June 27, 2012
Safe to say this is an epic week in the nation's capital. John Roberts and the Supremes ruled on immigration and will opine on health care. The Wizards, again, own a lottery pick in the NBA draft, while the Nationals reside in first place.
Where did Tuesday's huddle of the Bowl Championship Series' Presidential Oversight Committee rank on that food chain? Well, given the hammerlock football has on America, and the college game's Dark Ages inclinations, even Justices Scalia and Sotomayor might agree the news is historic.
Major college football has adopted its first playoff, the manner in which every other team sport known to humankind determines its champion. The modest, four-team bracket, chosen by committee and weighted toward conference champions, will begin in 2014 and run 12 years.
Semifinals will rotate among six bowls with the title game awarded to the highest bidder, much like the Super Bowl.
And why, after decades of flawed polls and difficult-to-digest formulas determining its champion, did college football find enlightenment?
An XL reason, of course, is money. The annual playoff windfall could top $500 million, more than triple the current system.
But another reason is you, the fan. You demanded better, and you were heard.
"Nobody's happy with the current system," understated Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, chair of the oversight panel.
Steger and 11 other presidents convened at 3 p.m., at a posh hotel and heard a presentation from conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. Last week, that group reached consensus on the four team model.
The presidents took less than three hours to approve the plan.
"There is not a shrinking violet on this platform," Steger said, referring to his presidential colleagues. "There was differences of views. … I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp."
Steger and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive unearthed the ancient argument against an eight- or 16-team playoff: interference with academics. It's a tired refrain, but given the foolishness replete in past postseasons, any playoff is progress.
The emergence of a committee to choose the playoff teams did not surprise. Three influential commissioners — Slive, the Big Ten's Jim Delany and Big 12's Bob Bowlsby — have not only served on but also chaired the NCAA basketball tournament selection panel.
The size and composition of the committee are unknowns, and several of my esteemed national colleagues have suggested media inclusion. That's more unwise than taunting Alabama's defense, for two reasons.
First, other committee members would be reticent if they believed/feared their every word would soon be on Twitter and in blogs. That's no way to honestly debate the merits of playoff contenders.
Second, if deliberations were off-the-record, every reporter in the room would be compromised. I just can't see any reporter, or his organization, agreeing to such terms.
ACC commissioner John Swofford originally opposed a committee, preferring instead the four highest-rated conference champions in the playoff, a format that would have improved his league's chance of making the playoff.
The compromise, he said, is "the best of both worlds. With a committee you get a human element and multiple sets of eyeballs actually looking at teams and considering head-to-head competition, strength of schedule. … I think that's satisfactory. We'll have to see once the committee goes into action year in and year out. … But the first two things on the list are winning a conference championship and strength of schedule."
As well they should be, and given the ACC's history of ambitious non-conference scheduling, an undefeated or once-beaten team from the league certainly should be a strong playoff contender.
The six bowls rotating the semifinals will include three contracted with major conferences: the Rose (Pacific 12 and Big Ten), the Champions (SEC and Big 12) and, in all likelihood, the Orange (ACC).
Swofford said the ACC will announce its bowl tie-in "in the very near future," and all signs point toward a renewal with the Orange.
Other candidates for the semifinal rotation figure to be the Fiesta, Sugar, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls.
The BCS has always operated on four-year cycles, which worked like politics. As soon as one cycle (election) was complete, posturing for the next began.
"I think from early on in the discussions … the vast majority of people in the room wanted something long-term," Swofford said. "Just so we're not reinventing the wheel every four years, because that gets old and tiresome. There was a feeling we needed to bring some stability to postseason."
The biggest remaining issue is how the playoff revenue will be divided. Conferences' past performances will be considered, but details are sketchy.
"It's probably a couple months down the road because we don't know what the valuation of the (television) contract will be," Steger said. "If you've read the numbers, over $400 million, $500 million, who knows? And given the magnitude of those dollars, you want to think it through pretty carefully."
Hey, college football needed more than 100 years to figure out a playoff. What's a couple of months?
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
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