Friday, March 6, 2009

Following up on my follow-up

Shortly after I ripped into Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson the other day, he went in front of the BCS conference commissioners and announced that he wanted ... a playoff.

An eight-team playoff, to be precise, with a couple of interesting changes to the way the BCS rankings are utilized:
Under the MWC's proposal, a conference would qualify for an automatic bid if its teams have a winning percentage of at least .400 in games against the current automatic qualifying leagues over a two-year period.
OK, so if a conference can prove its strength by consistently beating some of the big guys, it earns a spot. That doesn't really address the problem -- that the dregs of the lesser conferences drag down the overall quality -- but it's not completely unreasonable.
Part two of the proposal suggests doing away with the BCS standings and creating a 12-member committee to pick which teams receive at-large bids, and to select and seed the eight teams chosen for the playoff.
The BCS standings are already just a guideline for picking at-large teams (other than the clauses that can kick in and guarantee automatic entry, such as being in the top four overall or being in the top eight as a non-BCS school), so that part of the proposal doesn't mean much. It appears that the committee's primary purpose would actually be seeding the playoff, similar to the role of the NCAA basketball committee. This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as it would allow some flexibility in avoiding rematches, trying to place teams in the best possible locations, etc.

And if you've ever heard anyone -- and I do mean anyone -- offer up a playoff proposal, it includes the requisite "The bowls could still be included if they just played the semifinals at the BCS sites, blah blah blah ... "
Under the MWC's proposal, the four current BCS games -- the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls -- would host the four first-round playoff games. Another BCS bowl would be awarded to a current non-BCS game and would host the lowest ranked of the 10 teams selected in a game with no championship implications. The semifinals would be played about a week later, with the current BCS bowls given the opportunity to host those games. The championship game would be played a week after that, and again the current BCS bowls would be given the opportunity to host.
So there would still be five BCS games -- all played on the same weekend -- and the winners of the four "playoff" games would advance to the semifinals. This is basically the same concept as a plus-one, except it's really more like a plus-two (two rounds instead of one after the bowl games).

So where does that leave us? Well ... this is actually manageable. I don't think that the auto-bid proposal would end up being accepted, because what if the WAC, Mountain West and Conference USA were all strong at the top over a period of a few years and ended up meeting the winning-percentage qualification? That would leave room for only one at-large bid each year, which obviously doesn't work. Some tweaking has to be done in that area.

The bowls would certainly be accepting, though -- two BCS sites would host two playoff games each year, and one would host three. That apparently would be a rotating system similar to how the championship site is chosen now, so everyone would get their turn.

And once the bowls are on board, who's left?

"We have received the Mountain West proposal," BCS coordinator and ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "Some of these ideas or similar ones have been addressed before in BCS meetings. We will make sure that the proposal has a full airing by the commissioners and presidents, and we will respond to the Mountain West at the conclusion of those discussions."
Oh yeah. Well, that was fun while it lasted.

But in all seriousness, with a new TV contract starting up in 2011, Thompson acknowledged that now is the time for change, and he -- probably with some help from the conference's athletic directors -- came up with a reasonable proposal that could actually ignite some discussion at the BCS meeting in April.

Unfortunately, we all know how this story will almost certainly end. If the plus-one proposal last year from SEC commissioner Mike Slive was too drastic, an eight-team playoff is about as likely as me stumbling across the Land of Chocolate.

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