College football fans now know that beginning in 2014, there will be a four-team playoff used to determine the national titlist. But that's about all they know.
Where (and when) will the games be played? And, most important, how will the four teams be chosen? BCS officials hope to have a plan in place by July 4, after each conference has gone over the details during their annual spring meetings.
It seems likely that, at least in the first few seasons of the playoff, the bowls somehow will be incorporated into the hosting mix. That shouldn't be that contentious an argument. But expect a lot of rancor when it comes to determining the makeup of the four-team field.
"It's great to get to a point where there seems to be general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go," ACC commissioner John Swofford told reporters Thursday. "The next challenge obviously is figuring out a format that brings consensus where we can truly make that work. The more this narrows, the more challenging it gets."
Will there be a selection committee to choose the teams, a la most every other NCAA sport, or will football continue to use something akin to the BCS standings? Will the four-team field be solely for conference champs, or will multiple teams from one league be allowed in?
"The whole topic of selection and who would get in is something that we've really parked for now," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday. "We realize that's going to require a whole lot more debate and study."
The BCS has been around for 14 seasons; in half of those seasons, the final top four in the BCS standings included two teams from the same conference.
• 2011: The SEC's LSU and Alabama were 1-2. Alabama finished second in its division.
• 2010: The Pac-10's Oregon and Stanford were second and fourth, respectively. Stanford finished second to Oregon in the league.
• 2008: The Big 12's Oklahoma and Texas were first and third, respectively; the SEC's Florida and Alabama were second and fourth, respectively. Texas lost its division title to Oklahoma via tiebreaker. Alabama lost to Florida in the SEC title game.
• 2006: The Big Ten's Ohio State and Michigan were first and third, respectively; the SEC's Florida and LSU were second and fourth, respectively. Michigan finished second in the league. LSU was second in its division (to Arkansas, which lost to Florida in the SEC championship game).
• 2005: The Big Ten's Penn State and Ohio State finished third and fourth, respectively. They tied for the league's regular-season title.
• 2004: The Big 12's Oklahoma and Texas were second and fourth, respectively. Texas finished second to OU in its division.
• 2001: The Big 12's Nebraska and Colorado were second and third, respectively. Colorado won the Big 12 North and the league championship game. Nebraska was the North Division runner-up.
In addition to the examples cited above, Kansas State finished third in the BCS standings in 1998 despite losing in the Big 12 title game to Texas A&M, which finished outside the top four.
In those 14 seasons, the Big 12 and SEC each have had 14 top-four teams. The Pac-10/12 is third with nine, followed by the Big Ten with eight, the Big East with five, the ACC with four and the Mountain West with two. Both of the MWC's finishes came courtesy of TCU, which now is in the Big 12. Three of the Big East's came from Miami, which now is in the ACC; another Big East top-four finish came from Virginia Tech, which now also is in the ACC.
A safe bet is that the conference commissioners with low top-four finishes by league members will fight for a "champions only" clause to be used when determining the four playoff teams.
The final season for the BCS will be 2013, making the final BCS Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif. (That the Rose Bowl will play host to the finale is sort of funny, in a way, since that bowl's organizers initially wanted nothing to do with the BCS.) Next season's title game will be in Miami.
Timing is everything
If you're ever going to get slapped with probation, it's better to have it happen during a big news cycle in the sport. That was the case with South Carolina, when it was announced that the school was placed on three years' probation because of impermissible benefits provided to players.
[More on South Carolina: Visit GamecockCentral.com]
The news was overshadowed by the BCS fallout, but it was a slap, nonetheless. The school lost six scholarships over three years and had its official recruiting visits for football cut from 56 to 30 during the 2012-13 academic year.
Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner and the chairman of the infractions committee, said the school went "beyond standard expectations" when it investigated the allegations. Banowsky said South Carolina "took the interview process and discovery process to a higher level." He also said South Carolina's approach led to less severe sanctions that could've been doled out.
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