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Future of the BCS

A plus-one game may be in the cards, a playoff is not

Posted: Friday January 4, 2008 10:29AM; Updated: Friday January 4, 2008 3:38PM
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Jacob Hester
With the help of upsets on the final day of the regular season, Jacob Hester and LSU marched into the title game.
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By Stewart Mandel, SI.com

While the 2007 college football season will conclude with Monday night's BCS National Championship Game between Ohio State and LSU, a different sort of season is about to commence -- one that will take place in conference offices, network suites and hotel board rooms.

"The season for analysis and consideration [of the BCS' future] will take place now through the summer," said BCS coordinator Mike Slive.

The BCS' four-year contract with Fox is in its second year. (ABC's exclusive deal with the Rose Bowl extends an additional four years). The conference commissioners and bowl executives who oversee the BCS will soon hold potentially historic discussions about the possibility of adding a so-called plus-one game -- in which the BCS bowls would serve as a play-in to the national championship game -- starting with the 2010 season.

But as is often the case when it comes to college football's convoluted governance, the conflicting agendas of the various parties will make for a potentially contentious debate over any possible changes to the BCS.

The plus-one concept was first talked about four years ago, but at that time received only cursory consideration by the commissioners. They were more preoccupied with implementing the new five-bowl, double hosting model that the presidents from the six BCS conferences had brokered as a compromise to appease their largely excluded colleagues from the five non-BCS conferences.

The following season, however, SEC commissioner Slive watched as his league's champion, Auburn, was excluded from the national title game despite finishing the regular season undefeated. Throughout his two-year run as BCS coordinator (which concludes following Monday's game), Slive has continually reiterated to reporters that he is "open minded" about possible modifications to the postseason format.

In multiple discussions with Slive for this story, as well as interviews with commissioners, bowl and TV executives across the sport, it's apparent that interest in the plus-one has become far more serious than at any point previously. When BCS officials convene in Miami in April for their annual meetings, Slive -- who has the support of ACC commissioner and incoming coordinator John Swofford -- will present several plus-one options to his colleagues.

"We are in the midst of doing a very careful and thorough analysis of the plus-one model," Slive told SI.com. "In doing this analysis, we're looking back on historical data and then thinking ahead to what we know. We need to put together a model that is one that some people will be comfortable with, and see if there is acceptance to it."

Those people Slive is presumably referring to are Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen and school presidents from both leagues. The two conferences, which, along with their longtime partner, the Rose Bowl, have repeatedly stated their adamant opposition to any postseason modification that might impinge on their arrangement. The fact that their ABC deal is locked in through 2014 will make any such discussions trickier.

"My sense," said one major bowl executive, "is that Mr. Delany is unconvinced [about a plus-one]. Mr. Hansen is uninterested. Everyone says, 'Why can't we get to this yet?' Until they look at it through each party's respective self-interest, nobody understands how hard it is to come to an agreement."

Plus-one doesn't mean Playoff

Any discussion about the future of college football's postseason must start with the requisite disclaimer that "the one thing [all] of us are in agreement on is there isn't going to be a playoff," said Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese.

Such sentiments routinely frustrate the large segment of the public that clamors for a playoff and can't comprehend why Division I-A football remains the nation's only major sport -- and only NCAA football division -- which refuses to implement a full-scale tournament to determine its champion.

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