College football about to enter a brand new era

By David Teel

Daily Press (Va.)

Published: Tuesday, June 26 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Safe to say this is an epic week in the nation's capital. John Roberts and the Supremes ruled on immigration and will opine on health care. The Wizards, again, own a lottery pick in the NBA draft, while the Nationals reside in first place.

Where did Tuesday's huddle of the Bowl Championship Series' Presidential Oversight Committee rank on that food chain? Well, given the hammerlock football has on America, and the college game's Dark Ages inclinations, even Justices Scalia and Sotomayor might agree the news is historic.

Major college football has adopted its first playoff, the manner in which every other team sport known to humankind determines its champion. The modest, four-team bracket, chosen by committee and weighted toward conference champions, will begin in 2014 and run 12 years.

Semifinals will rotate among six bowls with the title game awarded to the highest bidder, much like the Super Bowl.

And why, after decades of flawed polls and difficult-to-digest formulas determining its champion, did college football find enlightenment?

An XL reason, of course, is money. The annual playoff windfall could top $500 million, more than triple the current system.

But another reason is you, the fan. You demanded better, and you were heard.

"Nobody's happy with the current system," understated Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, chair of the oversight panel.

Steger and 11 other presidents convened at 3 p.m., at a posh hotel and heard a presentation from conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. Last week, that group reached consensus on the four team model.

The presidents took less than three hours to approve the plan.

"There is not a shrinking violet on this platform," Steger said, referring to his presidential colleagues. "There was differences of views. I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp."

Steger and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive unearthed the ancient argument against an eight- or 16-team playoff: interference with academics. It's a tired refrain, but given the foolishness replete in past postseasons, any playoff is progress.

The emergence of a committee to choose the playoff teams did not surprise. Three influential commissioners — Slive, the Big Ten's Jim Delany and Big 12's Bob Bowlsby — have not only served on but also chaired the NCAA basketball tournament selection panel.

The size and composition of the committee are unknowns, and several of my esteemed national colleagues have suggested media inclusion. That's more unwise than taunting Alabama's defense, for two reasons.

First, other committee members would be reticent if they believed/feared their every word would soon be on Twitter and in blogs. That's no way to honestly debate the merits of playoff contenders.

Second, if deliberations were off-the-record, every reporter in the room would be compromised. I just can't see any reporter, or his organization, agreeing to such terms.

ACC commissioner John Swofford originally opposed a committee, preferring instead the four highest-rated conference champions in the playoff, a format that would have improved his league's chance of making the playoff.

The compromise, he said, is "the best of both worlds. With a committee you get a human element and multiple sets of eyeballs actually looking at teams and considering head-to-head competition, strength of schedule. I think that's satisfactory. We'll have to see once the committee goes into action year in and year out. But the first two things on the list are winning a conference championship and strength of schedule."

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