College playoff system still a longshot

It has been more than a decade since the Bowl Championship Series was concocted on a cocktail napkin and, safe to say, some people are never going to embrace it.


162; "A sham of an arrangement," a columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote earlier this month.


162; "Chaos doesn't legitimize ignorance or stupidity," the lead columnist for recently ranted.


162; Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post wondered if officials should not "Junk the BCS for the Rotting Goat Carcass That It Is."

Will it ever change?

Maybe, but not any time soon, and please, for the love of Red Grange, put away your 16-team playoff proposals. Team A is not going to meet Team B in a quarterfinal match at the Rose Bowl, OK?

Quit wasting our time, ESPN, with your mythical playoff unless it involves a title game between Get Real University and Pollyanna State.

No cable network or newspaper columnist, no matter how powerful, is going to move this rock, so why rile up the masses with a false sense of hope?

The best the anti-BCS crowd can hope for is a modified extension of the season known as Plus One, a single extra game at the end of the bowls.

No one even knows exactly what Plus One is &

although that didn't stop NCAA President Myles Brand from recently endorsing it.

Plus One is certainly not a playoff.

It might involve seeding the top four teams before the bowls and letting the winners play it off a week later. Or, it might be picking a 1-2 game after the bowls using the BCS standings.

BCS detractors should be happy it is even being discussed but need to know the idea is being met with deal-breaking resistance.

Four of the six major college conferences &

Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Big East &

favor exploring the Plus One concept.

The Pacific 10 and Big Ten conferences, and the Rose Bowl, are opposed.

However, Plus One will be on the agenda this spring when the BCS commissioners meet in Miami.

The signals, though, could not be more mixed.

Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and the current BCS coordinator, suggested on two recent teleconferences that this might be the year to examine the Plus One format.

Slive said Nov. 28 that officials were "drilling down into that concept."

Slive added Dec. 2 that it was "very possible" momentum could be building toward postseason modification.

Yet, Tom Hansen, commissioner of the Pac-10, recently called Plus One talk "wasted rhetoric."

Hansen said he considered the matter dead until at least 2014, after the Rose Bowl's contract with ABC expires. The contract Fox has with the other BCS bowls expires after 2009 season.

"The media contract alone keeps it off the table until 2014," Hansen said. "It's surprising Mike (Slive) has continued to raise it because of the status of the TV contract."

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has consistently opposed a modified playoff. He declined an interview request for this story but released a statement through his office: "The Big Ten is in the midst of an eight-year deal with the Rose Bowl and we intend to honor that commitment." The Rose Bowl is opposed to any extension of the season but resents it being portrayed as an obstructionist.

"It's a little unfair to have the press out there saying the Rose Bowl is stopping us from having what we want," CEO Mitch Dorger said. "We get berated by papers saying the Rose Bowl is standing in the way."

While the Rose Bowl is opposed to Plus One, Dorger says the ultimate decision rests with conference commissioners and school presidents.

So what does that leadership say?

Ohio State president Gordon Gee recently estimated 100 of 119 schools fielding major college teams are opposed to any kind of a playoff.

Gee, speaking at Ohio State's football media day in mid-December, said, "the bowl system works," adding "the BCS, in all of its flaws, has actually created a lot of excitement."

Gee called even a modified playoff "a slippery slope."

Gee: "When we entered into BCS system, we said this was it, this is as far as we're going to go. We planted our flag in the ground."

BCS commissioners in favor of modified change are determined to push forward.

Asked if he was frustrated with Hansen's hard-lined position against Plus One, Slive said, "Not yet."

"Each conference has to ultimately make the decision," Slive continued. "If in the final analysis Plus One &

not because someone doesn't like it &

doesn't stand the test, we have the obligation to stand up and tell the media and the public in great detail why not. But not because someone doesn't like it."

Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese says there is no harm in putting new ideas on the table.

"We're not trying to push Tom (Hansen) or Jim (Delany) into a playoff," Tranghese said. "All we're saying is we want to have a conversation."

Big question: how can Plus One gain momentum when a third of the six power conferences oppose it?

"That's putting the cart before the horse," Slive said. "I don't need to respond to that now."

It is estimated Plus One might be worth an additional $40 to $50 million in television revenue, yet those in favor of status quo point to the excellent overall health of the sport.

College football attendance has climbed 11 straight years, according to a recent USA Today survey, and television ratings for ESPN and CBS games this year were the highest since 1999.

Hansen says Plus One could adversely have an impact on the Rose Bowl's storied relationship with the Pac-10 and Big Ten.

He opposes seeding schools because that lessens the chances of a traditional Rose Bowl matchup. Hansen also says it won't end the controversy.

"There would be even more of an outcry over the three or four teams left out than any hue and cry we get now from the BCS," Hansen said.

Another idea would be guaranteeing the Rose Bowl its traditional game every year, with the other three BCS bowls holding onto their anchors, and then using the BCS standings to determine 1-2 after those games are played.

Hansen doesn't like that plan, either.

"If you don't seed, you don't have equity or fairness," he said. "You might end up with 1-2 in the Rose Bowl. Why play another game a week later if you've already played one versus two?"

The Rose Bowl may have had misgivings about joining the BCS in 1998 &

unloosening its traditional Pac-10-Big Ten bond in return for hosting the national title game every four years &

but the "Granddaddy" of bowls also has no plan to retrench to its pre-BCS days.

Dorger says it would take a multiple-game playoff system to determine a true champion, which he opposes, and doesn't think Plus One solves any problems.

He also says there would be huge operational and fan-travel obstacles in staging a bowl game one week and a title-game the next.

So is Plus One off the table?

"The two conferences and the Rose Bowl are linked together so long as there is a contract with television," Dorger said. "And right now that's 2014."

While the Rose Bowl may help shape college football's playoff future, Dorger says it cannot determine it.

"Anything can happen when interested parties want things to happen," he said. "If commissioners want to go in a particular direction, and presidents want to go in a particular direction, that's very likely to happen ... but I'm not close enough to the stars to say whether they'll align or not."

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