Current BCS system a hit with most conference commissioners
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said if the proposed plus-one model for determining college football's national champion "looked like a playoff, smelled like a playoff and felt like a playoff," it probably was a playoff.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said his league's board of directors is adamantly opposed to any kind of "NFL-type playoff."
WAC commissioner Karl Benson -- who spoke for the C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC schools that probably will never have a chance to crash the BCS title game -- said they were still "very pleased with the current system."
Even Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who oversees a Fighting Irish program that probably shouldn't be too worried about the BCS system for a while, nonetheless left a conference room at an oceanfront resort smiling and proclaiming, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
For a BCS meeting that was supposed to be uneventful, this bombshell was front and center after the 11 conference commissioners and White met behind closed doors for the third straight day: The Big Ten and Pac-10 aren't alone in their opposition to a playoff.
And any chance of a college football playoff is dead, at least for a long, long time.
"Sometimes, there's a seed planted that takes awhile to germinate," said ACC commissioner John Swofford, the BCS chairman. "We'll have to see what the future holds."
Cacti in the Mojave Desert don't grow this slow.
Among the six conferences that founded the BCS, only the ACC and SEC seemed willing to further discuss the possibility of a plus-one model, which would match the top four teams in the final BCS standings in two semifinals with the winners meeting in a national title game.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive spent much of a six-hour meeting Wednesday morning explaining the benefits of the plus-one model. His pitch fell on mostly deaf ears. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen have long been opposed to any sort of playoff, as their leagues remain attached to the Rose Bowl like toddlers to a bottle. More surprising, Beebe announced Big 12 schools voted in March to oppose the plus-one model.
So why were the commissioners even here? It would have taken a unanimous vote for the commissioners to further discuss the possibility with their league's athletics directors and presidents.
"There is a strong feeling in the Big 12 that what we have is working well," Beebe said. "There's great satisfaction with the regular season and postseason."
Sure the Big 12 is satisfied. Oklahoma keeps getting invited back to a BCS bowl, only to keep leaving town with its tail between its legs after being taken to the woodshed. Same thing for the Big Ten, which has watched Ohio State finish the past two regular seasons ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, only to then get annihilated by an SEC foe in the BCS title game each time.
The SEC seemed to have the most to lose, with its member schools winning BCS titles three times in the past five seasons. If the system was working for anyone, it was working for the SEC. But Slive was convinced the BCS should explore other possibilities after an undefeated Auburn team was left out of the national championship game in 2004.
Slive admitted his plus-one model isn't a perfect solution. If the model had been in place in the 2007 season, Georgia, ranked No. 5 in the final BCS standings, would have been left out of the semifinals. No. 7 USC, another of the country's hottest teams at season's end, also would have been shut out.
"It would have been terrific for the SEC in 2004," Slive said. "But looking back at this past season, we would have had a rematch between LSU and Virginia Tech, after LSU won convincingly during the regular season. There would have been controversy."
Would it have been any worse than what the BCS offered us this past season? No. 8 Kansas jumping No. 6 Missouri -- only two weeks after the Tigers beat the Jayhawks during the regular season -- and grabbing a lucrative spot in the Orange Bowl. Georgia blasting Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl. West Virginia embarrassing Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. USC thrashing Illinois 49-17 in the Rose Bowl.
The biggest fear among conference commissioners was that the plus-one was only the starting line to a full-blown playoff.
"There has never been a collegiate or professional playoff that stops at four teams," Delany said.
Tranghese compared the proposal to the Division I-AA playoffs, which began as a four-team tournament, then grew to eight and now 16. The NCAA men's basketball tournament has swelled from 24 teams in 1974 to 65 today.
"There's a particular coach in my league who wants to invite every team in the country," Tranghese said, referring to Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who is advocating a 128-team NCAA tournament field after his Orange were snubbed in each of the past two seasons.
For now, the controversy seems over -- at least until the games begin again. The BCS will carry the same postseason model into its negotiations with TV networks this fall. Its current six-year, $320 million contract with Fox expires after the 2009 season, and it's expected that a new deal would stretch through at least the 2014 season.
Even then, as long as college football's current power brokers are still in place, the chance for a playoff seems remote at best.
"Not for me," Tranghese said. "Not unless I missed something."
Here's hoping Slive is still around when the debate begins again.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint," Slive said. "It is on the table, and it's there now. Everyone knows it's there."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.