Report: conferences narrow postseason preferences to four

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With the clock ticking toward a resolution to major college football’s postseason future, it appears the men who will make recommendations to their collective bosses have whittled their original to-do list down from what was originally 50-60 possibilities to a manageable handful.

Included in that list?  A format that could include three semifinal games.  And, yes, you read that correctly.

According to Steve Weinberg of USA Today, and based on an outline obtained by the paper, BcS officials and conference commissioners have turned their focus to four options for college football’s postseason beginning in 2014, the season after the current BcS cycles ends.  The two-page summary obtained by the paper, prepared ahead of the next set of scheduled meetings on the issue later this month, states that while no options have been eliminated from consideration, there are four that are currently classified as the preference of the collective.

Below are the four preferences as outlined by the paper, with how each would’ve played out in 2011 as well as the individual format’s viability:

1. Status quo, using the system that’s been in place for a decade to determine a national champion.

Last year: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama, of course.

Viability: The fact it’s even one of the preferences is eyebrow raising to say the least, especially given the comments of late by many in positions of power that they sense a movement to shift away from the BcS and into some type of playoff.  While an unchanged postseason remains a far-fetched proposition, no one should ever put it past the “leaders” in the sport to conclude that all is well with the current system.  Especially when those very same leaders are considering…

2. A four-team playoff consisting of the four highest-ranked teams that would include two semifinal games… unless one or both of the champions from the Big Ten and Pac-12 are among the four highest-ranked teams, at which point the Rose Bowl would become a third semifinal game.  The next highest-ranked team(s) would replace the Big Ten/Pac-12 champs in one of the two true semifinal games, with the title game finalists being determined after those three “semifinals” have been played.  How it would be determined which two of the three winners would play in the title game is unclear.

Last year: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford, No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State.  There would’ve been no third semifinal game as the Cardinal was not the Pac-12 champion; that honor went to Oregon, which won the inaugural conference championship game but was ranked No. 5 in the final regular season BcS rankings.  Whether the format would’ve impacted how the voters ranked Stanford/Oregon at the end of the regular/championship-game season is a matter that’s certainly up for debate.

Viability: ROTFLMAO!!!  LULZ!!!  Or whatever mocking ‘Net shorthand you want to attach to the mere idea that this was something proposed, let alone apparently being seriously considered.  Suffice to say, this proposal has Jim Delany‘s haughty ego written all over it, with a sprinkling of his Pac-12 counterpart, Larry Scott, thrown in for good measure.  In no way, shape or form is a format that includes three semifinal games an acceptable change.  Then again, the Big Ten has 12 members, so that conference has not been historically shy about flouting mathematics.  Based on this proposal, and the fact that the status quo is reportedly a serious consideration, it’s hard to believe the game’s leaders will do anything but — some how, some way — screw-up the future of college football’s postseason.  Short of reverting back to the old bowl system, I didn’t think that was even a remote possibility.

3. A true plus-one format, with the two participants in a title game squaring off after their bowl games have been completed.

Last year: It’s impossible — with any degree of accuracy, anyway — to determine how this format would’ve played out.  It’s fair to say that, if LSU and Alabama had both won their respective BcS bowls, they would’ve met for the crystal under this format.

Viability: This format has long enjoyed significant support among some of those with influence on the game’s future.  It’s far from optimal, but would have to be considered progress when compared to the status quo.  Or a three-semifinal format.

4. A seeded, four-team playoff.

Last year: Assuming the seeding is determined by the highest rankings, and not limited to conference champions-only as some want, the participants would look exactly the same as Option No. 2.

Viability: Common sense would suggest that, short of an eight-team playoff, this would be far and away the best option for getting beyond the current system.  Then again, with two of the options listed above reportedly in play, common sense may not have a seat at the table that will determine the future of the postseason.

As far as the latter proposal is concerned, there are still myriad details to refine if it’s in fact the format that is ultimately agreed upon.  USA Today details some of those too-be-determined issues:

• Fold entirely into existing bowls.

• Stage the semifinals and title game at neutral sites selected through a bidding process. A bowl or bowls could buy in, hosting the games atop their own annual events.

• Place semifinals in bowls, bidding out the championship site.

• Or play semifinals at campus sites, again bidding out the title game.

Also still to be worked out is the team-selection process. Will the BCS let its mathematical rankings — melding polls and computer ratings — determine who makes a four-team playoff cut? Will it change that formula? Could it go to a selection committee instead?

If I were the commissioner of college football, and an eight-team — or six- or 16-team or any other number plucked out of the air– playoff were not part of the equation?  A seeded four-team playoff involving the three highest-ranked conference winners plus the highest-ranked team that did not win its conference — unless the four highest-ranked teams are all conference winners, of course — with the latter team being the lowest seed regardless of its ranking to the other three teams.  Play the semifinal game in the home stadiums of the two top-seeded teams, with the title game bid out to cities on an annual basis.  Such a format would add some needed value to winning your conference and, with just four teams taking out of the selection pool, the bowls — Rose and otherwise — would survive just fine if such a limited playoff were implemented.

Getting back to the idea of an eight-team — or even larger — playoff format, and because I know it will be mentioned in the comments section below this post, anything above a four-team playoff, while it’s not necessarily been issued a death certificate, is on life support and family and friends have been called home to say their final goodbyes.

“The underlying theme of all this,” BcS executive director Bill Hancock (pictured) said, referring to little support for a format that would involve more than four teams, “is to protect the regular season. That keeps coming up and keeps coming up and keeps coming up. We have the best regular season in sports, and we don’t want to mess with it.”

Some would say that argument went out the window with this past season’s title game matchup, but that’s another story for another day.

A final decision from school presidents and conference commissioners on exactly how the postseason will look in 2014 and beyond is expected at some point before the end of summer this year.

Jon Runyan Jr. expected to play for Michigan this weekend at Wisconsin

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The Michigan Wolverines may have one of their best offensive linemen on the field this weekend when they hit the road to play at Wisconsin. Jon Runyan Jr. will make his season debut on Saturday against Wisconsin, according to Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner.

“We’ve had two weeks to work him through, so he’ll be ready to go,” Warinner said, according to MLive.com. “Jon will be excited to get some action.”

Runyan is a starting offensive lineman, although Warinner didn’t specifically say Runyan will get the start against the Badgers. However, that would be a safe assumption if Runyan is ready to get back on the field. Warinner did say Runyan will play left tackle. This will help solidify the left side of the offensive line as the Wolverines try to get their offense on track. The new-look Michigan offense hasn’t quite gotten going as hyped heading into the season, although the absence of Runyan is not believed to have been a major reason for the mild offensive struggles.

Runyan had been out for the start of the season due to an undisclosed injury. He was dressed for Michigan’s game against Army, but he was held out as a precaution. Michigan had a bye week last week, allowing more time to get ready for a game that should be quite a battle on the line of scrimmage against Wisconsin this weekend.

Bill proposed in New York aims to share college athletics revenue directly with student-athletes

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As the state of California moves forward with a push adopt a law that would allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name and likeness, a new bill proposed in New York aims to go one step farther. Senator Kevin Parker has proposed a bill that would allow student-athletes to be compensated directly from the school’s annual revenue.

As written, Senate Bill S6722A in New York seeks to allow student-athletes (including college football players) to be able to receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness or image; the ability to hire an agent; and to receive an even distribution directly from the school from the university’s athletics revenue. The bill intends to require schools to set aside 15 percent of revenue earned from ticket sales and distribute that evenly among every student-athlete at the school.

This could impact three FBS schools in New York; Syracuse, Buffalo, and Army. New York also has a handful of FCS programs as well, including Fordham, Stony Brook, and Colgate. If the bill gains any traction, it would impact each school differently due to the range in ticket revenue generated by each school. The proposed bill currently sits in committee right now and has not been scheduled for a date on the Senate floor in New York.

The NCAA will frown upon this bill, just as it has in California, and it would be expected schools in New York would not be in favor of such a bill. The NCAA has already threatened the state of California with potentially removing all championship events organized by the NCAA from the state. A similar threat to New York would be the typical response if needed. That may not impact the college football world much, although it could mean no NCAA basketball tournament games being played in New York, a state that has routinely hosted NCAA basketball tournament games across the state. The Pinstripe Bowl should be safe because it is not run by the NCAA (although the NCAA could refuse to certify the Pinstripe Bowl if it really wanted). But we are far from the point to have that discussion.

The Fair Pay for Play bill in California, which is currently waiting to be signed into law or vetoed by the state’s governor, merely allows student-athletes to seek representation and receive compensation for the use of their name, likeness, or image. This trend is certainly picking up steam, and it would not be a surprise to see other states attempt to challenge the NCAA’s model of amateurism.

Iowa and Iowa State release joint statement asking fans to treat the marching bands better

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Whatever happened to the Iowa marching band on Saturday at Iowa State must have crossed a fine line, because on Wednesday both Iowa and Iowa State released a statement addressing the concern.

“Both the University of Iowa and Iowa State University are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone attending events on their respective campuses. This includes members of the school’s marching bands,” the joint statement from Iowa athletic director Gary Barta and Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said. “Unfortunately, both the Hawkeye and Cyclone marching bands have been the target of unacceptable behavior at football games in Iowa City and Ames in recent years. Some of the conduct directed at the students in our respective marching bands recently has been rude, vulgar, and in some cases, violent.”

Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for visiting marching bands to be harassed by hostile fans around the country. Sometimes, those shameful acts by fans of teams cause some bands to decide never to make the trip to a specific stadium ever again. Fortunately, it does appear Iowa and Iowa State are committed to ensuring the bands of both schools are treated respectfully in each other’s stadiums, as should always be the case for visiting bands, fans, and players.

“We should all feel embarrassed when students in the bands don’t feel safe when performing at an away game,” the joint statement continued. “Each of our athletics departments is committed to doing whatever is necessary to improve the environment for visiting school marching bands in the future. A significant part of the solution is insisting our fans help address this issue by showing more respect to our visitors. We owe it to these hardworking performers to have a safe stage on which they can showcase their spirit and talent.”

Make all the jokes you want, but a college band is part of what makes the college football atmosphere enjoyable and more authentic. It would be a shame to lose some of the sounds of the crowd because some idiots decided to be a bunch of jerks.

Former USC coach Pete Carroll never thought players needed to get paid

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The state of California recently passed a law that would allow college athletes to hire agents and be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness if they desire. The NCAA, naturally, has weighed in to protest the law and is hoping the governor of California decided to hear their case and not sign the bill into law. Former USC head coach Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL with a Super Bowl championship to his name, was asked for his opinion on the developments in California. Perhaps not surprisingly, Carroll came on the side of the conversation which suggests players do not need any additional compensation beyond what is provided by a scholarship.

“I’ve never been of the thought that players need to get paid,” Carroll said, according to Joe Fann, Seattle Seahawks insider for NBC Sports Northwest.

Of course, nobody needs to be reminded Carroll was the head coach of former USC running back Reggie Bush (Ok, I guess I just reminded you anyway).The NCAA found Bush had received improper gifts from an agent, which ultimately dropped a series of sanctions on USC including four years of probation, forced the Trojans to vacate a national championship and the entire 2005 season. USC was also placed on a two-year postseason ban and was stripped of 30 scholarships over a period of three years. The Heisman Trust also vacated Bush’s Heisman Trophy from the record book, and USC has removed any ties and references to Bush from the program. USC was handed their sanctions after the 2009 season, at which time Carroll left the Trojans to coach in the NFL with Seattle.

Carroll’s thoughts on the idea of players receiving compensation (legally, of course) are not too surprising, and they are common thoughts expressed by other college football coaches who make millions. In 2009, it was reported Carroll was paid $4.4 million for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, four times as much as USC President Steven B. Sample at the time.

Carroll isn’t the only coach chiming in on the subject. Washington State head coach Mike Leach thinks California has some other issues to be concerned about.