Posts Tagged ‘college football playoff’

I know that it’s been a loooooong time since my last post. Let’s get right to some random thoughts:

(1) College Football Playoffs – We have seen two iterations of the College Football Playoff rankings and my mind comes back to the same question that I had when the powers that be first announced that the system would use a committee: Why is this any better than just using the AP Poll (or old Harris Poll)? (To be sure, the Coaches’ Poll is a worthless self-serving steaming pile of garbage.) The former BCS rankings were much maligned, but they were at least a little progressive in attempting to incorporate some objective computer rankings. All that I see with the new CFP rankings is a 12-person poll, which isn’t necessarily any better than other polls with much larger sample sizes. The NCAA Tournament Committee serves an important purpose for basketball since they are vetting at-large teams that much of the general public hasn’t seen before. However, a 4-team college football playoff is much more suited to a “Wisdom of Crowds” determination: the public has a fairly good sense of who it believes to be the very top teams in any given season, so a decision from a small committee isn’t necessarily going to be any better.

Having said that, I do enjoy seeing the broader array of games that matter at a national level this season. The expansion from a 2-team championship race to a 4-team playoff has a pushdown effect where there are more impact games involving many more potential postseason participants. Unfortunately, very few of those impact games have involved the Big Ten over the past couple of months. I don’t believe that this is some type of long-term permanent situation, but it’s an early indicator of issues down the road for the playoff system overall. A 4-team playoff structurally means that at least one power conference champion is going to be left out every year, and when a league like the SEC looks as if though it can garner multiple playoff sports, that means that 2 or more power conference champs can be left on the outside. A consolation Rose Bowl or BCS bowl berth was seen as a worthy prize back in the 2-team BCS championship world, but this season has already shown that 100% of the oxygen in the sport is being taken up by the 4-team playoff race.

So, I’ve spent quite a bit of time once again contemplating the next (and probably final) phase of playoff expansion: the 8-team playoff with all 5 power conference champs receiving auto-bids. If it were up to me, we would just use the traditional bowl arrangements to slot the teams:

Rose Bowl: Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ
Sugar Bowl: SEC champ vs. at-large
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 champ vs. at-large
Orange Bowl: ACC champ vs. at-large

I expanded quite a bit more on this proposal last year as a mind meld between the progressive (expanded playoff) and the traditional (old school bowl tie-ins). Believe me – if there’s one proposal that I’ve had on this blog that I’d want to see implemented, it would be that one by far.

(2) Big 12 Expansion – Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked last week about Big 12 expansion and he had some comments that we can over-analyze here (as not much has been happening on the conference realignment front lately). Here was his response to a question about whether further conference realignment was coming (via The Oklahoman):

There are several of us that are numerically challenged. I don’t know that anybody could’ve anticipated that the Big 12 would have 10 and the Big Ten would have 14. … In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there. We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value. … But the opportunity to move from one high-visibility conference to another is pretty slim right now. I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term. As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.

The super-conferences concept … has largely been a media fabrication. I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction. It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.

Nothing too new here, although Bowlsby does seem to give some hope to non-power conference schools looking to move up to the power ranks (such as BYU, Cincinnati and UConn) in stating that the only possible movement is from the “secondary-level conferences” to one of the power leagues. Seeing that the Big 12 is the most likely conference to expand in the near future (meaning the next 3 to 5 years), anything that Bowlsby says that suggests some possible movement is something to watch. Nothing has changed from my viewpoint a year ago that the Big 12 is demographically challenged long-term (other than the state of Texas) and would benefit from a 2-team expansion (specifically with Cincinnati and BYU under my Big 12 Expansion Index). I’ve never bought the notion that the Big 12 is truly happy being at 10 schools – their leaders will always publicly state that they’re happy with their TV revenue and round-robin scheduling, but deep down, they’re dying for two obvious non-power schools to rise up (similar to TCU and Utah in the past) that they can add on.

(3) TV Contracts – Bowlsby also had some interesting comments about the impact of the Longhorn Network on the Big 12 (once again via The Oklahoman):

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

I think Bowlsby is trying to spin a nice tale that the Big 12 can somehow take advantage of new technologies in the way that’s different than the Big Ten Network or SEC Network. However, the Big 12 can’t sell rights to games that it doesn’t have the rights to. If anything, the best properties to leverage for digital platforms in the future are conference networks themselves – see the BTN2Go streaming capabilities and the SEC Network’s integration into WatchESPN. The most powerful conferences in the cable world are going to continue to be the most powerful conferences in the digital world.

Separately, the NBA’s record-breaking new TV deal portends some incredible cash on the horizon for the Big Ten, which is the last major sports property (college or pro) that will be on the open TV rights market for the rest of this decade once its current ESPN deal expires in 2016. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Big Ten ends up extending with its current first tier rights TV partner ESPN sooner rather than later in the same way that the NBA extended its deals with ESPN and Turner. While there is some fan sentiment out there that the Big Ten ought to separate itself from ESPN, that’s (1) unbelievably short-sighted from an exposure perspective and (2) very likely to be a poor decision financially. (Mark Hasty of Midwest Sports Fans had a great critique of Big Ten fans complaining about supposed ESPN bias against the conference. I wholeheartedly agree with his analysis – our media coverage off-the-field is honestly miles ahead of our performance on-the-field.) It is also a common fan misnomer that the Big Ten is somehow more aligned with Fox. While the BTN is a Big Ten/Fox partnership, remember that the Big Ten actually provides the top picks of college football games for ABC and ESPN every week, which is of immense importance to both the B1G and Disney. (If you live in a cave, SEC sends its top game of the week to CBS.) Ultimately, ESPN has the most cash by far and they have shown to be willing to pay up to ensure that competitors like Fox and Comcast/NBC don’t get their hands on prime sports properties. Meanwhile, there is the risk that cable TV money might not last forever with the increase of chord cutting, so waiting a few years for the open market isn’t necessarily the guarantee of greater riches that it appears a couple of years ago. The NBA made the calculation that it was better to take the cash now rather than later and I’d trust the media savvy of Adam Silver over any other commissioner in sports. I would expect the Big Ten to do the same thing.

(Image from God and Sports)

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Time is a bit cramped this week with Thanksgiving upon us, so I’ll be tackling one mailbag question below this week. Also, I need to wallow a bit in my misery about Derrick Rose being out for the rest of season with a torn meniscus in his right knee after having just been out for 18 months for a torn ACL in his left knee. If you were following my Twitter feed on Friday night when the injury occurred, you probably were hoping that I didn’t have access to any sharp metal objects – it was a dark, dark evening. As a 35-year old Chicago sports and Illini fan, I’ve seen more than my fair share of debilitating sports moments, but nothing has been as bad as these back-to-back Derrick Rose injuries. I had dreamed of the Bulls somehow landing D-Rose in the draft back when he was still not even halfway done with his high school career at Simeon and the night that the franchise won the 2008 NBA lottery with a 1.7% chance was the greatest off-the-field sports moment that I had ever witnessed (if that makes sense). By the end of his rookie season, he had quickly vaulted to one of my 5 favorite athletes of all-time (the others being Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Frank Thomas and Illini era Deron Williams). So, this has been an excruciating process to witness and there’s a palpable feeling here that Rose may end up on the list of “What might have been?” athletic enigmas such as Gale Sayers, Bill Walton and Bo Jackson. From an overall Bulls team perspective, the franchise is now in the “basketball hell” danger zone where they’re not good enough to win a championship yet not bad enough (even with Rose being out and presumably trading Luol Deng and his expiring contract) to realistically tank to get a legit shot at a top 5 lottery pick in next summer’s loaded draft. (Granted, I’ll keep praying for the sports gods to throw us the bone of Rose’s fellow Simeon alum Jabari Parker ending up in a Bulls uniform.) In summary, thank goodness for the Blackhawks!

Now for our mini-mailbag question for the week (with a full-blown mailbag coming after Thanksgiving):

Yes, I believe that it’s inevitable for the playoff system to go to 8 just as it was only a matter of time that we went from 2 teams playing for the championship to a 4-team playoff. I would never have said that 2 years ago, but the tea leaves are there for further playoff expansion. Now, as I had intimated in playoff system proposals posts previously (such as this one about a hypothetical 4-team playoff system 3 years ago that actually turned out to be fairly close to what the CFP will look like), the critical question is, “Does this make sense for the Big Ten and SEC?” Anyone can slap together a playoff system that he or she personally would like to see, but the challenge is always about whether the power conferences would ever agree to it.

In this case, there’s a fairly heavy incentive for the power conferences to eventually expand the playoff to 8 teams if they can do the following: all 5 power conference champs would receive an auto-bid. That provides a host of benefits for the power conferences compared to the 4-team system, such as (a) a guaranteed playoff slot annually and all of the money that comes with that, (b) guaranteeing that their respective conference championship games become de facto annual playoff games under their complete control and all of the money that comes with that and (c) making each divisional race within each of those power conferences have national title implications in a way that would increase the competitive and media value of the regular season and all of the money that comes with that.*

(* Yes, I know that the Big 12 can’t take advantage of (b) and (c) as of now. We’ll see how long that lasts, as noted in my last post.)

Going one step further, there’s also an easy and logical framework to get that in place by using the bowls and their traditional bowl tie-ins:

Rose Bowl: Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ
Sugar Bowl: SEC champ vs. at-large
Orange/Peach Bowl: ACC champ vs. at-large
Fiesta/Cotton Bowl: Big 12 champ vs. at-large

If that looks familiar, it’s because I proposed that system in one of the earliest posts on this blog over 7 years ago. The irony is that this playoff system could expand the number of participants to 8 yet the bowls would actually revert back to their traditional roots more compared to the current 4-team system (i.e. there is truly a traditional Rose Bowl every year no matter what). In essence, it’s both progressive and traditionalist. Just imagine what a TV network would pay for those 4 games split up on New Years Eve and New Years Day, 2 semifinal games a week or two later, and then the national championship game on the open Sunday between the NFL’s conference championship games and the Super Bowl.* The Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 are all already receiving $40 million per year for their top non-playoff bowl contracts above and beyond what they’re receiving for the 4-team playoff, so there really isn’t any cap for how high those rights fees can go if those games are converted to single elimination playoff games. That’s going to be really difficult to resist.

(* Yes, these games are getting played in January as opposed to the common fan request of playoff games during December. Note that December TV ratings are materially lower than January TV ratings, the bowls are a contractual mechanism that allow the power conferences to maintain control over the postseason, and the platitudes that university presidents, conference commissioners and athletic directors have given about the length of the football season are mind-bogglingly disingenuous considering how much they have all whored themselves for the almighty dollar in almost every other conceivable way. Drawing a line in the sand about 2 or 4 teams at the most playing beyond New Years Day is completely arbitrary, especially considering that the other revenue sport of men’s basketball has a season that runs from Midnight Madness in October to the national championship game in April.)

Access for the non-power conferences would likely be a hot topic, although I’d have a hard time seeing the power conferences automatically giving them a national championship playoff slot every year.* There might be some type of provision similar what is with the current BCS system, where a top 12 non-AQ champ or top 16 non-AQ champ that ranks higher than an AQ champ would get a bid.

(* Yes, I know that’s not necessarily fair when the power conferences automatically get their own slots while the non-power conferences don’t receive automatic access. Like I’ve said, what matters in reality is what the Big Ten and SEC would agree to.)

I also have a difficult time seeing a playoff ever going beyond 8 teams (and an NCAA Tournament-style system that provides an auto-bid for every conference would be a non-starter for the powers that be), so any traditionalist arguments about further “bracket creep” are tougher to take seriously at that level. The power conferences can get favored access status for their conference champs and preserve or even enhance the financial values of their respective regular seasons, conference championship games and bowl tie-ins under an 8-team system that wouldn’t be possible in a 16-team scenario. The facts that (a) the 8-team playoff that I described above is such low hanging fruit financially with relatively little disruption to the current setup and (b) there will inevitably be controversies arising from who gets in and who gets shut out of the 4-team playoff are going to be driving forces behind an eventual expansion of the playoff system. The powers that be can state all that they want that the current CFP deal will go the full 12 years, but there will surely be an assessment in a few years about what an 8-team playoff would be worth in the marketplace that will open their eyes to change once again.

We’ll get to some other mailbag questions about the state of college sports and conference realignment soon. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!

(Image from Wikipedia)

The sports world has been throwing me some curve balls over the past week, with my Bears and Illini combining for only 3 fields goals worth of offense, the Lakers trying to tell the public with a straight face that Mike D’Antoni is a “better fit” as a coach for their team than Phil Jackson, and the Marlins just handing over half of their team to the Blue Jays after fleecing Florida’s citizens out of public funds to build a brand new ballpark.  Let’s try to digest what has actually occurred with the new college football playoff system by answering some frequently asked questions:

(1) What exactly is the new playoff and top tier bowl format? – For someone like me that constantly dives into the minutiae of these details, this seems like a basic question, but it’s apparent to me after reading a lot of questions from people out there that the powers that be haven’t really done a good job of explaining how the new postseason format is going to work very clearly to the public.

What we know is that there will be 6 top tier bowls, with 3 of them being “contract bowls” with contractual tie-ins (Rose Bowl with the Big Ten and Pac-12, Sugar Bowl with the SEC and Big 12, and Orange Bowl with the ACC and SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame) and the other 3 being “host bowls” (likely the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Chick-Fil-A Bowl) that provide “access” slots (the equivalent of at-large bids in today’s BCS system).  The major new news is that the FBS conferences just announced that one of those access slots will be allocated to the highest ranked champion of the conferences that do not have a tie-in with a contract bowl (the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC, who are generally referred to in the media as the “Gang of Five” and I call the “G5″ here).  Over the past month, the powers that be had considered adding a 7th bowl that would match up the top G5 champ against a team from the Big 12 or Pac-12, but the feedback from the marketplace was that such game would not be worth very much.  Thus, the compromise was to incorporate that G5 access into the 6-bowl rotation.

A 4-team playoff will be played within the confines of those 6 bowls, meaning that 2 bowls will be designated as semifinal sites each year and the other 4 bowls are “normal” bowl games.  In a year when a contract bowl is designated as a semifinal, the champions from each conference that it has tie-ins with are guaranteed a spot in one of the host bowls if such conference champ is not a semifinalist.  For example, if the playoff were in effect last year and the Rose Bowl was a semifinal site, Wisconsin, as the Big Ten champion that did not make it to the semifinal, would have an automatic slot in one of the host bowls.  On the flip side, when a contract bowl is not a semifinal, it is guaranteed to have teams from its tie-in conferences no matter where they are ranked.  So, in another example, if the playoff were in effect this year where the Rose Bowl is not a semifinal site and Oregon is the Pac-12 champion and finishes in the top 4, the Rose Bowl would take another Pac-12 team to replace Oregon whether such team is ranked #5 or #50.

The 4-team playoff field will be determined by a selection committee, presumably with at least one representative from each FBS conference.  That selection committee will also determine who receives the at-large host bowl slots and which G5 conference champ is the highest ranked.

(2) How will the revenue be split? – Some of it is very clear while other parts of it is up in the air.  While every conference expects an increase in revenue on an absolute basis, a chosen few are going to receive the lion’s share of the gains.  The contract conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 and ACC) will retain the media revenue from their respective contract bowls in the years that such bowls are not hosting semifinals.  The Rose Bowl signed a TV contract with ESPN worth $80 million per year.  The Sugar Bowl is believed to be making the same $80 million figure under an ESPN deal finalized today while the Orange Bowl is estimated to be worth $60 million per year.  This means that all of the contract conferences are expected to make $40 million each in the years that their respective contract bowls are “normal” non-semifinal bowl games.  The G5 doesn’t touch this money.

A separate pot that includes the national championship game, semifinals and host bowls has a tentative deal on the table from ESPN worth approximately $475 million to $500 million per year.  This is where the revenue distribution issue gets a bit murkier.  The FBS commissioners have said that a portion of that pot will distributed in the form of fixed annual payments to the various FBS conferences and independents, while another portion will be allocated based upon who actually attains bids to the semifinals and host bowls.  It is unclear how those portions will be split up.  The current understanding regarding the fixed annual payments is that the contract conferences will take the bulk of that money on top of their contract bowl revenue in equal shares among those 5 leagues, with a CBSSports.com report that it would be an overall 80%/20% split with G5 conferences compared to the current 85%/15% split in the current BCS system (although that “give” by the contract conferences is a quite misleading since that doesn’t include contract bowl revenue that the power leagues keep 100% of in the new system yet was shared in the current BCS system, so the net effect is essentially nothing in terms of overall percentage splits).

(3) Is the Big East a winner or loser in all of this? – I’ll give the lawyerly answer here: it depends.  The new G5 access slot to a host bowl has been positioned by a lot of people in the media as a “win” for the Big East*, but whether it’s truly a win is different for each of the members of that conference.

(* Regardless of what anyone thinks about how much the Big East will be worth in the TV and bowl marketplaces going forward, a massive amount of credit has to be given to the league’s new commissioner Mike Aresco for completely managing the media in all aspects on this playoff issue along with the recent Notre Dame defection.  If this announcement were made during John Marinatto’s tenure as Big East commissioner, the news stories would be talking about how the Big East is dead with the loss of an auto-bid as opposed to being anything close to a winner.)

The Big East is really the entity that is most affected by the changes in the postseason system since it went from being an AQ league where its champion was guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl (the equivalent of a contract conference in the new format) to one where its champ is pooled in with the champs from the other G5 leagues to fight for one spot (the equivalent of a non-AQ conference in the current format).  From that vantage point, it’s very difficult to call the old members of the Big East (Louisville, UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida) as “winners” since this is a clear downgrade.  Even if they make more money in absolute dollars in the new system, they will be behind the power conference teams that they were once grouped with on a relative basis in terms of revenue and access.  The old members of the Big East in the negotiations with the powers that be in the playoff negotiations were basically in the position of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back, where Darth Vader told him, “I am altering the deal.  Pray that I don’t alter it any further.”  As a result, the best that you could say for the old members of the Big East was that it could have been worse, where the power conferences might not have provided any dedicated bowl slot to the G5 at all.

On the other hand, the new Big East members (Temple, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Memphis, San Diego State and Navy) are definitely winners.  They have received an upgrade in top bowl access (albeit not a great of an upgrade as they might have originally anticipated) and will take home multitudes more revenue compared to the current BCS system.  There’s really very little downside for any of them, if only because they could only go up from where they are in the BCS landscape.

In theory, the Big East is in the best position to win this G5 bowl access slot year-to-year since it is the strongest conference of that group from top to bottom.  That being said, I believe that theory only holds true where the Big East champ has the same record as any of the other G5 champs.  The danger for the Big East is not necessarily other conferences passing them by, but simply when another team from one of those conferences has a hot year.  For example, a 1-loss Louisiana Tech team is 1 spot ahead of 1-losss Rutgers and only 1 spot behind 1-loss Louisville in this week’s BCS rankings… and that’s while playing in a WAC league that will no longer be in existence when the new playoff starts in 2014.  That seems to indicate that a 1-loss Louisiana Tech team would definitely jump 2-loss Louisville and Rutgers teams if the new system were in place today (and it’s already virtually dead even with all of them having the same records).  At the same time, even though the Big East conference games will provide its league members with stronger strength of schedule rankings compared to the conferences games in the other G5 leagues, that can be mitigated by the fact that other G5 teams are more willing to take one-and-done guarantee games on the road with power conference teams.  Using Louisiana Tech as an example again, they have stronger BCS computer numbers than both Louisville and Rutgers this year based on playing one excellent SEC team (Texas A&M) and two craptacular Big Ten (Illinois – ugh) and ACC (Virginia) teams in road one-and-done games.  As a result, Big East teams can’t get very comfortable at all about thinking that this G5 slot is always going to go to their league.  That might be true when all records are equal, but if the Big East champ has a worse record than one of the other G5 champs, then it’s a major risk.

(4) What other winners and losers are there? – The other G5 conferences are overall winners since they have managed to obtain better access and revenue compared to the current system despite generally having weaker leagues on the field due to defections with conference realignment.  Of course, lest that you believe that the power conferences have been charitable, the Big Ten and SEC are definitely large winners, as well.  In part of the announcements this week, the champions from the SEC and Big Ten will always play in one of the host bowls if they are not semifinalists instead of the Orange Bowl (which those leagues have a secondary tie-in with shared with Notre Dame).  So, instead of, say, a #5-ranked SEC champ heading to the Orange Bowl when the Sugar Bowl is hosting a semifinal (thereby freeing up a host bowl slot for someone else), that SEC champ will go to one of the host bowls and the Orange Bowl can take another SEC team on top of that.  Jim Delany and Mike Slive definitely pulled a fast one there, particularly when the media seems to intimate that this was some type of concession.

(5) What happens to independents, particularly Notre Dame and BYU? – Independents (excluding Navy who will be joining the Big East in 2015, these currently consist of Notre Dame, BYU and Army and will include conference-less Idaho and New Mexico State next year) do not have any prescribed access to the semifinals and host bowls outside of ranking high enough for the selection committee to choose them for those slots.  However, Notre Dame has a contractual tie-in with the Orange Bowl, so host bowl access would have been gravy to them, anyway.

Most speculation about the impact on independents has centered around whether the new G5 bowl slot will spur BYU to join the Big East.  As I’ve stated in other blog posts, I don’t believe that BYU will end up in the Big East because its interests are much more about providing maximum TV exposure for the football program and the LDS church as a whole, which is exactly what they get now as an independent with an ESPN contract, as opposed to making the most TV money possible.  Now, I do believe that the bowl access situation will give BYU and LDS leaders (never forget that they are intertwined here) something else to chew on, but if you take a step back, you’ll realize that nothing has actually changed for the school in terms of top tier bowl access.  As of today, the only way that BYU can get automatic access to any BCS bowl is to qualify for the national championship game itself, which is practically no different than BYU only gaining automatic access if it qualifies for a semifinal in the new system.  Since BYU chose independence under the current BCS circumstances with virtually no prescribed access at all, no one should assume that the new G5 bowl spot will seriously alter their thinking.  At the end of the day, I continue to believe that Air Force will end up as football school #14 in the Big East while BYU will maintain its independence.

(6)  Any other unusual details? – Well, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan has some loose lips, where he provided some quirky information from the BCS meetings to the Baton Rouge Advocate (h/t to Alan from Baton Rouge):

While the nonplayoff Sugar Bowls will be exclusively between SEC and Big 12 teams, much as the Rose Bowl is exclusively between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, the semifinals can feature teams from any conference, although if an SEC or Big 12 team is seeded first or second, its game will be in the Sugar Bowl.

********

The rotation for the semifinals is yet to be set. Hoolahan said he did not know which year would be the first for New Orleans to host a playoff game but understood the Sugar Bowl would be paired with the Rose Bowl.

“That way, we’ll have an uninterrupted afternoon and evening of playoff games,” he said. “That’s going to be exciting.”

The first portion of Hoolahan’s info doesn’t surprise me, where the contract bowls would get preferences to host their respective conference partners when they are semifinal games.  It makes complete sense that a #1 or #2-ranked Big Ten or Pac-12 team ought to go to the Rose Bowl if that game happens to be a semifinal site for that particular season.  However, the second portion about how the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl would always be semifinal games in the same year is completely perplexing to me.  I understand Hoolahan’s point that the years when both of them are hosting semifinals would make for an exciting New Year’s Day, but the flip side is that there would now be no New Year’s Day semifinals at all in 1 out of every 3 years.  A clear and logical annual setup of 1 host bowl being a semifinal on New Year’s Eve and 1 contract bowl being a semifinal on New Year’s Day seems to be thrown up in the air with this information.  Usually, I’m able to understand the intent and reasoning behind various actions by the powers that be (even if I don’t personally agree with them), but I’m at a loss as to why the commissioners believe that this is a good idea.

All-in-all, there has been a flurry of progress over the past couple of weeks on the playoff front after a long pause in deliberations.  Hopefully, we’ll get some final information about how the semifinal rotation will be set up, confirmation that ESPN will be the television partner, and where the national championship game itself will be played sooner rather than later.

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

(Image from Sports Illustrated)

It’s the home stretch for the college football regular season.  Let’s get to it.

(1) College Football Playoff News Leads to More College Football Playoff Questions – Every few weeks, a flurry of news about the college football playoff comes out and it ends up being more head-spinning than clarifying.  Last month, it appeared that a 7th BCS bowl (or whatever we will call the system going forward) would be a lock in order to provide more top tier bowl access to the new class of “non-contract” conferences (Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC) known as the “Gang of Five” (hereinafter referred to by me as the “G5″*) along with an additional contract spot for the Pac-12 and Big 12 (to match the Orange Bowl contract spot that the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame are occupying opposite of the ACC).   It now looks like that idea lasted about as long as Mike Brown’s coaching tenure with the Lakers, complete with the BFFs of the Big Ten and Pac-12 getting into a tiff over the bowl’s viability.

(* Whenever I hear a reference to a G5, I always think of this moment.)

As a result, the FBS commissioners are going to recommend the original plan of a 4-team playoff incorporated into 6 bowls, with the Rose, Sugar (which has finally been named as the home of the SEC-Big 12 matchup and allows all of us to stop calling it the pompous Champions Bowl) and Orange Bowls as “Contract Bowls” and 3 other “Access Bowls” that will likely consist of the Cotton, Fiesta and the I Really Love Chick Fil-A Breakfast Biscuit Sandwiches So Please Have Your CFO Not Talk About Politics So I Can Eat Them Without Guilt Bowls*.

(* In full disclosure for those that don’t already know from some of my past blog posts, I have long considered myself to be a libertarian Republican, so I have a constant tension in my head between my belief that there needs to be significantly lower government spending with fewer regulatory restraints on the free market and social viewpoints that I completely disagree with.  This election year certainly didn’t ease that tension at all.  At least we can all depend upon Nate Silver.)

That leaves a multitude of questions that need to be answered ASAP:

  • How often will the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl host semifinals compared to the other top bowls?
  • How will the conferences split the playoff money?
  • Will the G5 conferences receive a dedicated bid to the access bowls, a provisional bid based on a top 15/20 ranking threshold similar to the current BCS system, or no guaranteed access at all?
  • Will ESPN win the TV rights or do the conference commissioners want to take the playoff package to the open market?  (Currently, it looks like Disney is going to buy up everything once again just as it swallowed up Star Wars.)
  • Who will be on the playoff selection committee?
  • Are playoff games really going to be played on New Year’s Eve or will TV interests nix that prospect?
  • What happens when the first Monday after the NFL Wild Card weekend, which TV partners have said is the optimal date for the national championship game, comes on a date that is less than a week after New Year’s Day?
  • Where is the first national championship game going to be played?
  • Since ESPN is ready to pay over $600 million per year for the college football postseason, when will a further expansion of the playoff become too irresistible for the powers that be?*

(* Unlike a lot of people, I personally don’t believe that an 8-team playoff is going to be inevitable by any means.  If there’s an expansion of the postseason, I think a “plus three” system of a 4-team playoff with the participants chosen after the bowls are played would be more likely, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

With the new playoff starting for the 2014 season, there honestly isn’t that much time to hammer all of these details out.  We’ll see what comes out on Monday after the Presidential Oversight Committee hears from the FBS commissioners.

(2) BlogPoll Ballot

I had been holding out on elevating Oregon to #2 since I believed that Notre Dame had a much better resume, but the Ducks continuing its thrashings against USC combined with a game that the Irish should have completely lost versus Pitt has finally gotten me to go with the conventional wisdom among the human pollsters (if not the computers that still like Kansas State much better).

(3) College Football Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

Minnesota (-3) over ILLINOIS

SYRACUSE (+2) over Louisville

Northwestern (+9.5) over MICHIGAN

(4) NFL Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

BEARS (PK) over Texans

EAGLES (+1) over Cowboys

Lions (-1) over VIKINGS

(5) Classic Music Video of the Week – “It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube

While it is now impossible for the Lakers to beat the Supersonics (particularly for Mike Brown), any list of the top Internet achievements of 2012 needs to include the pinpointing of November 30, 1988 as Ice Cube’s “good day” (after an original argument that it was January 20, 1992).

Enjoy another great weekend of football!

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

To take our minds off of NFL replacement refs (and even as a Bears fan that loathes the Packers with every fiber of my being, I can’t take joy in such an abominable outcome from Monday night’s game), let’s move onto some other news:

(1) Seventh BCS Bowl: Progress for the Little Guys or More Consolidation of Power for the Big Guys? – The powers that be of college football are reportedly going to add a seventh bowl to the top tier of games (widely presumed to consist of the Rose, Cotton, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Chick-Fil-A Bowls) that will be a part of the new playoff rotation and host the highest ranked champion of the “non-contract” conferences (the Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt and MAC). Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com is reporting that industry sources believe that this new seventh bowl will make approximately $20 million per year in TV money. For the sake of comparison, the Rose Bowl will be receiving $80 million per year and the Please Choose a Freaking Site Already So I Can Stop Calling This the Champions Bowl will likely receive the same.

Whether this new seventh bowl is a good deal for what Dodd calls the “Gang of Five” depends upon what starting point you’re comparing it to. This sounds like progress compared to the prospect of simply a merit-based selection process to the “Access Bowls” that will have at-large slots in the new college football postseason (where the Gang of Five could have been frequently completely shut out of any top tier bowl games). However, it’s worse than the current BCS system for that same group since this is effectively consolidating what has been two separate bowl bids (the Big East champ AQ bid and the top 12 non-AQ conference champ auto bid) into one bowl bid. Dodd’s report also suggests that the Gang of Five champ will be locked into this seventh bowl game (hereinafter referred to as the “Gang of Five Bowl”) as opposed to being rotated around among the other Access Bowls, which means that that power conferences can still take up most (if not all) of the slots in those other games. Essentially, the Gang of Five Bowl looks like a mini-Contract Bowl that will need to find another tie-in instead of selecting from the Access Bowl pool, only that it still will be part of the semifinal rotation. (Dodd suggests that a third or fourth place team from a power conference could be interested in that tie-in, while an AP report says that either the Big 12 or Pac-12 could end up sending a team to this game.)

On paper, the Big East ought to be winning this Gang of Five bowl slot in most seasons, but it’s still quite a fall from a money perspective if Dodd’s financial figures are correct. Currently, the Big East is receiving at least $17 million per year for having an AQ bid in today’s BCS system, which is a figure that will almost certainly go down for the conference if the new Gang of Five Bowl is worth $20 million (as that revenue will need to be split up between the Gang of Five conferences and whichever other conference signs a tie-in). However unlikely it might be that Gang of Five school ends up finishing ranked higher than the Big East champ in the future, it’s still not an iron-clad that the Big East has now (or what the other power conferences continue to have). Once again, this scenario is better than the Armageddon situations facing the Big East a week or two ago, but still a downgrade from the current BCS system for them. We could arguably say the same thing about all of the other Gang of Five conferences. Nearly a year ago, when the playoff was still a dream and the talk was merely about “removing AQ status”, I wrote that it was a matter of semantics and the practical effect would be that the Big East and non-AQ conferences were actually going to be the ones being screwed. For the leagues outside of the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC, the destruction of the BCS system was a “be careful for what you wish for” event and now everyone sees why.

(2) BlogPoll Ballot

It continues to be ugly for the Big Ten in terms of elite teams. This might be Northwestern’s time to shine with a 1995-esque run to the Rose Bowl.

(3) College Football Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

WASHINGTON (+6.5) over Stanford – There’s some weird juju going on in Seattle this week. I’ll take the points for the home team in the land of rain and caffeine.

Penn State (PK) over ILLINOIS – I’ve seen many debilitating Illini losses like the one that occurred this past Saturday night against Louisiana Tech over the past 15 years. The most frequent response from the team in that type of situation is to head into a complete tailspin for the rest of the season. Both Ron Turner and Ron Zook could never, ever, ever limit the collateral damage of a bad loss to just a single game, so the deck is stacked against Tim Beckman here. Of course, the postseason ineligibility of Penn State and Ohio State is setting up the Big Ten Leaders Division to have Illinois-Indiana on October 27th become a critical matchup for the conference championship. My apologies in advance to the rest of the college football world.

Ohio State (+3) over MICHIGAN STATE – The Buckeyes are really the only team that could possibly be a factor nationally for the Big Ten at this point… except that they aren’t allowed to win anything. It’s unfortunate for the conference since I believe that Urban Meyer is everything as advertised as a coach.

(4) NFL Parlay Picks (odds from Yahoo! and home teams in CAPS)

Browns (+12.5) over RAVENS – Maybe it’s just me, but this feels like a patented Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!!!” game for Baltimore.

RAMS (+3) over Seahawks – Rams are much better competitively than their scores would indicate and, if there’s any justice in the world, there are going to be some karmic repercussions to Seattle here.

Bears (+3) over COWBOYS – I’d feel much better about this game if it was being played at Soldier Field, but it still comes down to a tale of two bad offensive lines and which defense can take the most advantage (and I sincerely believe that the Bears have the edge there).

(5) Classic Music Video of the Week: Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Mase and Puff Daddy

This is one of my favorite songs of any genre of all-time with a video that’s a fantastic time capsule of the late-1990s with its Tiger Woods-Fuzzy Zoeller reference in the intro, shiny jumpsuits and a posthumous appearance by the late Biggie Smalls. Speaking of which, if you ever have a couple of hours to kill on Netflix, you could do worse than checking out Nick Broomfield’s 2002 documentary Biggie and Tupac that sets forth the evidence that former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight was responsible for the deaths of both Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Broomfield essentially looks and sounds like someone that you would expect to see on BBC World News, so it was quite a scene when he challenges Suge face-to-face in a prison courtyard (which was a sequence that the cameraman was apparently too scared to film, so he kept shooting the sky). Hopefully, the Illini won’t play the same type game that they did last week or else I might be flipping this documentary on pretty quickly.

Enjoy all of the games (and may the White Sox hang on for dear life)!

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

I’m finally back from along family vacation where I was blissfully unaware of any major news during that time, so let’s catch up on a few items:

(1) College Football Playoff Details Dripping Out and Confusing Everyone – About a month ago when the FBS commissioners plus Notre Dame announced that they agreed upon a new college football playoff system, it seemed fairly straight-forward with a 4-team playoff, semifinal sites rotated among 6 bowls to be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and a selection committee choosing the participants in the semifinals and top bowls.  The first caveat, however, was that certain bowls would have ironclad contractual tie-ins, specifically the Big Ten and Pac-12 with the Rose Bowl, the SEC and Big 12 with the Please Choose the Sugar or Cotton So I Can Stop Calling This The Pompous Champions Bowl, and the ACC with the Orange Bowl.   I wrote back in November prior to a playoff being on the radar that any proposed elimination of automatic qualifier (AQ) status from the BCS system would simply be a matter of semantics and that contractual tie-ins would not go away.  In essence, the removal of AQ status only affected the Big East (which didn’t have a contractual tie-in with any top bowl).  In fact, the new system goes a step further and protects the contractual tie-ins in years where those top bowls aren’t semifinals regardless of ranking.  That is, if the Rose Bowl isn’t a semifinal in a given year and a Big Ten team is a semifinalist, the Rose will have a Big Ten replacement no matter what record or ranking such replacement has at the time (whereas the current BCS system requires any non-champ replacement needs to be in the top 14).  On the flip side, in the years that the Rose Bowl is a semifinal host and the Big Ten champ isn’t in the top 4, then that Big Ten champ will go to one of the other top 6 bowls.  From this point forward, being a “power conference” means having a guaranteed tie-in with a “contract bowl”, while “access bowls” provide variable at-large spots that may or may not provide access to the non-power conferences in a given year.

At the same time, what was initially thought to be a simple rotation of semifinal games among the 6 top bowls may end up being much more complex.  The new Rose Bowl deal with ESPN indicated that Pasadena might only host 2 semifinals over a 12-year period (as opposed to 4 if there was an even rotation).  It has been speculated that the I’m Really Really Really Sick Of Calling This The Champions Bowl would similarly host fewer semifinals.  That didn’t make too much sense to me until SportsBusiness Daily reported an extremely important detail yesterday: the Big Ten and Pac-12 will split $80 million per year in media revenue from the Rose Bowl for the years that the game is NOT a semifinal host, while the revenue during semifinal years would be distributed in a manner to be determined with the rest of the new playoff system.  No wonder why the Big Ten and Pac-12 (and the SEC and Big 12) aren’t really that keen on giving up their top bowl tie-ins very often to semifinal games – they could be taking a haircut on a guaranteed $40 million payday in the applicable years.

The SportsBusiness Daily report also indicated that the commissioners expected to have the Rose Bowl and Allstate AT&T Chick-fil-A Breakfast of Champions Bowl host semifinals in the same years, which perplexes me to no end. What’s the point of doing that?  Would this mean that there could be years where there isn’t any semifinal on New Year’s Day when those two bowls aren’t hosting semifinals?  Why would a TV partner paying billions of dollars for this playoff (which is basically the entire impetus for this playoff being created in the first place) not want at least one semifinal in prime time every New Year’s Day?  By the same token, why would such TV partner pay for any semifinal games played on low-rated New Year’s Eve when most of America is outside of their homes getting hammered and not near a TV?

How the “access bowl” slots will be filled is also up in the air.  The goals of a selection committee, bowls and TV networks aren’t always going to be aligned here.  A selection committee will presumably want to award bids based on merit, bowls want teams with the best ticket buying traveling fan bases and TV networks want the most attractive national brand names.  (The latter two usually have a strong correlation, but there are certain exceptions.  Iowa, for example, is gold for bowls with how Hawkeye fans travel, yet a TV network would likely prefer bad-traveling-but-big-TV-ratings-draw Miami if it came down to a choice between the two.)

Then, we get to the selection committee itself.  I’ve warmed up to the concept a bit over the past month or so, but I still have a ton of reservations on how it’s going to work.  Is this structurally going to end up being an end-of-the-year poll only using 10 to 20 people as opposed to 115 people?  If so, why is that an improvement over the current usage of the Harris Poll?  (Note that I firmly believe that the use of the Coaches’ Poll where there are blatant conflicts of interest should be eliminated from any sort of selection criteria.)  How is strength of schedule going to be taken into account?  (In my humble opinion, SOS is politically correct code for “only the 5 power conferences matter”. When looking at the SOS rankings last year, the only school outside of the 5 power conferences plus Notre Dame that made it to the top 50 was Tulsa, which had a murderer’s row non-conference schedule of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Boise State.  Big East champ West Virginia was only at #51 even though it played LSU as a non-conference opponent.  Anyone that thinks that SEC teams are going to get docked for playing cupcakes in their non-conference schedules are completely misguided – SOS rankings help the SEC even MORE than subjective human polls.)  I know a lot of college football fans believe that many pollsters fill out their ballots blindly every week and distrust the polls accordingly, but I’m honestly much more worried about the disproportionate power of 1 committee member vote that can’t be mitigated by a large poll pool.  This is a situation where we really won’t know how well the selection committee concept will work until we see it in action.

To be clear, I’m very happy with the new playoff system overall. I have been pushing for some type of playoff for many years that still manages to preserve the Big Ten/Pac-12 tradition of the Rose Bowl and this system largely fits that criteria.  As someone that has been following this story closely, though, I’m just curious about the details that I don’t believe the commissioners themselves know how to resolve as of yet.

(2) All Quiet on the Conference Realignment Front – When the Orange Bowl signed a new deal with the ACC that provided the conference with all of the bowl’s media revenues, that removed any doubt regarding the ACC’s place in college football’s power structure.  I feel like the proverbial broken record here in continuously saying that the ACC is much stronger than what football fans give them credit for.  The ACC’s on-the-field record in BCS bowl games is irrelevant here: a league with academically prestigious schools (many of whom are flagships) that own or have large shares of their own home markets isn’t going to get booted out of the elite club.

This means that the chances of Florida State, Clemson, or any other ACC schools defecting to the Big 12 or even SEC have dropped precipitously.  To be sure, the new Big 12 TV contract might end up being so massive that it’s too much for any of those schools to turn down, but then it becomes circular for the Big 12 schools themselves.  That is, if the Big 12 TV contract is truly going to be that large, why expand at all and split up the pie further?  We’re at the point where there might be little incentive for either side to make any moves other than to provide all of us here with blogging fodder to discuss during the offseason.  There is no longer any rational fear on the part of Florida State and Clemson that the ACC will no longer be part of the power group.  By the same token, the Big 12 doesn’t need Florida State or Clemson to stabilize themselves to get a larger TV contract.  The wild card is obviously Notre Dame, but I’ll agree with The Dude of West Virginia on one point: anyone that thinks the Irish are joining his/her conference for football has gone full retard.

That leaves us with some less-sexy outstanding conference realignment matters that need to be settled, mainly who the Big East will add as its 14th football member.  Air Force still seems to be the most reasonably plausible addition that would add value to the league by pairing it up with rival Navy, although the Falcons completely backed off from Big East overtures last fall after appearing very interested.  (Note that I personally believe that BYU is going to be committed to independence for awhile.  The Cougars appear to be concerned with national ESPN exposure and building up BYUtv even more than money and being independent could be a better value proposition to sell in competing against Pac-12 member Utah for recruits compared to being in the Big East or any other non-power conference.)  After that, the pickings get a lot slimmer.  Fresno State is competitive on-the-field with a solid fan base, but might be the West Coast version of East Carolina where the Big East isn’t interested in entering that market.  UNLV has a solid TV market yet is essentially the Western version of Memphis, where their football ineptitude/basketball competence means that they make more sense as a potential all-sports member as opposed to a football-only member (except that UNLV doesn’t have the geographic proximity of Memphis to make an all-sports membership viable).  Bottom line: the Big East needs Air Force pretty badly here.

(3) Little Glass Houses For You and Me – Finally, the Penn State scandal seems to continuously get worse and worse for the university in the wake of the issuance of the independent report by Louis Freeh.  This has led to calls of punishments such as the death penalty for the football program, which NCAA president Mark Emmert said is an option that is not “off the table”.

I really cannot defend anything that Penn State’s leadership, including but not limited to the late Joe Paterno, did (or more appropriately, did not do) in covering up multiple instances of child rape.  There is truly nothing more heinous than letting child rape continue on for years and years when it could have been prevented by someone just speaking up.  However, I have also seen a lot of commentators, columnists, bloggers and message board posters spend a ton of time acting sanctimonious and try to one-up each other in terms of how outraged they are.  What troubles me, and as Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal poignantly pointed out in this piece, is that there’s an argument being parroted by many people that the “insular culture” in State College that allowed a massive coverup to protect the Nittany Lion football program is somehow a unique Penn State problem.  If you believe that to be the case, ask yourself about how confident you are that your own alma mater or favorite college team hasn’t skirted or outright violated the law at some point.  How many sexual assaults by star football and basketball players have been swept under the rug over the years?  How many schools use coeds as “hostesses” for top-level recruits visiting campus where there are certain expectations of how those hostesses are supposed to provide a memorable weekend? How would you feel if your own daughter was one of those hostesses?  What about the murder of a transferring player, like in the case of Baylor in 2003?  How about sending a student to a tall video tower with 50 mph wind gusts?  Even a marching band in the SWAC can have its own insular culture that results in horrific consequences.

It’s not just about whether child rape is worse than the recruiting violations at SMU back in the 1980s that caused the NCAA to hand that school the death penalty.  Child rape is obviously exponentially more heinous and awful than anything that the NCAA has on the books (and frankly, I’m someone that believes that most recruiting rules are completely ridiculous).  However, the supposedly insular culture at Penn State where the protection of the “brand” is of the utmost importance is a culture that permeates everywhere in big-time college sports.  Chances are pretty high that your own school has some skeletons in its own closest that would bury your football or basketball program if the truth ever came to light.  This isn’t to excuse anything that occurred at Penn State, but it’s something that everyone needs to remember when trying to pass judgment on the culture in State College.  None of us are in a position to be sanctimonious here.  The culture everywhere in college sports needs to change (not just at Penn State).

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

(Image from The C-Blog)

After some apparent hiccups in the college football playoff formulation process last week, it was back on like Donkey Kong today in Chicago.  The BCS commissioners plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick* came to a “consensus” that they would recommend to their respective bosses (the university presidents) a 4-team seeded playoff with the “best four teams” to be chosen by a selection committee (using criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule) and the semifinals to be played among the existing BCS bowls.

(* If anyone doubted that Notre Dame is anything but irrelevant in today’s college football world, note that every news story about the college football playoff today referred to “the BCS commissioners and Notre Dame AD” and Jack Swarbrick was the spokesman for the working group in front of the media.  Plus, Swarbrick got to bat down an Orangebloods report about Notre Dame “likely” moving its non-football sports to the Big 12, but that’s an issue we’ll explore for another day.)

Here are a couple of instant reactions about what finally appears to be the new college football playoff format:

(1) A Committee to Form the Committee – I have long been an opponent to the use of a selection committee for various reasons, such as the concern that only one or two people could end up swaying the fate of a particular team.  The random rogue committee member scares me much more than a handful of idiot sportswriters (cough, Skip Bayless, cough) that might be voting in a larger poll. However, I’ve been coming around to the thought of it where it’s at least palatable in the sense that it’s a way for the conference commissioners to kick the can down the road regarding the selection process.  Some years, it might make sense to have 4 conference champs playing in the playoff.  In other seasons, 4 SEC schools might be the 4 best teams in the country.  Maybe #5 Pac-12 champ Oregon should have gotten into the playoff over #4 Stanford in 2011, but #5 Big Ten champ Wisconsin shouldn’t have gotten into the playoff over #4 Stanford in 2010 (or vice versa).  There’s so much variability from season to season that any prescribed requirements (e.g. conference champs only, 3 conference champs plus 1 wild card, taking the straight top 4 in the BCS rankings, etc.) would have all yielded unsatisfactory results in certain seasons.

This is the dilemma.  We, as college football fans, generally want to have concrete criteria in terms of determining the national champion.  However, most of us also care about the practical outcome, where putting 4 teams into a playoff that the average fan can plainly see are not the best 4 teams in the nation is bothersome, as well.  I’ve long said that what fans really want is an objective computer program that spits out the exact same result as a subjective human poll.  We hate the thought of using the results of a human poll because of the perception that there might be bias, but we generally agree with the results of that same human poll because it reflects what we have seen with our own eyes.  When push comes to shove, the general public (and the powers that be and TV networks) cares more about the output (the outcome of which 4 teams are in playoff) than the inputs (the criteria in choosing such teams).  The use of a selection committee is a further extension of the output-focused approach.

There are few suggestions that I have for the use of a selection committee:

  • Appoint one representative from each FBS conference to the committee along with having a pool of 10 or so “at-large” representatives.  This would make the committee compact enough that there can be in-depth discussions among its members, but large enough to mitigate the vote of a representative that has eaten too many paint chips.
  • Do not allow committee members that have a conflict of interest (e.g. an SEC representative discussing an SEC school) to discuss or vote on the applicable school.
  • Similar what the NCAA Tournament does, allow the mainstream media to participate in an extensive mock session of the selection process so that the public can understand what exactly happens in the war room.
  • Make all data that the selection committee will use in the selection process, such as computer rankings and strength of schedule calculations, available to the public every week throughout the season.

I’m still a little bit skeptical about using a selection committee, but I can wrap my arms around the concept a little bit better today compared to last month.

(2) Where the Rose Bowl Stands – Big Ten and Pac-12 fans had a bit more interest in the actual logistics of where the semifinals would be played because of the potential implications on the Rose Bowl.  While there was initially a plan to slot the semifinal games according to bowl tie-ins (e.g. a #1 Big Ten team would play the #4 team in the Rose Bowl), it appears that flex option is unlikely according to Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports.  Instead, the semifinals would rotate among the BCS bowls on a regular basis.  (Note that no one should be surprised if 1 or 2 other bowls, such as the Cotton and/or Outback, would get elevated and become part of that rotation.)  When I asked Teddy Greenstein about this last month, he indicated that this was also the preferred course of action for the Big Ten athletic directors.

It initially surprised me that the Big Ten didn’t support the flex option, but it makes sense if you think about the downside risk.  Many people have been focused upon the prospect of a top 2 Big Ten or Pac-12 team always getting slotted into a semifinal in the Rose Bowl, which would actually enhance the stature of the game even more than today.  However, there’s the flip side that a non-semifinalist Big Ten or Pac-12 champ could get kicked out of the Rose Bowl.  If USC were to go on a run like it did in the early-2000s, for instance, the Big Ten champ could end up outside of the Rose Bowl for several seasons in a row.  My longstanding general theory about the thinking of university presidents is that they about maximizing their take in the worst case scenario more than shooting the moon in the best case scenario, and this guarantee that the Rose Bowl will be a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 affair (even if they might not be conference champs) fits such thinking.

Personally, I hope that there will at least be a provision that a Big Ten and/or Pac-12 semifinalist will get slotted in the Rose Bowl whenever the semifinal is being hosted there.  The same would go for the Big 12 and SEC with their “Champions” Bowl (which will hopefully be the Sugar Bowl) when it’s a semifinal host.

There will still be further critical details to be hammered out such as the revenue distribution (where it appears, as expected, that the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC will keep the lion’s share of the money by applying plausibly justifiable on-the-field criteria) and where the Big East stands in relation to the power conferences, but it’s nothing short of amazing that a 4-team playoff has gone from a pipe dream 6 months ago to possibly a week away from approval.  Considering that it took over 100 years for college football to institute a #1 vs. #2 national championship game, we’re moving at warp speed.

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

(Image from Christian Science Monitor)