Commish predicts 8-team playoff

Updated: July 11, 2012, 12:19 PM ET
By Joe Schad | ESPN.com

Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson sees positives in the recently announced four-team college football playoff, but said Tuesday he believes it will expand to eight teams sooner rather than later.

"I know we're saying four teams for 12 years," Thompson said. "But I don't see it as a four-team playoff for 12 years. I just don't see it. If there is success with four, I think we will go to what is most ideal, which is eight. That would double the access points."

Thompson sees access in the new system as double-edged. On one hand, four teams instead of two have a chance to compete for the national title. But on the other, there are expected to be no provisions guaranteeing a highly ranked champion from a non-traditional power conference will make a top-tier bowl.

"History has shown that TCU twice and perhaps Utah would have made it into those four," Thompson said. "Those teams just needed the opportunity to show they could compete with anybody."

Thompson envisions a playoff with five guaranteed spots for power conferences and three spots for everyone to compete for.

Some members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee have said four teams preserves the integrity of the regular season and protects the bowl system. Preventing what some call "bracket creep" is a key reason a 12-year cycle was chosen.

One topic discussed during Monday's commissioners teleconference was how "contract bowls" such as the Rose, Orange and Champions are guaranteeing the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 at least one team among the 12 top-tier bowl openings and in some instances two or three if there are "replacements" for Final Four participants.

It is possible as few as two spots or as many as seven could be available for a committee to place to fill out the top-tier bowls.

BCS officials have described the new system as "free access" and "free market," meaning all conferences have a right to vie for their own contractual agreements with bowls.

The commissioners may have a dozen or so more conference calls, including this Thursday, to further discuss access, revenue distribution and selection committee details before they meet again in person in September.

Thompson is a member of the revenue distribution committee that has developed parameters for the new system which includes past performance, current participation and a portion that could even include academic benchmarks.

"I do believe there will be an academic component," said Thompson, adding he believes each conference will have an increase in revenue with the next television deal.

Thompson compared the playoff announcement in Washington to the announcement that a home will be built with windows and plumbing, without having all the plan details in place.

"It's amazing, eight or nine months ago we couldn't even spit out the word 'playoff' and now here we are with the old system under the bus," he said. "It's a 120-degree change. But there are still months of details to work through."

Joe Schad

College Football