Archive for April, 2012

Change is here: the BCS commissioners have announced that they are recommending a 4-team college football playoff to the university presidents.  While the details of how that 4-team playoff is going to be structured is still up in the air (along with how the revenue is split among the conferences and schools), we’re in the midst of what will arguably end up being the most important college football story of our lives.

With that in mind, I’m submitting what will hopefully be my last college football playoff proposal.  As always, I try to be realistic balancing the real world financial and political interests of the various entities that have leverage (as opposed to simply throwing out a plan just because I like it).  There’s no ambiguity that there are going to be 4 teams playing into eliminations games.  The real debate right now is about how those 4 teams are chosen.  For the purposes this discussion, I’m going to assume that there will be some type of publicized BCS-type ranking system as opposed to a selection committee*.  Maybe the inputs for that ranking will be different than what the BCS formula uses today, but that’s another discussion for another day.

(* Personally, I don’t believe that a selection committee is going to provide any value beyond a BCS-type ranking system or even just using a largely objective poll similar to the AP.  (Note that I agree with those that believe that the coaches’ poll is garbage as the voters have a direct self-interest in the outcome of the poll.)  A selection committee is beneficial for the NCAA Tournament since they’re tasked with culling through midmajor squads and even power conference teams that haven’t received much media attention to determine team #68 that gets in and #69 that doesn’t get in.  By comparison, we’re only looking at a 4-team playoff for college football, and as stupid as many voters might be, there’s going to be fairly high public awareness of the top 4 to 6 teams.  That’s the type of situation where the “wisdom of crowds” approach is more effective as opposed to having only a handful of committee members making a decision where the impact of an outlier is far too great.

There are also a couple of practical considerations to using a BCS-type ranking as opposed to a selection committee.  First, the general public wants to be able to follow a ranking from week-to-week.  Part of the very essence of the regular season is following who is #1 (or #4) and having a reasonable idea as to who needs to win or lose in a given week in order to change that ranking.  I think asking the general public to hold its breath and wait until the first weekend in December to find out who is really in the top 4 according to the criteria established by the decision-makers isn’t going to work.  Once again, this is NOT the NCAA Tournament where the decisions are really about seeding and the worst that the committee can do is make a mistake with team #69 that doesn’t have a legitimate shot at winning the national championship, anyway.

Second, any committee member is going to have to invest in a closet-full of Kevlar vests.  Do you want to be the one of 10 people whose names are publicized that tells an Alabama fan base whose team has been ranked #2 in the polls all year that the Crimson Tide isn’t going to a 4-team playoff?  I’m not joking – those committee members are going to need round-the-clock security outside of their homes.  At least if there’s some type of poll combined with some computer rankings, any negative ire is directed toward a faceless system instead of specific individuals.  Some type of ranking that you can follow from week-to-week where everyone knows where they stand at any given time greatly disperses the haterade (even if it can’t ever be completely eliminated).)

The main debate about selecting the 4 participants in a playoff revolves around whether only conference champions should be allowed.  On the other side is simply using the top 4 teams in whatever ranking is used regardless of conference affiliation.  In the middle is a proposal to use the 3 highest-ranked conference champions plus 1 wild card team that would be the highest-ranked team outside of those 3 league champs (so it could be a conference champ, non-conference champ, or an independent such as Notre Dame).

My personal view on this issue is very practical: if we finally get a college football playoff and still end up with a split national championship with the final AP poll, then that’s a massive fail.  I understand the argument that limiting the participants to only conference champions provides some emphasis on “earning it on the field”, yet the practical reality is the general public and, more importantly, the TV networks paying for a playoff aren’t going to accept a system where the #2 team in the country would not be participating yet the #10 team would be involved (which is what would have happened in 2011).  I believe a lot of hardcore college football fans that support a conference champs-only have been mistakenly mixing their disdain for Alabama being chosen over Oklahoma State for a #1 vs. #2 national championship game last year (where I completely agree with the furor) with an argument that Alabama should not even be in a 4-team playoff (which I can’t justify if the purpose of a playoff is to figure out who the best team in the country is).  I’m one of the biggest Big Ten guys out there, yet I’m in agreement with SEC commissioner Mike Slive in principle on this issue: there’s no real way that I can support a system that would have allowed #10 Wisconsin in over #2 Alabama last year.

With that backdrop, here is one last college football playoff proposal for your consideration, which is what I call the “Four Team Bowl Event with a Flex Wild Card”.

FOUR TEAM BOWL EVENT WITH A FLEX WILD CARD

A. TEAM SELECTION CRITERIA

1. Top 3 teams in the new ranking system (whatever it might be) are automatically in the playoff regardless of conference affiliation.

2. The #4 team in the rankings is automatically in the playoff it is a conference champion or independent.

3. If the #4 team in the rankings is not a conference champion or independent, then:

a. The #5 team is in the playoff if it is a conference champion;

b. The #6 team is in the playoff if it is a conference champion and the #5 team is not a conference champion;

c. The #4 team is in the playoff if neither the #5 team nor #6 team are conference champions.

Rationale: Originally, I liked the 3 conference champions with 1 wild card slot proposal as compromise between the desire to reward conference champions with the need to ensure a legitimately elite conference runner-up doesn’t get shut out by a pedestrian conference champ.  However, I saw some of the commenters on this blog discuss some hypothetical formats where the top 3 teams without regard to conference affiliation would be guaranteed access to a playoff and started to think that this would be the best way to go.  Once again, I’m trying to be practical here.  When I think back to what has been the single most common complaint about the BCS system over the years, it has been an argument over who should be in the national championship game between the #2 team and the #3 team.  It hasn’t happened every year during the BCS era, but when it has happened, that’s where we have seen the most angst and heartburn among fans.  If much of the impetus behind finally instituting a playoff (besides cashing in on a pile of TV money) is to provide clarity and answers that the public has been craving for years, then having a #2 vs. #3 semifinal specifically is critical.  In that sense, ensuring the #3 team is in the playoff whether it’s a conference champ or not is just as important as having the #2 team there.

It’s the fourth spot in the playoffs, which is what I call the “Flex Wild Card”, that I believed needs to have some provisions granting some preferences to a conference champions (but not so much that it would prop up a low-ranked conference champ).  As the last team in, it’s more expendable than the top 3 teams – the public isn’t as bothered by seeing a #1 vs. #5 game in a playoff (compared to not seeing a #2 vs. #3 game) if there’s reasonable justification.  So, if the #4 team is a conference champion or an independent, then there’s no issue and it’s automatically in the playoff.  However, I can see being bothered if a conference runner-up is at #4 while a conference champion is sitting right behind it at #5 or #6.  The prime example of this is last year’s rankings, where Stanford was #4 in the final BCS rankings and Oregon was #5 despite the fact that Oregon had beaten Stanford and was the Pac-12 champion.  In that scenario, it would seem that Oregon’s achievement of being a conference champ should usurp Stanford’s ranking.

However, if the public is going to take the system seriously, a playoff participant can’t be too far down in the rankings.  That’s why I limited this Flex Wild Card spot to only swapping out a non-conference champion (as long as it’s not an independent) at #4 if there’s a conference champion at #5 or #6.  My eyeball review of past BCS rankings indicates that there’s typically a drop-off after the top 6 teams in most years and my feeling is that a #1 vs. #6 matchup doesn’t seem that far removed from a #1 vs. #4 matchup, whereas once we get to a #1 vs. #7 or below matchup, that starts looking out of place in a playoff.

Note that I treat an independent (AKA Notre Dame) as the same as a conference champion if it is in the top 4, but it is not treated as such if it is a #5 or #6 team for the Flex Wild Card spot.  My approach to Notre Dame is that it should be “football Switzerland” – it shouldn’t receive any advantage for not being a member of a conference (which is what a lot of non-Irish fans focus upon), but it also shouldn’t receive any disadvantage for not being a member of a conference (which is what a lot of non-Irish fans freely ignore).  A new college football playoff should not be a vehicle to structurally force Notre Dame into a conference (and note that any rule providing a disadvantage to independents will also apply to Army and, until it joins the Big East, Navy, which won’t be looked at too kindly by the people in Washington that would rather hitch on the always popular bandwagon of bashing the BCS than dealing with a stagnant economy, rampant unemployment and massive deficits).  Now, the only way that you can truly treat Notre Dame neutrally is if you take the top 4 teams in a ranking straight up with no conference restrictions.  If a system is anything other than that, then the goal should be to mitigate any advantages or disadvantages to independence.

There’s also another practical aspect regarding Notre Dame, which is as much as non-Domers might claim that they’re not relevant any more, there’s not going to be any TV executive anywhere that is going to be happy paying for a 4-team playoff where a top 4 Notre Dame team isn’t involved, and those TV people are the ones making this playoff possible in the first place by throwing so much money on the table.  I get asked pretty frequently why Notre Dame has its own seat at the BCS table and my response is always that it’s very simple: Notre Dame brings money into the system while rarely taking a BCS spot, so it’s the best of both worlds.  That’s why the power conferences are more than happy to deal with the Irish in a pragmatic fashion.  In contrast, the current non-AQ conferences don’t bring much money into the system at all while frequently taking a BCS spot, which is the worst of both worlds.  So, it’s those non-power conferences that truly stick in the craw of Jim Delany and Mike Slive.  Notre Dame is a complete red herring for college football fans.

To summarize: this playoff proposal would take the top 3 teams regardless of whether they are conference champs, while a #5 or #6 conference champion can jump a #4 team that’s not a conference champion or an independent.

Now that we’ve got the team selection covered, let’s move onto where the semifinals will be played.

B. SEMIFINALS USING THE BCS BOWLS WITH TIE-IN PREFERENCES

Beyond the 4-team playoff recommendation, there were a couple of other key stories that came out of the BCS meetings.  First, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com wrote this with respect to the Rose Bowl:

Tuesday will be known as the day the Rose Bowl gave in. Maybe just as little. And not officially. But it was the day when Delany, the biggest public defender of the Rose, sounded a lot like the stuffy ol’ Granddaddy was joining the party.

“I would say there is an expectation there will be significant change,” Delany said of the postseason in general.

What he’s saying without saying it is that the Rose/Pac-12/Big Ten won’t bust that playoff party. At least that’s the way it looks. They’re in. All the way. Get used to it. That’s what the last 10 years have been about. Five times since January 2002 “foreign” teams have played in Pasadena. In the previous 55 years it was only the Big Ten and Pac-8/10

Then, Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com reported this regarding playoff format possibilities:

Sources also told CBSSports.com that one of the many formats the BCS is considering is a model that would allow the bowl games the flexibility to host a semifinal game — if it’s not scheduled — if its anchor team qualifies for the playoff. In other words, if the Rose Bowl is not scheduled to host a semifinal game, but the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion qualifies for a four-team playoff, then the Rose Bowl could host a semifinal. This also would be the case for an SEC champion and the Sugar Bowl or a Big 12 team and the Fiesta Bowl.

What this means is that (1) the Rose Bowl is willing to become a semifinal game, which means giving up the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 on a frequent basis on paper but (2) there is a proposal to allow the bowls to use their traditional tie-ins to slot the semifinal games, which could allow the Rose Bowl to get back one or both of its traditional conference partners with national championship implications.

As soon as I read McMurphy’s flexible BCS bowl/semifinal proposal, it instantly jumped out at me as the direction that I believe the overall system will head toward.  If Jim Delany and Larry Scott are serious about protecting the Rose Bowl while keeping their respective conferences’ relationships with Pasadena as strong as possible even with participating in a 4-team playoff, then this seems to be the way to go.  To expand upon this:

1. A BCS bowl gets to host a semifinal if it has a tie-in that’s a playoff participant.

2. When there are more than 2 BCS bowls that have tie-ins with semifinalists, the higher-ranked teams get bowl placement priority (e.g. if #1 LSU plays #5 Oregon in a semifinal, the Sugar Bowl gets the game instead of the Rose Bowl because the SEC tie-in is ranked higher).

3. If two or more teams from the same conference are semifinalists, then the highest ranked team from that conference gets the traditional bowl tie-in.  The lower ranked team(s) could be placed at bowls that have tie-ins with other semifinalists (e.g. #1 LSU would have gone to the Sugar Bowl last year, while #2 Alabama would have played #3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl because that’s the Big 12 tie-in).

4.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the event that both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have semifinalists, they will play in the Rose Bowl regardless of ranking.

5.  One or two BCS bowls per year are designated as semifinal sites on a rotational basis in the off-chance that one or more semifinal matchups does not have any teams with any bowl tie-ins.

6.  The BCS bowls that are not hosting semifinals are free to choose any team that it wants outside of its contractual tie-ins.

Reasoning: This system appears to be the best that the traditionalists can do in terms of protecting the prestige of the Rose Bowl without completely throwing away the Big Ten/Pac-12 tie-ins.  Most proposals seemed to go one way (making the Rose Bowl a semifinal or championship locale without regard to the Big Ten and Pac-12) or the other (removing the Rose Bowl completely from the semifinal rotation).  The system here meets those two extremes in the middle, and as you’ll see below in applying this system to previous years, it’s really a net benefit to the quality of the Rose Bowl matchup and the Big Ten/Pac-12 pairing would not have been lost any more frequently than it has been usurped in the current BCS system.

C. HOW THE SYSTEM WOULD HAVE WORKED HISTORICALLY

Using the BCS rankings from prior years, here’s how the semifinals and BCS bowls would have looked from 2005 to 2011 (semifinals in bold):

2011
Rose Bowl: #10 Wisconsin vs. #4 Stanford
Sugar Bowl: #1 LSU vs. #5 Oregon
Orange Bowl: #15 Clemson vs. #6 Arkansas
Fiesta Bowl: #3 Oklahoma State vs. #2 Alabama

2010
Rose Bowl: #5 Wisconsin vs. #2 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Auburn vs. #3 TCU
Orange Bowl: #13 Virginia Tech vs. #6 Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: #7 Oklahoma vs. #4 Stanford

2009
Rose Bowl: #8 Ohio State vs. #7 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 TCU
Orange Bowl: #9 Georgia Tech vs. #5 Florida
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Texas vs. #3 Cincinnati

2008
Rose Bowl: #8 Penn State vs. #17 Oregon
Sugar Bowl: #2 Florida vs. #3 Texas
Orange Bowl: #19 Virginia Tech vs. #4 Alabama
Fiesta Bowl: #1 Oklahoma vs. #5 USC

2007
Rose Bowl: #1 Ohio State vs. #4 Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: #2 LSU vs. #3 Virginia Tech
Orange Bowl: #5 Georgia vs. #8 Kansas
Fiesta Bowl: #6 Missouri vs. #7 USC

2006
Rose Bowl: #1 Ohio State vs. #5 USC
Sugar Bowl: #2 Florida vs. #3 Michigan
Orange Bowl: #14 Wake Forest vs. #4 LSU
Fiesta Bowl: #10 Oklahoma vs. #7 Wisconsin

2005
Rose Bowl: #3 Penn State vs. #1 USC
Sugar Bowl: #7 Georgia vs. #8 Miami
Orange Bowl: #22 Florida State vs. #6 Notre Dame
Fiesta Bowl: #2 Texas vs. #4 Ohio State

Out of the last 7 seasons, the Rose Bowl would have hosted 4 semifinal games, including 3 that would have been traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchups.  Overall, the Rose Bowl would have only had a non-Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup once under this system (compared to twice in real life under the current BCS system).  The Sugar Bowl is the obvious beneficiary with the recent SEC dominance allowing it to host semfinals for the past 6 years, while the Orange Bowl wouldn’t have hosted any semifinals at all during this time period.  The Fiesta Bowl would have hosted the semifinals 4 times.

The upshot for me: this is about as good as the Rose Bowl is going to get in terms of preserving both its prestige and relevance when faced with the reality that we’re going to have a 4-team playoff.  Let’s see if the Big Ten and Pac-12 end up getting behind a proposal to this effect.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from USA Today)

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A few years ago in writing one of my myriad college football postseason proposals, I noted that while the general public supported a college football playoff as an abstract concept, the problem was that no one could agree upon what the playoff should look like.  With the countless proposals that I’ve seen in the comments to this blog and online elsewhere (along with fierce debates as to what would be best), that has certainly proven to be the case.

However, as the powers that be of the college football world gather around at the BCS meetings in Hollywood, Florida starting Wednesday to discuss a college football playoff, it seems that the top people following the business of college sports (Teddy Greenstein from the Chicago Tribune, Brett McMurphy from CBS Sports, Pete Thamel from the New York Times, Ralph Russo of the Associated Press and Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com) have come to a general belief that there will be a 4-team playoff with the semifinals hosted at neutral sites (which could be either current bowls or bid out to other venues).  The most progressive proposal of having semifinal games being played at on-campus sites from the Big Ten and Jim Delany (who also proposed the supposedly reactionary proposal of the 4 Teams Plus format that would have sent the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs to the Rose Bowl no matter what) seems to be dead.  A proposal that only conference champs would be included in the playoff also seems to be on life support.  Instead, we’ll likely see some type of format that will take the 3 highest ranked conference champions and then the next highest ranked team as a wild card (who could be a conference champ, non-champ or independent).

Now, pretty much all of the reporters and their BCS sources caveat their statements that different proposals are still in play, whether it’s the unseeded plus-one (where the bowls are played with traditional tie-ins and then the national championship matchup is decided thereafter) or the 4 Teams Plus.  As Brett McMurphy noted, the unseeded plus one would actually be the format that would cause the least amount of consternation for the commissioners themselves, yet the public has been conditioned so heavily with the expectation that there will be a 4-team playoff that anything less than that is going to receive massive blowback.  In previous years, the commissioners might not have cared, but the atmosphere is such that they want to get a system into place that will have enough public support that discussions about the postseason format can legitimately be avoided for the next decade plus.

The critical question for me (and likely for the powers that be) continues to be revenue… or more importantly, how the college football playoff revenue is split.  As I’ve stated several times before, the fact that a playoff system might garner two or three times as much TV money as the current BCS system is meaningless unless we have an understanding as to how such revenue is distributed.   Let’s put it this way: the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and Notre Dame aren’t giving up the 90/10 split in postseason revenue that they have today in order for the non-power conferences to receive all of the financial upside of a playoff.  The challenge is finding a system that provides guaranteed income advantages to the power conferences that makes contractual sense and without sounding off blatant antitrust alarm bells (even if the legal reality is the chances of the power conferences losing an antitrust case are remote).

I place the emphasis on guaranteed income because university presidents, even ones in conferences that have had a lot of on-the-field success such as the SEC, would rather guarantee themselves a baseline level of income in down years as opposed to shooting the moon in years where they win the national championship.  As a result, don’t expect there to be super financial rewards (if any) for conferences that make the playoff compared to what a league would receive would receive for making the Rose Bowl or other BCS (or whatever the equivalent will be) bowls.  Highly variable pay based upon on-the-field performance of individual teams (or whether the placekicker hits a field goal in overtime) simply isn’t how university presidents roll, folks.

That issue of how to split revenue is why I don’t believe we can completely take an unseeded plus-one or a variant of the 4 Team Plus format off the table, even if neither would make much of the general public very happy.  For instance, think of a scenario where the 4 Team Plus format was altered where it wasn’t just the Big Ten and Pac-12 that were guaranteed Rose Bowl access.  On top of the Rose Bowl, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 champs could have “contractual tie-in” spots (since auto-qualifier status is technically being eliminated) in the other quasi-semifinals (let’s say that they’re rotated among the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Cotton Bowls) along with a wild card that is the next highest ranked team other than those champs.  Would SEC commissioner Mike Slive still have the same negative reaction in that scenario?  How about the ACC and Big 12?  I don’t think this scenario would end up happening, but also don’t believe it’s that crazy if you’re thinking like the commissioner of one of the power conferences.

To be clear and reiterate what I’ve said previously, what I’d personally like to see is the “BCS Final Four” proposal that I wrote about nearly a year and a half ago, which is pretty similar to the 4-team playoff with neutral semifinal sites proposal on the table.  The main difference that I proposed then was that the semifinals would be rotated among the BCS bowl venues but would be separate from the BCS bowls themselves.  The semifinal sites in any given year would then get preferences to host the conferences that they have contractual tie-ins with if they are in the top 4.  So, in the years where Pasadena is a semifinal site, the Rose Bowl (the venue, NOT the game itself) would get assigned a semifinal matchup with a Big Ten and/or Pac-12 team if applicable.  We could even make Pasadena a permanent semifinal site where it could host both a semifinal and the Rose Bowl annually.  This as a way to at least throw something towards the Big Ten/Pac-12/Rose Bowl triumverate that preserves their relationship but doesn’t take away a permanent Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl (the game) itself while still allowing top 4 Big Ten and Pac-12 teams regular trips to Pasadena for semifinal games.

As someone whose high school and college years spanned the Clinton era in the 1990s, I have fantastic memories of listening to Tupac Shakur and watching the old traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl when it was the biggest college football game of the year, but I can understand if many people don’t want either of them to come back onstage in 2012.  I have a melancholy feeling about all of this since I’ve pushed for a playoff for such a long time on this blog, yet I also don’t want to see the Rose Bowl unalterably become a consolation game.  It’s the price of progress in college football.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Freshness)

In what is the biggest leak to come out of the smoke-filled BCS conference rooms yet, USA Today obtained a document provided to the conference commissioners that outlines the four college football postseason options that they are focusing upon.  (The complete document can be found here.)  So, here are what the powers that be are looking at right now:

1. Current BCS System with Adjustments – Basically keep everything as is now except for actually stacking the deck even more in favor of the power conferences by (a) eliminating automatic qualifier (AQ) status EXCEPT for contracts between conferences and bowls (AKA only the Big East would lose AQ status in reality) and (b) eliminating the cap on the number of participating schools from each conference.  Even as someone that fully believes Brett McMurphy’s statement from last week that although there are technically twelve voices in the room regarding a college football playoff, the only six that matter are the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame, this “we’re keeping the status quo and screwing the little guys even more” option seems to be thrown out there as posturing and won’t be taken seriously.

2. Original “Plus One” – It’s what I’ve called the “unseeded plus-one” up to this point, where all of the bowl games are played as normal and then select the national championship option thereafter.  I’ve written about unseeded plus-one and semi-seeded plus-one options previously.

3. Four Team “Event” (heaven forbid anyone calls this a “playoff”) – The “seeded plus-one” or four team tournament that most fans think of when discussing college football playoff scenarios.  There are some various sub-proposals here using neutral site, bowl and campus site options.  My “BCS Final Four” proposal from over a year ago, which is personally the college football postseason format that I’d use if I were the Grand Pooh-bah of Sports, essentially looks like option 3(B) on the BCS document.

4. Four Team Plus – The Rose Bowl would always take the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions, even if they are in the top 4.  Then, the 4 highest ranked teams outside of the Rose Bowl participants would play in 2 other games.  The national championship matchup would then be determined after those games are played.

Wait a second… that “Four Team Plus” option sounds really familiar.  Here we go:

The Halfway There Compromise: A BCS Plus-One Proposal that the Big Ten and Rose Bowl Could Live With

Every once in awhile, the blind squirrel that writes this blog finds the nut.  I wrote that Bon Jovi-fueled masterpiece back in December when the thought of a college football “event” still seemed like a distant dream.  I’ll re-emphasize here what I stated in that older post: the point of that proposal is a compromise, NOT a perfect solution.  As I’ve stated above, if it were up to me, I’d go with the BCS Final Four option.

(As a reminder, I proposed that the 2 highest ranked teams that won their bowl games would advance to the national championship as opposed to having a brand new ranking after the bowls were completed.  This would eliminate concerns that teams would leapfrog each other depending upon how strong or weak their bowl opponents were or that teams that lost their games could still advance to the title game.  Once again, it’s not perfect, but we wouldn’t have a perfect system even if we had a 4-team playoff, as we’ve seen with the debates on whether it should be limited to conference champs or not.)

Most of the college football commentators out there seem to be positioning the Halfway There Compromise option as strictly out there to placate the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Rose Bowl.  However, if that’s truly the case, why did Big Ten athletic directors and Jim Delany openly talk about a seeded 4-team playoff using campus sites and then a neutral site championship game open for bidding, which is the antithesis of protecting the Rose Bowl and would cause the most change to the status quo (at least as far as 4-team formats go) out of any proposal?  I think a lot of college football fans are quick to point fingers at Jim Delany and the Big Ten for “selfishly” protecting the Rose Bowl, yet they need to know that their own conferences have some direct incentives to see this happen, too.

Take a step back and think about why preserving the traditional Rose Bowl in the Halfway There Compromise can help everyone else.  (Hint: 6 is more than 4.)

Guess what happens when you take the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions out of the semifinal/quasi-semifinal pool?  The Halfway There Compromise effectively opens up 2 more spots in games with national championship implications for a total of 6 without having to add another round to the postseason.  Using a trusty abacus, you can calculate that it’s a whole lot easier to accommodate 5 power conferences when there’s 6 spots available in the Halfway There Compromise than when there’s only 4 spots available in a 4-team “event”.  Even beyond the power conferences, it’s also a whole lot easier for the non-power conferences to get a spot when you take the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs out of the equation.  As a result, fans may see this proposal as a way to placate the Big Ten/Pac-12/Rose Bowl trifecta, but it’s also a way to open up more access to the top tier games for both all of the power conferences and the non-power conferences below them compared to a strict 4-team “event” while keeping the postseason length to only two rounds.

Think about it: don’t you think the ACC would rather be in a system where they aren’t competing with the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs for a “quasi-semifinal” spot in the Halfway There Compromise compared to 4-team semifinals that would include those Big Ten and Pac-12 champs?  How about Notre Dame?  The Big East?  Even the Mountain West, Conference USA and all of the other current non-AQ conferences?  Granted, I don’t see the SEC and Big 12 being that enthusiastic about this plan, but who knows?  Eliminating downside risk with guaranteed money every year means a whole lot more than windfalls in great seasons where conferences shoot the moon.  Contrary to popular belief, the SEC isn’t guaranteed a spot in the national championship race and they don’t want to be left out in terms of access or money for a year if their champ ends up being ranked #5 or lower at some point.  (It has happened before and it will happen again.)

Now, plenty of people way more connected than me (such as Andy Staples of SI.com) are steadfast in their belief that it’s going to be a 4-team “event” in the manner that, well, the Big Ten ADs seemed to favor with campus stadiums as semifinal sites.  I agree that’s the most likely scenario.  However, there’s much more to the Halfway There Compromise than the knee-jerk reaction that this is all about the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Rose Bowl getting their way.  It may end up being just as beneficial to everyone else simply because there would be 2 more spots at the table without having to create an even larger “event”.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Gridiron Grit)