Thompson pitches playoff plan

Updated: April 21, 2009, 9:43 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

PASADENA, Calif. -- If this were Hollywood, then Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson would have swooped into town, given his "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" speech, and then watched as college football's conscience-stricken power brokers changed their minds and voted for a playoff.

However, this is Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl, 15 miles and five BCS games away from Hollywood. Thompson's fellow BCS commissioners listened Tuesday morning to his proposal for an eight-team playoff and other changes to the current system. They agreed to take the proposal back to their respective memberships for their spring meetings. They will reconvene in June in Colorado Springs.

And no one expects much to change.

After all, the BCS already has agreed to continue the current format through the 2013 season. ACC commissioner John Swofford, the BCS coordinator, described the BCS's relationship with its two television networks and four bowls as "very, very stable and in excellent shape." Yet out of a sense of collegiality, the commissioners agreed to take the MWC proposal back to their schools. Thompson's presentation, and the subsequent discussion, lasted approximately 90 minutes.

"It would be inappropriate to dismiss it out of hand," Swofford said. "Out of respect to the colleagues within the room, and to the various conferences, it should not be dismissed out of hand."

Thompson said that he appreciated being heard, and understood that it may not amount to more than that in the short run. But he encouraged his fellow administrators to view the MWC's suggestions through a long lens.

"Our board feels there are fundamental flaws in the system," Thompson said. "At what stop-and-go point do you put something on the table? I don't necessarily disagree that it's an uphill challenge. Again, our position is, 'Let's start talking.' Change isn't going to come quickly."

The MWC's proposal not only would create a playoff, it would scrap the use of polls and computers in the BCS rating in favor of a committee that would select and seed 10 teams. The bottom two would play in a "BCS bowl" and the others would play for the national championship. The proposal also wants to recalibrate the revenue sharing.

Thompson has corresponded with the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who intends to hold hearings on the BCS and its purported ills. Thompson said that he did not think, as Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff has suggested, that the BCS is violating antitrust law.

The MWC is the only BCS member that has yet to sign the four-year contract with ESPN that will take effect in the 2010 season. Thompson said the league first wanted to hear the feedback from the conferences on its proposals. In any case, the refusal is largely symbolic.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com