BCS playoff model taking shape

Updated: June 20, 2012, 1:58 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

There are still plenty of details to be hammered out, but at least one BCS conference commissioner believes he and his colleagues can reach a compromise on the model for a four-team playoff to determine college football's national championship -- possibly as soon as this week.

ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN.com on Monday that the 11 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick have made "considerable progress" as they head into their meeting in Chicago on Wednesday.

Swofford said he hopes the commissioners will be able to present a four-team playoff to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee in Washington, D.C., next week. The presidents' committee, which is chaired by Virginia Tech's Charles W. Steger and includes 12 university presidents, will ultimately decide where college football's postseason is headed.

"I have some hope and a certain level of confidence," Swofford said. "When we left Florida, that was a big step to have a consensus in the room to go to a three-game, four-team playoff. I said the devil was in the details and that would be just as challenging. We're finding that to be true, but I think a lot of people have put their heads into this. I think we've made considerable progress on it. I think we're within striking distance on most of it."

The 11 FBS conference commissioners and Swarbrick agreed to move forward with a four-team playoff at an April meeting in Hollywood, Fla. They've spent much of the past two months negotiating the details of a playoff, which would replace the existing BCS structure in 2014. Under the current postseason format, the top two teams in the final BCS standings play in the BCS National Championship Game.

Among the details left to be determined: when and where two semifinals and a national championship game will be played; how the four teams will be selected; what will become of the existing BCS bowl games; and how the conferences will divide as much as $400 million to $500 million in annual TV revenue.

"Some of the details have to be worked out," Swofford said. "I think we can get there on most of it."

According to people familiar with the BCS discussions, the commissioners are leaning toward incorporating the semifinals into the existing BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar). At this point, according to sources, the commissioners are leaning toward having predetermined semifinal sites -- which would be designated before a particular season begins -- and rotating them among the BCS bowls.

The commissioners considered having the two highest-rated teams host semifinal games at the BCS bowls that are traditionally associated with their respective conferences, like an SEC team playing in the Sugar Bowl or a Big Ten or Pac-12 team playing in the Rose Bowl. But the commissioners realized such an anchor system might create too many potential logistical problems, sources told ESPN.com.

Swofford said the ACC preferred to play the semifinals at existing BCS bowl games, which seems to be the growing consensus among commissioners. Commissioners have all but decided to offer the BCS National Championship Game to the highest bidding city.

"Our preference is that the semifinals be incorporated into the bowl system, which seems to be in good shape," Swofford said. "We're comfortable with the championship game being bid out."

Along with deciding how to divide the increased revenue, team selection is the other pressing issue. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has repeatedly said he wants the top four teams selected, regardless if they won their conference championships. Last season, SEC West runner-up Alabama defeated SEC West champion LSU 21-0 in the BCS National Championship Game.

But Swofford, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas have said they preferred giving at least some preferential treatment to teams that win their leagues.

"In terms of the selection process, we'd be comfortable with a compromise, and I think there's going to have to be a compromise on it," Swofford said. "I think you can mix those two (selection proposals) and come out with something that's sensible and that people can agree on."

One proposal on the table would involve having a selection committee choose the four teams, while taking into consideration certain criteria -- such as winning a conference and strength of schedule -- while selecting and seeding the teams.

"I think winning a conference championship should matter," Swofford said. "It doesn't have to be the end-all, be-all, but I think it should matter. It keeps the focus on winning a conference championship during the regular season."

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

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