Finally, our long national nightmare is over.
On Wednesday, the 11 BCS commissioners and Jack Swarbrick of Notre Dame bravely announced to the world that the Bowl Championship Series, as we have known it for the past 14 years, is dead and a four-team playoff is on the way as long as the Presidential Oversight Committee approves the plan, or at least some part of it, next week in Washington D.C.
While all of the commissioners seem to agree on the four-team model, it seems as though our own dark lord, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, will still push for the plus-one model to be brought up along side the more popular choice, once again proving that Jim Delany is the worst hipster in modern history. Since it will never happen, we will disregard it from here on out.
Different versions of the four-team model have been thrown around since talks began soon after the BCS National Championship game. A focus on the conference champions has been apparent from the start by the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Big East while the SEC and Big 12 has been a proponent for the best four teams being in the fold. The first compromise that was talked about by commissioners (after the disregarded plus-one) was the "three-and-one" model which took the three highest-ranked conference champions and the highest-ranked at-large team would gain entry into the playoff. Stewart Mandel ran the numbers and found this would work a large percentage of the time. It's almost certain that most aspects of the three-and-one will be integrated into the model that will be presented to the committee on Tuesday. How will it happen?
The four-team playoff, which will not be called the BCS due to the sordid images that the name brings to the minds of college football fans everywhere, would come into effect in 2014 after the current BCS contract runs out. Semifinal games would take place preferably on New Year's Day with the championship game coming about a week after on a Monday night. The semifinal games would take place at two of the current BCS sites, rotating every year and the championship game will be bid out. In other words, book your plane tickets and hotel rooms for Dallas for January 2015.
Now comes the interesting part: who decides which four teams get in if the computers aren't thinking for us anymore? The answer: We don't really know yet. A selection committee of a unknown quantity with unknown characteristics and unknown competency will be charged with messing up less than huge number-crunching machines. A tall task indeed, but they do have unwritten guidelines to help them. As in the three-and-one model, preference will be given to conference champions, but a 2011 situation will still be allowed to play out, bringing in LSU as well as Alabama if the selection committee deems both worthy. It also allows the 2005 and 2008 Penn State squads to get their shot at a title.
Who does this help? Who does it hurt? Well...
The SEC: Everything they wanted, they got. No semifinals at campus sites? Done. Something akin to the Rose Bowl? Say hello to the new Champions Bowl. Focus being on the four best teams and not conference champions? Well, that's really up to the committee, but for all intents and purposes, there's nothing that would keep two or even three SEC teams out of the playoff. The rich keep getting richer.
The mid-majors (or the 3rd or 4th undefeateds): Since 1998 when the BCS came to be, Tulane, Utah, TCU and Boise have all been shut out of the national championship game after going undefeated during the regular season because they started off too far south in the rankings due to their conference affiliation. In 2004 and 2009, undefeateds Auburn and Cincinnati, respectively, were booted in favor of two other unbeaten major conference champions. Each team had the same legitimate gripe each December: if you win all of your games during the regular season, why shouldn't you play for a chance to be recognized as the national champion? Well, now those teams have a chance to prove they do, AS LONG AS, the selection committee deems them worthy. *NOTE: I have the authority to switch the mid-majors over to losers if the selection committee turns out to be a group of complete dicks.
WE HAVE A COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF!! THERE ARE NO LOSERS!! But if I had to choose some, here they are.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12: Only for the reason that the Rose Bowl is no longer the Rose Bowl which is what the two conferences wanted. In the end, though, it was the bullet the conferences had to take for the model to work out. All's well that ends well.
The ACC and the Big East: When was the last time you considered a team from either of these conferences one of the best four teams in the nation? Virginia Tech always loses an easy one in the beginning of the season. Florida State comes in overhyped and underperforms year in and year out (I know, I was there this fall). And it was only two years ago that Connecticut won the Big East at 8-4. That's right. It could be a long time before either of these conferences smell the playoff, let alone the national championship game.
Will the system still have flaws? Of course it will. The overlords have shown us as much. But it's a start. And more importantly, WE made the big-wigs change. So congratulations, us, our moans have made something that could be great. Who knows, one day, MACtion could play top billing on a night other than Tuesday.