Presidents will approve four-team playoff, but devil is in the details
Through months of discussions about the next iteration of major college football's postseason, commissioners have tried hard to emphasize that the final decision rests with university presidents. On June 26 in Washington, a group of 12 presidents -- one from each of the 11 FBS conferences and Father John Jenkins of Notre Dame -- will meet to decide whether college football will have a playoff.
Basically, the playoff will be approved. But the devil is in the details.
Based on conversations with insiders, including people who will be in the room Tuesday when the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets, the approval of a playoff is all but a foregone conclusion. Of more interest will be the discussion of how to rotate six bowls into two semifinal spots per year for a 12-year period. Presidents might also discuss the method of selecting the four teams in the playoff -- if they don't get bogged down by the other issues.
The playoff, designed over the past few months by conference commissioners, won't be the only system presented Tuesday. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman will stump for the plus-one -- a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game played after the bowls. Unfortunately for Perlman, he has little support among his fellow presidents. Barring a phonebook-reciting filibuster -- hey, it has happened before in that town -- the presidents will approve the following items.
• A 12-year agreement for a four-team, seeded tournament beginning in the 2014 season. No. 1 will play No. 4, No. 2 will play No. 3, and the winners of those games will meet for the title.
• The tournament will include the top four teams regardless of conference champion status.
• The seminfinals will be played in bowls, and six bowls will share hosting duties during a 12-year period.
• The championship game will be put out for bids.
Presidents could even go as far as approving the formation of a selection committee to choose the teams, but they likely would approve it only as a concept and let commissioners handle the specifics. Revenue distribution, potentially the stickiest issue remaining, will be tossed back to commissioners to formulate a way to split the dollars the playoff will bring. To do that, the BCS has established a Compensation Committee to study different revenue distribution models. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are among the members.
While the idea of anchor bowls -- attaching certain conferences to certain bowls even in the semifinals -- fell flat during the commissioners' negotiations because of logistical issues, conferences will remain attached to bowls in the years those bowls don't host a semifinal. The Big Ten and Pac-12 will share the Rose Bowl, the ACC will remain attached to the Orange Bowl and the Big 12 and SEC will share the newly created Champions Bowl. As it stands, the Big East will have no affiliation with a BCS bowl. Three other bowls also will take part in the rotation. Possibilities include the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Expect the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl to agree to host the same number of semifinals during the 12-year period. Big 12 and SEC leaders expect to have the Jan. 1 primetime television slot -- immediately after the Rose Bowl -- for the Champions Bowl. The bowls would host semifinals in the same years so as not to disturb their choice time slots.
The Champions Bowl remains a somewhat confusing concept. In years that it doesn't host a semifinal, the Big 12 and SEC want it to take place outside of the BCS so those two leagues can keep all the revenue. Also, the bowl doesn't have a fixed site. It could wind up being hosted by the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl or some other entity.
If, during their seven-hour (scheduled) meeting Tuesday, the presidents begin drilling down into the finer points of the Champions Bowl, it can mean only one thing: College football finally, officially, irrevocably has a playoff.
Have your celebratory cigars ready.