What's wrong with preserving the Rose Bowl?
We know that change is on the horizon to college football's postseason format. We just don't know exactly how the new model will look after BCS leaders decide how to alter the format with the current BCS contract with conferences, bowls and ESPN expiring after the 2013 season.
After officials met recently in Dallas for the second time, a four-team playoff was essentially agreed upon with new meetings scheduled for April 24-26 in Hollywood, Fla., to hammer out further details. And in an outline obtained by USA TODAY this week, the 11 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick are now focusing on four options.
Included in the mix is the Plus-One model, which I have discussed many times in this space. In this scenario, the two highest-ranked teams in the country would play for the national championship after all of the bowls are played.
Also being discussed is a four-team playoff with a variety of playing-site options on the table. One of the options being weighed in that scenario is playing the semis at the home stadiums of the higher-seeded teams, an idea that was floated around by the Big Ten earlier this offseason.
Another option is merely tweaking the current BCS format.
The idea of preserving the Rose Bowl during the BCS negotiating process is once again a hot topic.
One of the more radical plans, however, is a four-team playoff that would expand a two-semifinal format in order to preserve the historic Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl.
As the USA TODAY article describes, in this scenario the four highest-ranked teams at the end of the regular season would meet in national semifinals unless the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion -- or both -- were a part of the top four. The teams in those leagues would still meet in Pasadena with the next highest-ranked team or teams netting a spot in the semis. The national championship participants would then be chosen after those three games.
When the report came out, there was an immediate uproar across the Internet over the perceived preferential and reverential treatment of the Rose Bowl (and leaders of the Big Ten and Pac-12) with the BCS leaders open to the idea of preserving the game. But when was preserving the one BCS game that anyone cared about outside of the BCS national championship game -- no matter which teams were involved -- considered a bad thing?
We already are hearing the outcry from fans, members of the media, coaches and even some athletic directors and presidents that an eight-team playoff is needed. Heck, new Washington State head coach Mike Leach wants a 64-team playoff system. With such scenarios now off the table, there is already a huge segment of the college football population unhappy with any four-team model that gets passed. So why not at least try to preserve the game in Pasadena?
No playoff system will be perfect. So why not embrace an impending new model that allows us to enjoy the San Gabriel Mountains with even higher stakes up for grabs?
While BCS executive director Bill Hancock insisted that there is no playoff model that's considered "a leader in the clubhouse," the model that preserves the Rose Bowl would appease purists in a sport that has always prided itself on tradition and pageantry.
The problem is that the BCS officials cannot hold every other conference hostage while catering to the Big Ten and Pac-12.
I love the traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup in Pasadena as much as or more than the next person. But this option seems more like a token gesture by officials to show the Rose Bowl leaders that some effort was at least made to save the game from losing its conference tie-ins. Simply put, if Big Ten and Pac-12 teams want to be eligible for an impending four-team playoff, the Rose Bowl has to be sacrificed in years that a team from the respective leagues are in the top four. We can still have a Big Ten/Pac-12 contest like we have had dating back to 1947, but the champ or champs from those leagues will have to bypass Pasadena and compete in the four-team playoff for a shot at the title.
If I had to guess, we're still on the path of taking the top four teams in the country based off of some sort of BCS rankings system, have them seeded 1-4 and stage the semis at the site of the higher-ranked teams. The final then would likely be bid out to a major city or rotate through one of the major bowl sites.
Hancock said that university presidents will weigh in on the four potential formats once they get feedback from the conferences' spring meetings in May and June.
"The underlying theme of all this," Hancock said, "is to protect the regular season. That keeps coming up and keeps coming up and keeps coming up. We have the best regular season in sports, and we don't want to mess with it."
As we approach a new round of meetings later in the month, the reported Rose Bowl model will increasingly fade from the forefront and become merely a token gesture to appease Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-12 officials. And for college football fans looking for the best way to crown a national champ, that's a good thing.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave