DALLAS -- "Playoff" was hardly the word of the day at the final meeting of college football's commissioners to discuss the future of the sport's postseason. "Metaphor" was more apt.
The 11 BCS conference commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, BCS executive director Bill Hancock and Washington, D.C.-based BCS lawyer Tripp Monts met for the second of two half-day meetings on Wednesday, spending nine total hours over the two days searching for "understanding" of a number of playoff possibilities that could include 50 to 60 options.
"What everybody is trying to do is understand all the models as best they can," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "Nothing has been ruled out, and nothing has been ruled in."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott described the conversations as "robust" and "open."
Delany described the current level of understanding of the models as "modest," but added that there is, "No one I know who has any interest" in either an eight- or 16-team playoff format. However, he said he was open to discussing the models.
With little tangible results from the two-day meetings, commissioners leaned on metaphors to explain where the process stood.
"What'd I say yesterday? We're at 30,000 feet?" said Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson. "We're at 29,000 feet. They haven't put the fasten your seatbelts sign on."
Said Delany: "This is going to be an extra-inning game, probably more than nine innings. We're probably in the fourth inning."
For now, the commissioners are working toward a yet undetermined "drop-dead date" before decisions must be made.
No outcome is likely until late summer at the earliest, but one benchmark date could be Oct. 1, when ESPN's exclusive 30-day window opens to negotiate for the price of a BCS that could look much different, or could still look the same.
Hancock, though, said even that Oct. 1 date, however, could be pushed back, according to the BCS' television contract.
A change is anything but imminent this early in the process, though momentum toward a playoff has progressed further than ever before.
"The American sports fan is conditioned," Delany said. "They like more games, more wild cards, larger fields. We don't look at the regular season as a seeding match. There are a lot of people going to lots of football games. We're cautious, and I think that's good."
College football's decision makers, however, feel they're the guardians of the game's most valuable asset -- its regular season.
Delany noted that the diminished college basketball season was the "price you pay" for three weeks of excitement in the upset-filled, 68-team NCAA tournament.
Both Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive were hesitant to call the possibility of a plus-one format a playoff.
The commissioners don't plan on convening again until March 26, when they'll return to Dallas before meeting again in April in Florida.
"It's an ongoing process that's going to take some time. We're at the very early stages," Scott said. "I know I'm going back and I've got a lot of discussion with my conference and the various stakeholders we've got, so it's going to be an iterative process."
David Ubben covers the Big 12 for ESPN.com.