One step closer to a playoff
The BCS commissioners publicly endorsed a plan for four-team playoff on Wednesday. What's the plan? Good question.
As best I can tell, here's what we know for certain: there will be four teams, they'll be chosen by a committee, they won't play the semifinals on campus, and college football is about to get its own Super Bowl type event. Everything else is still a little murky.
The real debate internally over the current model was how to determine which four teams would be invited to participate. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, along with the Pac-12 and Big East, favored a model that would take the top four conference champions. The SEC and Big 12 peferred a "best-four" setup where teams (like Alabama last year) didn't have to win their conference to be included. Notre Dame, as usual, would get some sort of "but NBC is still televising all our games so we must be good" exemption.
What the commissioners agreed on Wednesday was portrayed as a compromise but it's hard to see how the conference champions supporters got much of a concession out of the best-four proponents. The official word is that the selection committee will "put an emphasis on conference champions." Anyone have any idea as to what that looks like?
Here's how ACC commissioner John Swofford explained it to CBSSports.com:
I think you can reasonably mesh those two issues in the sense of however that's selected. If you have a strong part of criteria that has to be considered -- winning conference champions, I think you can fit that into taking one, two, three, four. They don't have to be exclusive of each other
Huh? I have the misfortune of catching a lot of reality television in my life. The confessional segment stalks my evenings. When the plucky cheftestant with knives and butcher's diagrams tattooed on his arms talks about how his frying oil won't come to temperature quickly enough and he's really worried about that but he's going to just keep cooking and try to win the elimination challenge, what I say to myself is "words words words words." That's how it sounds to me. What he's saying isn't useful, interesting, important, or enlightening. It's just there to get us from commercial break a to commercial break b.
That's how I feel about that Swofford excerpt. What does it mean to have an "emphasis on conference champions?" In my mind, very little. It's a nice bit of language that, somehow, got everyone to agree and we're all happier for that. As Matt Hinton noted weeks ago, the difference between the two playoff models on the table wasn't very great. In nine of the past 14 years, the two models would have produced the same conference representation in the final four either way.
Maybe it's best just to rejoice that things are changing for now. We can worry about the details later. It seemed to work for the BCS commissioners. The hand-wringing over the future hand-wringing over whether or not Aubrun's two-loss resume is better than that of ACC champs Virginia Tech can wait.
But it's definitely coming.