Sources: BCS proposes radical changes
Among a handful of suggested format changes being considered by Bowl Championship Series members is an informal proposal that would radically change the structure of the BCS and significantly alter the major bowl selection process.
According to sources with direct knowledge of meetings held in San Francisco earlier this week, the suggested change calls for the BCS to sever its direct ties with the so-called BCS bowls -- the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio -- and concentrate solely on arranging a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship matchup.
In addition, the BCS title game could potentially be bidded out to nontraditional sites, such as Jerry Jones' Cowboys Stadium.
The proposal also would eliminate automatic BCS bowl qualifying status currently given to the six major conferences. All conferences would be free to make their own deals with the 34 other existing bowls.
The reconfigured BCS would undergo significant change relative to its present revenue sharing system, too.
"There's a lot of stuff being thrown at the wall," said one official who attended the meetings. "I think the people in the room really want to get it right. They're tired of getting beat up. So you'll probably see us go slow on this one."
The most radical of those ideas is also the least complicated: the BCS would be responsible only for creating a national championship between the two top teams in the country.
Under this format, the champions of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East and Big 12 conferences would no longer receive automatic entry into the bowls that currently make up the BCS rotation: Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange. That's because the BCS would no longer be required to provide teams for those four games.
Instead, all 11 FBS conferences and their members, as well as football independents, would begin, in theory, each season with an equal chance of reaching the national championship game. And by eliminating the automatic qualifying clause, BCS officials hope that conference realignment and expansion -- in some cases, done in hopes of securing AQ status -- would subside.
Equally intriguing in the proposed model is the possibility of opening bidding for the BCS Championship location and the absence of a two-team-per-conference limit in those major bowls. In other words, a world where SEC West rivals LSU, Alabama and Arkansas could find themselves, depending on rankings and record, in what are now referred to as BCS bowls.
"I think it was an idea that was thrown out on the table," said a person who attended the meetings. "To run with it and say there was support for it, that that's the way we're going, is way premature ... I would be amazed if that's where we ended up."
Said another conference official: "I would respectfully disagree. I think it has a chance. It really does. It truly does. I was very encouraged."
It is not known how the proposed model would affect football independent Notre Dame, which now receives preferred revenue sharing and access to BCS bowls. Nor is it known if the BCS would continue using the existing BCS standings as the way to determine the No. 1 vs. No. 2 national title matchup.
But if eventually recommended by the conference commissioners and approved by the BCS presidential oversight committee, the model would have a profound effect on the postseason, on the way the BCS does business, on TV and bowl partnerships, and on conferences themselves.
"Why a 1-vs.-2-only is being introduced is to eliminate some of the issues and create a simpler, more straightforward format," said another conference official. "And then you forget about the rest of it."
The "rest of it" being the present system, which is criticized for not providing equal access to non-AQ conferences such as the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA or the Western Athletic Conference. The BCS also has been ridiculed for BCS bowl matchups that were the product of conference automatic berths, such as last season's Fiesta Bowl: No. 7 Oklahoma of the Big 12 vs. unranked Connecticut of the Big East (final score: OU 48, UConn 20) and No. 4 Stanford of the Pac-12 vs. No. 13 Virginia Tech of the ACC (final score: Stanford 40, Virginia Tech 14).
"There was a situation last year where arguably the Capital One Bowl had a better matchup (No. 16 Alabama vs. No. 9 Michigan State) than some of the BCS bowls," said an athletic director from a Top 25 program.
Conferences such as the Big East, which are in danger of losing their AQ status, are trying to recruit successful football programs -- Boise State, for example -- to improve their standing. But according to a conference official familiar with the content of the BCS meetings, the Big East would be affected by any model that forces the league to forfeit its AQ standing.
"It would hurt (it)," said the official. "They don't have the tradition and ticket sales reputation -- at least, a lot of their schools don't have -- to the major bowls."
Also debatable is the affect such a format would have on programs presently in non-AQ conferences, such as Boise State and Houston. Would those programs have more or fewer opportunities to play in a national championship game or a BCS bowl-level game?
"If you have a highly-ranked team -- a Boise, a TCU, a Hawaii, a Utah -- I think in that kind of system there are probably ways those type of seasons would be recognized," said the BCS conference athletic director.
But a conference official who also attended the BCS meetings said: "I think the bottom line is that Boise State-Oklahoma, Utah-Alabama, TCU-Wisconsin, Utah-Alabama, that those (bowl) games won't materialize in the future. I think it would clearly change the bowl lineup and the opportunity for a team like Boise State, or a MWC or C-USA team to play on the big stage."
According to those who were involved in the meetings, this was just one of several format ideas discussed by the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. A pure playoff model was presented, as was the familiar Plus-One model.
There also were discussions that centered on keeping the core of the BCS system, but with additional tweaks. One such tweak would be to simply eliminate AQ status.
Another idea called for the seeding of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the national championship game, and then creating an at-large and conference champion seeding. The BCS bowls, in a predetermined order, would then have the opportunity to choose a team based on traditional conference tie-ins (SEC and Sugar Bowl, for example) or go outside of those tie-ins. A second round of picks would allow the bowls to fill their remaining openings.
Another possibility, if not likelihood: the BCS running the championship game itself, rather than piggybacking with an existing BCS bowl. This season, the Sugar Bowl will oversee both its bowl and the BCS Championship.
"People are thinking out loud," said a conference commissioner.
The more they think, the more it appears that BCS change is imminent after the present BCS cycle ends at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Another meeting of the commissioners and members of the BCS hierarchy is scheduled in early January in New Orleans. The commissioners are expected to make their final model recommendation to the presidents in June.
"I think what we're doing is a natural progression," said a conference commissioner. "I think this is one of those milestones to start tinkering with (the BCS) again."
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.