When it comes to the current system to determine a national champion in major college football, there appears to be just one certainty: come 2014, after the current BcS cycle ends, the postseason will look vastly different than it has for the past decade-plus.
What that look will be remains to be seen, although it will very likely involve what would technically be called a “plus-one” format, but in reality is merely a four-team playoff. If one of the power conferences gets its way, any playoff system will have a very local flavor to it.
Citing conference sources, the Chicago Tribune‘s Teddy Greenstein reported Monday evening that the Big Ten has discussed a plan that entails taking the top four teams from the BcS bowl pool and, in a twist, have the two semifinal games played on the campus of the higher seed. Commissioner Jim Delany would not confirm to Greenstein that such discussion has taken place, but Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips hinted that something of significance has been kicked around.
“We have to listen to the fans; we cannot be tone-deaf,” Phillips said. “The Big Ten is open and curious. …
“There has been a lot of bantering and rhetoric, but no one has come up with a formal plan.”
Rightly so, the Big Ten has caught a lot of flack for some of the decisions they have made in the recent past — “Leaders” and “Legends”, anyone — but on-campus postseason games would be a home run of a proposal, regardless of what the conference’s real motive is behind it.
Given the lag in attendance for BcS bowls in recent years, suggesting the games be played at the home stadiums of higher seeds takes on the look of a no-brainer proposal. Last season, for example, the top four teams in the final BcS standings prior to the start of bowl season were, from No. 1 through No. 4, LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford. If the Big Ten’s idea was in place for the 2011 season, the Cardinal would’ve traveled to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers, while the Tide would’ve hosted the Cowboys in Tuscaloosa.
The title game, like the Super Bowl the Tribune notes, would then be bid out to a host city.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of on-campus playoff games would be a team from the SEC being forced to travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., or Columbus, Ohio, in late December or early January. The fact that playing in an open-air stadium in Midwestern winter weather would be a very real possibility could lead to push-back from some conference if the Big Ten’s idea were to come up for a vote, as would dissent from current BcS bowls losing out on marquee games.
Speaking of timing, Delany said there could be a change in when the major bowl games/playoffs would be played. Alabama’s win over LSU in the BcS title game was played Jan. 9, nearly six weeks after the conference championship games had been played. That game was one of the lowest-rated in the BcS era, and not all of that dip could be attributed to it being a rematch or televised on cable.
“There is a very strong sense that we have missed the boat and are playing games too late,” Delany told the paper. “Students are back in class, people are back at work.”
While 2013 is the final year of the current BcS cycle, it’s expected that a new system for crowning a national champion — whether it utilizes the BcS or not — is expected to be announced perhaps as early as this coming fall.