the nation's elite. Despite strong annual recruiting efforts from Clemson and Florida State, the ACC has shown little sign it can put multiple teams in the national title hunt every year, which is what the home of the past six national-title winners — the SEC — has been able to do.
But have one team emerge every now and then, losing one or even zero games? That's far more likely, which makes cracking a four-team playoff decided by conference winners — and thereby entering the national title picture — all the easier.
Are six consecutive national titles on the horizon for the ACC? Not exactly. But with its future secure, and its base potentially growing, this could be one small step for a conference lacking only on the scoreboard.