The USA Today has obtained a document from the BCS deliberations outlining where discussions for the future are at. While nothing has officially been ruled out, the power brokers are focused on four possibilities going forward:
- Keep the current BCS arrangement with four changes: no automatic qualifiers, no limit on number of teams from a single conference (currently two), play the games closer to January 1, and "create a format that would accommodate different conference champions participating in different bowl games" (whatever that means).
- Go with the actual "Plus One" idea, which is selecting two teams after the bowls have been played to go to a national title game.
- Stage a four-team "event". This itself has four options: A) all three games are in bowls, B) all three games are in neutral sites that aren't branded as bowls and would be bid out, C) semifinals in bowls with a championship game that is bid out and not branded as a bowl, and D) semifinals on campuses with a championship game bid out and not branded as a bowl.
- A "Four Teams Plus" plan that has Jim Delany's fingerprints all over it. I'll quote it because it's confusing and nearly impossible to summarize other than saying that it preserves the Rose Bowl's traditional matchup while making everything else about the playoff scheme worse. "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 Pac12 [sic] 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."
Notably, the document doesn't include the word "playoff" despite three of the four options being a playoff.
I think option 1 is largely a smokescreen (and maybe a security blanket for the change averse during discussions) for reasons I've laid out before. The four listed changes are probably going to be implemented regardless of what the final outcome is, though.
Option 2 is the absolute bare minimum the BCS could go in the direction of a playoff, so it should therefore not be underestimated as an option. It could be bolted onto the current BCS with little hassle.
Option 3 is your conventional four-team playoff plan; the four sub-options are just implementation details. Sub-option D would be the plan that the Big Ten leaked back in February.
Option 4 coming to fruition would be proof that Jim Delany personally runs college football. That it is even considered a serious option shows what kind of power he and his conference wield. Sure some people in the Pac-12 would probably like this, but I can't imagine that Larry Scott, the guy who tried to build a Pac-16 stretching from Texas to Seattle, being gung ho about it. It should not be a real option.
The BCS is also considering what to do about the other games it stages should one of Options 2-4 be put in place. One alternative is to have a system where a selection committee would create the matchups for three or four non-playoff bowls. In the document's own words, "Matchups would be determined by committee with the aim of providing the most evenly matched and attractive games that make geographic sense for the participants."
The other alternative is more intriguing. The BCS would directly govern eight bowl games in addition to the playoff encompassing 16 additional teams. Again, a selection committee would choose the participants.
This setup is interesting considering the NCAA is thinking about turning bowl governance almost entirely over to the conferences (who in turn control the BCS). In theory, 20 of the top 25 teams would be participating in centrally-controlled postseason games. It sounds like both a bid to bring the best bowl games under the BCS brand and to get some of the benefits of the NCAA basketball tournament (a large series of good games) without the drawbacks (too big to work in football, sometimes the champion is weak). It also would correct some of the issues with the current bowl system, particularly those surrounding bad matchups for good teams. When 12-1, top ten-ranked Boise State is forced to play a 6-6 Arizona State team with a fired coach, it's not good for anyone.
I... really like this idea, actually. It might be the best idea ever connected to the BCS. The purpose of postseason games for those in championship contention is to win a championship. For the rest, it's a chance to play one last game. It would be best for everyone if that last game is a good one.
The decentralized nature of college football really works in some areas, but it's not great for the postseason. Between possibly having a four-team playoff, this proposal for hand-selecting the next best eight bowls, and the idea of raising the bowl eligibility bar to seven wins, I really like the direction the postseason could be headed in. It could still get driven off a cliff, as that turd of a proposal to give the Rose Bowl special status shows, but there are some legitimately good ideas being tossed around here.
We could end up with a system that gives more (but not too many) teams a chance to win a title on the field along with a tighter and higher quality bowl system leading up to that playoff. I haven't felt this optimistic about college football's postseason in a long time.