BCS playoff talks claim 'something for everybody'
The guys in charge of changing the BCS are headed back to Chicago, hoping to make more progress at a meeting Wednesday than they did the last time they were there.
Last week's gathering of conference commissioners did little to advance the goal of reformatting the way college football crowns a champion.
It did produce reports of a standoff, with the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 on one side and the Big Ten and Pac-12 on the other. Fans started to worry the four-team playoff which once seemed inevitable after April meetings in Florida had fallen into jeopardy.
Talk of a "plus-one" format, which would not create national semifinals but instead pick the championship game participants after the major bowls are played, had seemingly crept back into the conversation.
But football fans can relax. There is no reason to panic.
Chances are still very good SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and their fellow conference leaders get this thing worked out.
"There will be something for everybody," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said after the last get-together in Chicago, "but there won't be everything for anybody."
And deadlines might not be so firm.
In a perfect world, Wednesday's meeting would produce a fairly detailed plan to be presented to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee when it meets on June 26 in Washington.
In that perfect world, the presidents would sign off on a plan that day and everyone could head for summer vacation knowing that at least the where and the when of the new format. That would set the table for television negotiations in the fall.
Nothing about the Bowl Championship Series has ever been perfect, of course, so don't be surprised if the commissioners leave Chicago with things unsettled. And remember, the commissioners have said that deciding how the teams are picked is not even a priority right now.
After bolting a bit early from last week's meeting, Scott told reporters the commissioners would present the presidents with "options -- plural." That comment set off a small firestorm and concerns that Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman, Florida President Bernie Machen and the 10 other university leaders on the oversight committee would be left to hammer out details.
That's not happening.
More likely is the commissioners will hand over a recommended plan, plus the other option -- or two -- that was given serious consideration.
The presidents are the bosses, and the commissioners want to show proper deference.
"Ultimately, our presidents decide," Scott also said.
All signs point toward the major bowls being involved in some way as the setting for national semifinals and the championship game to be bid out like the Super Bowl.
One option is to use a rotation, which would set the semifinal sites in advance. Another would essentially tie conferences to their traditional bowls, so the top-seeded teams would "host" games at the bowl sites where their leagues usually send teams. For example, a Pac-12 or Big Ten could host a semifinal game in the Rose Bowl. SEC teams could host games in the Sugar Bowl.
The "anchor" bowl format has the benefit of providing some regionality to the semifinal matchups. There is concern among the commissioners that a semifinal pitting, say, Oregon and Texas played in Miami, home of the Orange Bowl, could lead to a less-than-full stadium. Especially with fans of each team hoping it advances to another neutral site to play for the national title a week later.
But there are issues that come with bowls not knowing if they will be hosting a semifinal or a bowl game until the first weekend of December. Because of that, the rotation system is more likely to be used, a person familiar with the talks told the AP on condition of anonymity because the commissioners have tried to limit public comments about the meetings.
As always, the Rose Bowl has to be worked around. The Granddaddy of bowls wants to be involved in college football's new era, but also wants to hold on to its traditions as much as possible.
More than anything, it wants Big Ten vs. Pac-12 kicking off around 2:15 p.m. local time on New Year's Day as much as possible.
There are also differences of opinion about how those final four team should be picked, with the Big 12 and SEC preferring top four ranked regardless of conference, the Pac-12 preferring to emphasize conference winners and the Big Ten sort of in between.
There's been plenty of positioning and posturing over the last month, but ultimately the commissioners have come too far and there is enough common ground for them NOT to reach their goal.
Just don't expect perfection.