NEW ORLEANS -- Leaders of the Bowl Championship Series and
its critics found a few things to agree on Sunday -- although a new
system for major college football's postseason wasn't one of them.
University presidents and chancellors from each of the 11
Division I-A conferences came up with a process for their
commissioners to devise plans to change the current bowl system.
Going from a process to a proposal won't be an easy task with
each conference representing sometimes vastly different
constituencies as well as the need to get television partners and the
bowls themselves to buy into a new system.
"I think we accomplished everything today we could
accomplish," said Tulane president Scott Cowen, the leader of the
Coalition for Athletics Reform that has been fighting to change the
"There was enough common agreement that we can come back in the
next 60 or 90 days with proposals from our commissioners. It was as
good an outcome as we could have hoped for."
After a four-hour meeting, the critics and proponents alike agreed that Division
I-A won't go to a 16-team NFL-style playoff like the one used in
Division I-AA and each came up with plans at least loosely based on
the current BCS system.
Questions of improving access to the smaller conferences, adding
games to the current four-bowl structure and putting a championship
after the bowls all remain options.
There were also discussions about changing the method for
determining the BCS standings, which help decide which teams
make the bowls.
"Clearly there will be changes in the system," said Oregon
president Dave Frohnmayer, a member of the BCS Presidential
Oversight Committee. "But the BCS is our point of departure. We're
not going to scrap the current system and start over."
Cowen said "substantial progress" had been made since the last
time the sides met in September, and he remained optimistic that an
agreement can be reached that will answer the needs of all eleven
"We have a good sense of what the range of possibilities are,"
Created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences, the BCS
guarantees that the champions of those leagues -- the Big East, ACC, SEC,
Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 -- will play in one of the four most
lucrative postseason bowl games, leaving only two at-large berths.
One of those bowls pits the top two teams in the BCS standings
in a championship game, which will be the Sugar Bowl this season.
The Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls host the other games.
Smaller schools complain that the BCS makes it impossible for
them to win the national championship and puts them at a financial
and recruiting disadvantage.
The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the big
conferences. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller
This was the second meeting between the sides. The goal is to
create a system to put in place when the BCS contract expires after
the 2006 bowls.
Negotiations with the bowls and TV networks will begin next
year, putting some sense of urgency to these talks.
The next step will involve the conference commissioners
developing and market-testing various plans during the next three
months to determine their feasibility.
The presidents and chancellors will then meet to consider the
recommendations and forward them to the full conferences.
"Whatever is devised has to pass the test of agreement with our
colleagues," Frohnmayer said. "This all needs to be tested in the
market. We could devise what we think is the ideal system but find
out that it doesn't add value or it takes away from the bowl
Also, there are threats of an antitrust investigation from Utah
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff if a resolution doesn't come soon.
Cowen, however, argued for more time to resolve the issue amicably.
"We have made it clear from Day 1 that we prefer to resolve
this issue among university presidents and not go to Congress or
the courts unless we exhaust every possibility," he said. "After
today, I don't think that will be the case. I believe we're on the
path of success."