There are two priorities above all others as college football pooh-bahs try to restructure the college football postseason: 1. Create a better system -- read: quasi-playoff -- to select a national champion; 2. Preserve the Rose Bowl.
No. 2 is controversial.
Why? Because the Pac-12 and Big Ten play in the Rose Bowl. The other BCS conferences' champions are connected to great-but-less-great BCS bowls. So guess who wants to preserve the greatest event and asset in college football history? And who doesn't?
One of the four options that will be discussed -- as first reported by USA Today -- during the BCS meetings on April 24-26 in Hollywood, Fla., is the "Four Teams Plus" plan. It makes 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 week SEC commissioner Mike Slive volunteered that this plan, "is not one of my favorites." A completely understandable position, too.
The biggest reason for this is simple: The SEC doesn't have a contract with the Rose Bowl. You'd guess the ACC and Big 12 have similar feelings. Meanwhile, folks over in Big Ten and Pac-12 country feel differently.
My incredibly bright, prolific and downright lovable colleagues, Adam Rittenberg in the Big Ten blog and Chris "I can't see you from behind the SEC's six crystal footballs stacked in front of me" Low of the SEC, both opined this week that this "Four Teams Plus" plan is unworkable, agreeing with Slive. You can read Rittenberg here and Low here.
I mostly agree, in large part because the "Four Teams Plus" plan, when you get down to it, is ridiculous. What it does is -- again -- set up a plan where an ultimate judgment on the two teams playing for the national title won't be decided on the field. You would have two so-called semifinal winners and a Rose Bowl winner and then you'd need a subjective system to pick two of the three.
Anyone think that might get controversial?
That said: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany need to make something clear in Florida: The Rose Bowl must endure. Period. Then we talk playoff. Or we walk.
That might ruffle some custom-tailored pinstripe suits, but it rests on a great truth that everyone in the room needs to acknowledge: The Rose Bowl is special. No other bowl matches it in terms of history or pageantry. It is the greatest tradition in all of college football. End of story. To not admit this truth is to be ignorant or disingenuous.
How this gets done, I'll mostly leave it up to the Big Brains meeting in Florida. To me, 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.
It seems very likely the college football postseason will be different in 2014. And it's likely the adopted changes will -- again -- be controversial. A perfect system doesn't exist.
But Scott and Delany should not back down on the Rose Bowl. That's what's best for college football.