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Source: Big Ten playoff idea might not fly

College football heavyweights are meeting in Dallas today to discuss the future of the BCS.

If the talks go well, the 50-60 playoff models proposed last month in New Orleans could be whittled down to a dozen.

“I’m sure we’ll look and discard things,” acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas told the Dallas Morning News.

One industry source predicted the 11 BCS conference commissioners plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, would, to use a figure skating analogy, eliminate the highs and lows.

The low would be to do nothing and the high would call for an 8-team playoff that many feel would harm the value of the regular season and force student-athletes to play too many games.

So that leaves a four-team playoff, also known as a Plus-One.

Sources told the Chicago Tribune three weeks ago that a plan favored by some Big Ten decision-makers would remove the top four teams from the bowl pool and have the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds host semifinal games.

Three benefits: An end to the sham of “neutral site” games in places such as New Orleans and Miami; both fan bases would not have to travel for consecutive games; and regular-season games would add meaning.

But sources are skeptical that leagues such as the Southeastern Conference would OK the potential for prime-time December games in places such as Columbus, Ann Arbor or Madison, Wis.

Don’t forget: Under the current format, SEC teams have won six consecutive national titles.

College football’s TV partners also appear to favor having bowls host the semifinal games. If the top four teams are removed from the bowl pool, it would break with tradition and devalue the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange.

As for the championship game, that could be bid out to one of the bowls or a city, as the Super Bowl does it. It’s easy to picture Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys Stadium) and officials in Indianapolis (Lucas Oil) getting involved.

So here’s a key question: If the other commissioners reject the Big Ten’s “home game” model, would commissioner Jim Delany and Big Ten presidents still greenlight a playoff?

Some believe the answer is yes – as long as the Rose Bowl gets a “preferred position” in the new format.

“Jim is very smart and understands which way the wind is blowing,” one source said. “This could be the legacy for a lot of these guys, creating the new BCS.”

Delany, who could not be reached for comment, likely would insist on a deal of 10-20 years to insure that college football won’t try to implement an 8-team playoff after fans of the fifth- and sixth-rated teams invariably complain about how the top 4 get selected. That contract length is not expected to be an impediment.

But several dicey issues remain, in addition to the enormous question of where the semifinal games would be played:

* How would the new revenue be shared? The addition of two semifinal games could boost the annual value to $500 million per season, according to CBSSports.com, nearly triple the current BCS rate.

* How would the teams be selected? Is the current BCS methodology OK, despite the flawed coaches poll, or would a selection committee need to be created?

* The calendar. Some favor playing the semifinal games one week after the conference championship games. Would university presidents, mindful of final exams, go for that?

Another idea: Restore New Year’s Day as college football nirvana. Bracket the semifinal games around the Rose Bowl. Unless, of course, the Rose Bowl is hosting one of them.

The commissioners hope to emerge from their BCS spring meetings (April 25-26) with an agreement. More likely is that negotiations will last into the summer.

tgreenstein@tribune.com
Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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