The second section of the BCS status report revealed Wednesday in Steve Wieberg's excellent USA Today story contains so much common sense that it seems impossible the plans could have been created by the same people who continue to outsource the postseason in the nation's second most popular sport. The section contains two variations on the same great idea: Outside of the national title discussion, set up an enlarged series (a 10-12 or 20-team system) of major bowls with the flexibility to make the most interesting matchups. Either of those plans would enhance the postseason for fans and for participating teams.
But, this being major college football, the commissioners in charge had to muck up the far more important first section -- the one marked Deciding the national champion. They lay out seven ideas for determining a champion. Six of them stink for one reason or another.
Hopefully, the rational minds that created the second section will carry the day when commissioners and their presidents begin hammering out the framework of the new system. Only one of their proposals for determining a national champ embraces common sense, and it should be as obvious to them as it is to us.
The winning proposal for determining a champion is marked 3D on the document obtained by USA Today:
"Semifinal games at campus sites, championship-game site selected through a bid process if the negotiation period with the current bowl organizations that is provided for under our current contract does not conclude successfully. The championship game would not be branded as a bowl game even if a bowl organization serves as host."
This is the best idea that the people in charge of college football have had since the early '80s, when they wondered aloud and in court why their teams all couldn't play on television. Large chunks of fans don't have to travel twice, and the semifinals are guaranteed to be played in packed stadiums. The regular season is made more relevant because of the race for home-field advantage. Television partners would love this because of the potential uniqueness of the matchups. Just imagine Brent Musburger's intro: "You are looking live at a snowy Camp Randall Stadium, where the Wisconsin Badgers will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide with a spot in the national title game on the line." Any college football fan who claims he wouldn't want to watch that is a liar.
The proposal cuts out the middlemen (the bowls), allowing the schools to keep all of the money. It also keeps the postseason away from the NCAA, which probably would take its own cut of the proceeds.
It's no accident that the NFL -- the nation's most popular and lucrative sports league -- uses this model to determine its champion. There are those who argue that college football should try to avoid looking like the NFL, but why do that when the NFL has already figured out the most exciting way to determine a champ?
Now, let's look at the six proposals that hopefully will be trashed before the commissioners get down to brass tacks.
1. Keep the current system, but dump the concept of Automatic Qualifying conferences and eliminate the limit on participants from a particular conference.
The two tweaks are actually good ideas. Unfortunately, it's still basically the same mess of a system that has crowned the national champ since 1998.
2. Match the two best teams after the bowls have been played in a winner-take-all championship.
This is the actual "plus-one." (As opposed to the four-team playoff that is called a "plus-one" so idiots don't realize it's a playoff.) This would add a nice layer of out-of-conference games to the mix and make the top-tier bowl games more meaningful, but it's still essentially the same beauty contest with a different judging date.
3A. A seeded four-team playoff with all three games in bowls.
Congratulations, Oklahoma fans. Your team is the No. 1 seed. First, you get to schlep to Phoenix. Then, if you win, you get to go to Miami. Hope you saved your pennies.
3B. A seeded four-team playoff with all three games at neutral sites determined by a bid process.
It cuts the bowl scam out of the equation and makes more money for the schools, but it still asks the fans to pay an extraordinary amount of money to cheer on their teams and runs the risk of empty seats at the semifinals.
3C. A seeded four-team playoff with the semfinals in bowls and the title game bid out like the Super Bowl.
This poses the same issues as 3A and 3B, but it still isn't as bad as the worst proposal of all. It need not be summarized. Here it is in all its glory:
"4. Four Teams Plus. The four highest-ranked teams meet in two games except that the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions will always play in the Rose Bowl. If the Big Ten champion, the Pac-12 champion, or both are in the top four, that team (or those two teams) would play in the Rose Bowl and the other two games would be filled by the other four highest-ranked teams. Select two teams for the championship game after those three games have been played."
Colleague Stewart Mandel summed this up best on Twitter. "Only college football," Mandel wrote, "could come up with a four-team playoff with three semifinals." Hopefully, that proposal exists because Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said something to the effect of "Do us a solid and throw the Rose Bowl a bone in that document." That is the only reasonable explanation for an idea so convoluted that it can't be read aloud with a straight face. Unfortunately, there is another potential -- and highly plausible -- explanation.
It remains quite possible that the people who gave you the outsourced postseason are going to find a way to screw this up, too.