Columns & Blogs

BCS nightmare to end, but will controversy be done?

Finally, major college football is going to have a playoff.

Well, not exactly "finally."

It will take two more years to sort things out and for the current TV contracts with the BCS to expire. So put a mark on your 2014 calendar.

For the next two seasons we are stuck with the much criticized system for determining a national champion in by far the most popular college sport.

After 14 years of complaining about polls and computers deciding which two teams play for the national title, we are going to have a four-team playoff.


Why now? What took so long?

The answer to the first question is easy. Sagging TV ratings and declining attendance at BCS bowl games. In other words, money -- or a slowly eroding market.

The answer to the second question is more complicated and very speculative.

Four years ago, nearly all the people who run college football were opposed to any kind of playoff. The two exceptions were Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford.

Their proposal for a four-team playoff was quickly shot down when the power brokers met in 2008.

The Big Ten and (now) Pac-12 were the leaders of the dissenters. All they cared about was protecting their traditional matchup in the Rose Bowl.

They had a strong ally in then-Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White, who said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Another conference bigwig left that meeting in 2008 saying, "We'll never see a college playoff in our lifetime."

Well, guess what? All these people have come to the conclusion that the BCS was "broke."

Maybe the fact that the BCS system has resulted in an SEC team winning the national championship for six straight years got the attention of the Big Ten and Pac-12.

Then there was last January's unpopular all-SEC Alabama-LSU matchup. The television audience outside the Southeast didn't care much for that one.

Perhaps all this jumping from one conference to another was a factor. San Diego State moving to the Big East in order to be BCS eligible kind of gets one's attention.

That's not likely to happen under the new playoff system. The concept of the Automatic Qualifying Conference is dead and so is the rule that limits conferences to a maximum of two teams in the playoff mix.

However, there are many other details that still must be settled:

  • How will the four playoff teams be selected? Will strength of schedule be a factor?
  • Where and when will the two semifinals and championship games be played? Will the semis be contested on the campuses of the No. 1 and 2 teams or at neutral sites?
  • How will the current BCS bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta) fit into the playoff system? Or will Super Bowl sites with large stadiums and abundant hotel rooms -- like Indianapolis, Atlanta and Dallas -- get the call?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, how will the gate and TV profits be divided?
  • Keep your eye on that one because it looms as a large bone of contention.

    The conference commissioners are next scheduled to meet in June, with the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee gathering soon after. But don't expect a quick resolution of all the issues.

    Whatever is finally decided, you can be sure there will be controversy that may hit a peak in December of 2014.

    Like, who is No. 4?