- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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In 2014, we will crown a college football national champion in a different way for the first time since 1997. How we might do that -- and how college football divides the substantial spoils -- remains a matter of intense, amorphous speculation.
But BCS executive director Bill Hancock laid down the biggest revelation coming out of the BCS meetings in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday: "I can officially say that the status quo is off the table."
So the pure BCS rankings model is dead. Long live... what?
Deciding to change is one thing. Then you have to come up with a plan, and there are lots of options before -- and lots of agendas among -- the 11 FBS commissioners.
The consensus among reporters with "sources" rates a four-team playoff with semifinals at neutral sites, perhaps even the existing BCS bowls, as the leading plan. The national title game then could be put out for bid. And it would be very valuable.
But even that seemingly simple plan is fraught with issues. Chief among them for the Pac-12 and Big Ten: What about the Rose Bowl?
Beyond that: How do you select the teams? Will the BCS standings be tweaked -- again -- and used? Or what about a selection committee? What about bias issues? Will only conference champions be eligible? After you select the teams, how do you seed them? And then how do you decide who plays where?
And, when all of that heavy lifting is complete, how do you divide the billions? Do the Conferences Formerly Known as the AQ Conferences keep a lion's share of the loot? Or should there be more equity?
Know that the conference commissioners are not all on the same page. CBS Sports' Brett McMurphy does a good job of showing how Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and SEC commissioner Mike Slive agree on very little. For example:
Scott said if a four-team playoff is chosen, the selection of the four teams needs to be "more credible, a more objective, fair system that balances strength of schedule.
"We don't all play over the same course," Scott said. "We play a different caliber ... some play nine conference games, some eight. Some play stronger out-of-conference competition, some tend to not. They just want to get home games."
Scott didn't say which conference he was referring to, but he didn't have to -- their initials are S-E-C.
What's important for the commissioners not named Slive is to not allow the SEC to dictate terms, particularly to introduce a system that will cultivate a "just because" feeling that the SEC should always will be in the Final Four -- often with two teams.
Wimpy scheduling needs to be addressed, including finding ways to circumvent misleading measures of "strength of schedule." And, yes, Scott is well aware that a significant part of the SEC's rise is PR and fan passion, not just quality play. He knows that would be in play with a selection committee.
Just imagine how contentious and controversial this could be.
Imagine, for one, if Oregon were ranked No. 4 in the AP poll and by the vast majority of other polls -- coaches, Sagarin, computer, etc. -- but was bypassed by a selection committee for a second SEC team. My feeling, and I could be wrong, is that would bother some folks in Eugene. And the Pac-12 offices.
What if Boise State is the only unbeaten team but many think four one-loss teams from major conferences are much better? Or what if there are four unbeaten teams but an 11-1 team played a much tougher schedule? And will a selection committee worry about which teams would generate better ratings -- say Ohio State over Oklahoma State -- and therefore better revenue.
All these potentially contentious scenarios, of course, mean a HUGE political element will exist if there is some sort of committee. Conference offices will be forced to mobilize on talking points supporting their lead team. As a writer covering college football, it seems like potentially great fun but not necessarily like a system fans won't immediately start lambasting.
You know: Like they do the BCS.
Any committee -- or selection process -- will have to explain itself fully and how it made distinctions: "Yes, everyone else ranked Oregon No. 4, but we think Arkansas is better!"
Good luck with that.
When will we have an endgame? Not this week. The goal this week is to come up with two or three legitimate plans. Those will be put before the NCAA Presidential Oversight Committee. A decision should then be announced in early July.
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