Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Changes in BCS are long overdue

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There’s no white smoke pouring from the chimney of the conference center in south Florida where college football’s power brokers are meeting this week, but the fires of significant change are getting stoked inside.

The closest thing we’re likely to get (for now) to a legitimate college football playoff might be coming as soon as 2014. For those of us who have been beating our heads (or drums) for an end to the absurd BCS system for crowning a mythical national champion might soon have a lot less to complain about.

The rhetoric coming from sources in Hollywood, Fla., this week is encouraging that some kind of four-team playoff to determine a national champion is on the horizon. A concept that was declared dead only four years ago when the commissioners of the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences were beaten down by their short-sighted brethren is now more likely than not to be the next inevitable phase of a substantive postseason.

“I think they’re too far out on a limb to turn back now,” a source told ESPN this week.

Even BCS executive director Bill Hancock – a tireless parrot of the tiresome talking points that have been echoed through the years – seems resigned that climate change in college football is real.

“They know this game is in the fourth quarter,” Hancock told ESPN. “And it’s time to get it done.”

As columnist Pat Forde wrote, “when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany voiced his own playoff plan in February, it was like a Baptist minister drinking a shot of bourbon and declaring it good.”

Delany and the commissioners of all 11 Division I-A conferences as well as the athletic director of independent dinosaur Notre Dame are culling through a bunch of different proposals to narrow the field down to a few final formats that will be discussed and perhaps voted on when they meet again in June. From the various comments of sources privy to the debate, a clearer picture of what a new limited playoff might look like is taking shape.

The best bet is that it will be a four-team playoff that will not be limited to conference champions. The top four teams in the BCS standings would get seeded and square off in national semifinals held at neutral sites on or around New Year’s Day. The winners would then meet for the title about a week later at a site that would be up for bid.

This would be a massive step in the right direction that is likely to satisfy most of the critics even if it falls short of an ideal inclusive playoff scenario. The legitimate arguments for who deserves to be in the current No. 1 vs. No. 2 setup rarely goes much deeper than four teams, so at the very least the number of disgruntled outsiders will dwindle.

Since they’re finally willingly going down this road, here’s hoping that the BCS folks choose to make a clean break from the bowls.

Forget tying in the
semifinals with the current BCS partners – Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose. Let them return to being the greedy bowls they’ve always been, while the BCS sets up a playoff that doesn’t siphon all of the profits away from the schools.

For too long, the big bowls (I’m looking directly at you Rose) have been the bullies that have stood in the way of real progress. Forget them. Step right over the decrepit granddaddy of them all and create something new that is profitable and caters to the players, schools and fans without any semblance of extortion.

The bowl cartel understands what I’m talking about. They have been holding college football and the programs they invite hostage to their greed for too long and are due a comeuppance. They contribute next to nothing to charity or to the communities they represent, milk every bit of profit from the competitors and pay out exorbitant salaries to their executives.

The bowls will do just fine on their own, and hopefully will have to change the cartel culture to keep up with the more discriminating tastes of the teams that are onto their scam. If they truly reform, maybe one day they can serve again as quarterfinal venues when the four-team playoff inevitably expands once everyone realizes how much better it is and how much money is to be made.

All of that is in the yet to be determined details. However, after so many years of noisily tolerating the status quo, the fact that we might have finally reached the point of true bowl reform is refreshing.

Not only are the collegiate leaders discussing compromise on the playoff prohibition, they are discussing putting a possible seven-win minimum requirement for bowl eligibility, another positive move that would trim some of the useless fat from the 35 bowls that reward mediocrity. No 6-6 team warrants a bonus game that ends up costing the school money it doesn’t have. The sagging attendance and TV ratings have proven that the bowl system has crossed the point of diminishing returns in the eyes of fans.

Hopefully it will all become reality instead of promise soon. There’s no guarantee the people who have never done right by college football’s postseason will finally do the right thing this time, but it is more promising than ever that they will.

When the teasing stops, perhaps Atlanta or Indianapolis or Dallas will play host to an honest-to-goodness playoff in college football in 2014.

An amen to all that might be just around the corner.


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