The powers-that-be actually might have a playoff system in place by July 4

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

In late April, when it was announced that there would indeed be playoffs in the FBS ranks, Bill Hancock, the executive director of the BCS, said the hope was that all the details of the new system would be worked out by July 4.

That seemed – well, it seemed like a pipe dream. After all, it took these guys five years to decide there would be a playoff, and that's a rather simple proposition. Dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's? That was the tough part.

You know what? They could make it. The final decisions aren't going to please everybody, but they could make it.

One big issue was the locale of the three playoff games; would they be played on campus, at current bowl sites or would the process be open to the highest bidder? It's not going to be on-campus sites.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was a backer of on-campus sites, but his own league's ADs don't like that idea.

Indeed, on-campus games sound like a great idea. But there are some issues: In certain circumstances, money would be left on the table. And it's hard to imagine money willingly being left on the table.

Let's say Oregon was to be a semifinal host. Autzen Stadium is an awesome site for a big game (for any game, really). But capacity is 54,000. Capacity at University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of the Fiesta Bowl, is 72,200. That's a difference of 18,200 seats, and when tickets are sold for $200, that's an extra $3,640,000 in the till.

Do I think the powers-that-be care more about $3.64 million than playing a semifinal at Autzen Stadium? (Pause here so I can chuckle before I answer.) Yes.

The flipside, of course, is that numerous power-school stadiums seat in excess of 85,000, but perhaps the idea of the likes of Oregon and TCU and Boise State making the semifinals tempers that.

And while most ADs seem to favor the "bowl sites as semifinal sites" idea – that is the ACC's preference, league commissioner John Swofford told reporters this week – there are some who want it open to the highest bidder. (Finances, remember?) And why is it not a surprise that one of the first ADs to speak out in favor of the bidding process is Texas' DeLoss Dodds, who oversees the highest-valued athletic department in the nation.

"Those four selected [for the playoffs] would not play in the bowls," Dodds told the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. "And I'd have them bid it out to cities and stadiums for the three games, and I favor neutral sites for the games because using the campuses would be too much of an advantage."

Further, Dodds told the newspaper, "If you looked at the options that we [the Big 12 ADs] brought back to our conferences – one is inside the bowl, one is outside the bowl – in either case, I think the information indicated that the championship game would be bid out."

The final hurdle, and by far the biggest, is going to be choosing the four teams in the playoff field. First of all, by what process are the four teams chosen? And once that is decided, what are the minimum requirements (i.e., do you have to be a conference champ?) for the teams to be included?

Swofford said his league prefers that the four-team field be open only to conference champs, perhaps with a caveat "that includes conference champions that meet a certain standard within the rankings." That's basically the same plan floated by Delany a few weeks ago.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive, though, has said the four-team field should include the four "best" teams, regardless of conference affiliation.

This is going to be the most contentious aspect of the whole thing.

[Dan Wetzel: Big Ten's misguided love affair turns it against its own playoff interests]

"We have a system that's been pretty good at determining the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams," Michigan AD David Brandon told reporters this week. "If you go back in history, there's been a high correlation between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams of one of them becoming the national champion. Our ability to know who truly deserves to be No. 3 and No. 4 and No. 5 and No. 6 is far less accurate."

Dodds likes the committee approach to choosing the teams, telling the American-Statesman that his plan is that the four best teams are chosen by a panel of experts "who have football backgrounds and who are not biased."

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, a former longtime coach, told reporters, "I personally think there should be a committee, and it should be transparent so all the coaches and the public know the criteria, where the most weight is put and why decisions are made. And someone stands up much like the basketball committee and tells the public why."

The powers-that-be have seven weeks to work it all out and meet their July 4 deadline.

History lesson

The whole "top four teams, regardless" idea spurred us to do some research.

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. In addition, there was one more season in which a non-conference champ finished in the top four but was the only team from its league to do so.

Here's a look, using the final BCS standings each season, as to which teams would've participated in a playoff had conference champs only been included.

2011. The four teams: 1. LSU (SEC champ), 3. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ), 5. Oregon (Pac-12 champ), 10. Wisconsin (Big Ten champ). Note: Alabama, the SEC West runner-up was No. 2, with Stanford, the Pac-12 North runner-up at No. 4; Arkansas, the third-place team in the SEC West, at No. 6; Boise State, the MWC runner-up at No. 7; Kansas State, the Big 12 runner-up, at No. 8; and South Carolina, the SEC East runner-up, at No. 9.

2010. The four teams: 1. Auburn (SEC champ), 2. Oregon (Pac-10 champ), 3. TCU (MWC champ), 5. Wisconsin (Big Ten champ). Note: Stanford, the Pac-10 runner-up, was No. 4.

2009. The four teams: 1. Alabama (SEC champ), 2. Texas (Big 12 champ), 3. TCU (MWC champ), 4. Cincinnati (Big East champ).

2008. The four teams: 1. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ), 2. Florida (SEC champ), 5. USC (Pac-10 champ), 6. Utah (MWC champ). Note: Texas, the Big 12 South co-champ, was No. 3 and Alabama, the SEC runner-up, was No. 4.

2007: The four teams: 1. Ohio State (Big Ten champ), 2. LSU (SEC champ), 3. Virginia Tech (ACC champ), 4. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ).

2006. The four teams: 1. Ohio State (Big Ten champ), 2. Florida (SEC champ), 5. USC (Pac-10 champ), 6. Louisville (Big East champ). Note: Michigan, the Big Ten runner-up, was No. 3 and LSU, the SEC West co-runner-up, was No. 4.

2005. The four teams: 1. USC (Pac-10 champ), 2. Texas (Big 12 champ), 3. Penn State (Big Ten co-champ), 6. Notre Dame (independent). Note: Ohio State, the Big Ten co-champ, was No. 4, and Oregon, the Pac-10 runner-up, was No. 5.

2004. The four teams: 1. USC (Pac-10 champ), 2. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ), 3. Auburn (SEC champ), 6. Utah (MWC champ). Note: Texas, the Big 12 South runner-up, was No. 4, and California, the Pac-10 runner-up, was No. 5.

2003. The four teams: 1. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ), 2. LSU (SEC champ), 3. USC (Pac-10 champ), 4. Michigan (Big Ten champ).

2002. The four teams: 1. Miami (Big East champ), 2. Ohio State (Big Ten champ), 3. Georgia (SEC champ), 4. USC (Pac-10 champ).

2001. The four teams: 1. Miami (Big East champ), 3. Colorado (Big 12 champ), 4. Oregon (Pac-10 champ), 8. Illinois (Big Ten champ). Note: Nebraska, the Big 12 North runner-up, was No. 2, with SEC East runner-up Florida at No. 5, SEC East champ Tennessee at No. 6 and Big 12 South champ Texas at No. 7.

2000. The four teams: 1. Oklahoma (Big 12 champ), 2. Florida State (ACC champ), 3. Miami (Big East champ), 4. Washington (Pac-10 champ).

1999. The four teams: 1. Florida State (ACC champ), 2. Virginia Tech (Big East champ), 3. Nebraska (Big 12 champ), 4. Alabama (SEC champ).

1998. The four teams: 1. Tennessee (SEC champ), 2. Florida State (ACC champ), 4. Ohio State (Big Ten champ), 5. UCLA (Pac-10 champ). Note: Kansas State, the Big 12 runner-up, was No. 3.

[Dan Wetzel: Florida State trustee may have lit the fuse on a move to the Big 12]

Grid bits

• Old Dominion will be moving to the FBS level in 2013, the school announced. ODU, which is in Norfolk, Va., started FCS football in 2009 and made it to the second round of the playoffs last season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. ODU will be joining Conference USA, which will give that league 14 members. ODU's decision is a blow to CAA basketball, and to George Mason. VCU, which does not play football, left the CAA for the Atlantic 10 earlier this week. George Mason announced last week it was staying in the CAA, whose basketball "prowess" has taken a hit with the departures of ODU and VCU.

• Speaking of Virginia-based schools planning to move up to the FBS ranks, add Liberty (it's based in Lynchburg). The school, founded by Jerry Falwell, has played football since 1973 and became an NCAA member (Division II) in 1981. Liberty moved to Division I-AA (now FCS) in 1989, and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. announced this week that the school is looking for a FBS conference to join. At a news conference Monday, Falwell Jr. said his father foresaw this day in a 1974 sermon. "One day we were going to play Southern Cal, Notre Dame, I forget what other schools he mentioned, maybe Alabama in football, and back then it just seemed like a pipe dream," Falwell Jr. said.

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