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Nitt Picks Has a Full Plate

The men who run college football are all meeting in a swanky hotel in Hollywood, Florida this week coming up with ways to take the fun out of the game and squeeze more coins out of your pockets. The hot topic of debate is the possibility of tweaking the BCS to include a "plus-one" game. Jim Delany isn't buying into it and says, "he's not the only one.

With little or no change expected to occur in the way college football determines its national champion, fans and media have been quick to blame the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, which seem to be most opposed to a proposed plus-one format.

Not so fast, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Tuesday.

"The perception that the Big Ten and Pac-10 are holding this back is not right," Delany said, after exiting a Tuesday morning meeting of conference commissioners and bowl and television representatives at an oceanfront hotel here. "We're seen as obstructionists when we did what we did to evolve the system. The calls for change are external. Ask others here how strongly they feel for a call for change. I don't see it."

And that would be who? Certainly not SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

On Wednesday morning, SEC commissioner Mike Slive will present a proposal for a plus-one format, which would change the current BCS system to two semifinal games in advance of a national championship game. The changes couldn't take place until after the 2009 season, when the current BCS contracts with bowl games and TV networks expire.

And how about ACC commissioner and BCS chairman John Swofford?

"I feel good about where the BCS is at this point in time," Swofford said. "But I think it's important to look at models like this that might improve where we're at. I think there are a lot of people in the room who are happy with the way things are right now. I think the question is: Is there a better way? I think it's all about looking at opportunities to improve the BCS."

Talk about your wishy-washy answers. Is Swofford in favor of the "Plus-One" game or not? I can't tell from that quote. He feels good about the BCS but he wants to explore making it better. Whatever. But Swofford does raise some good points.

Swofford said league commissioners and athletic directors attending the BCS meetings have raised specific concerns about the plus-one model. The logistical difficulties of getting a team from a potential semifinal game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami to a championship game in Glendale, Ariz., seven days later, is among the concerns. Swofford said having a two-week period between the semifinals and BCS title game, like the NFL does with the conference championship games and Super Bowl, probably isn't plausible because university presidents have adamantly opposed extending college football's postseason beyond the first week of January.

"You run into the problem of taking it too deeply into second semester, which the presidential level says is unacceptable," Swofford said.

The Nittany Line has already done his best to shoot this down.

Yes, getting a WHOLE team from point A to point B WOULD prove extremely difficult because it's so hard to find a plane these days. We certainly wouldn't want to run into the second semester because... ah... well... I have no idea but it's just bad, take our word for it.

Excellent points from my colleague Galen, but Swofford does make sense to me. My biggest hangup with instituting a playoff in college football has been this insistence on simultaneously preserving the current bowl system. Dreamers say rotate the championship game among the BCS bowls and let the other BCS bowls host semi-final games.

It seems feasible. Teams could easily fly from Florida to Arizona or California in time for a game one week away. But what about the fans? Is it reasonable to expect Nittany Lion fans in State College to travel to Arizona one week and then have to turn around and fly to California the next? Most people I know can't afford to do this. The cost of airfare, meals, hotel, and tickets is pretty outrageous not to mention the time off of work. Some people would do it, but not enough to fill 80,000 seat stadiums. The bigger schools like Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State would stand a chance, but imagine the horror in years when a small school like Rutgers or Wake Forest qualify. And that will scare off the bowls from agreeing to such a deal.

College football playoffs have been around for years in Division I-AA. But they play home games through the first few rounds. The home town fans are already in place and the visiting fans only get maybe a few thousand seats. There is no way you will ever see this happening in Division I-A. The bowl games are entrenched and here to stay. They are never going to agree to just walk away and let the NCAA take their ball and go home. So how do we fix it? Sadly, at this point I don't think we can.

But I can tell you what I would do in a perfect world. First of all four teams isn't enough. If March is madness, then I want December to be demented. I would like to see eight or sixteen teams. That would make for three or four rounds of playoffs. All on Saturdays and most of them falling over the winter break. Don't give me crap about "preserving the student athlete" when you send basketball players on the road for over half of every spring semester.

But to take a page from the book from NCAA basketball, the best solution I can see is to have regional quarter and semi-final games like the NCAA tournament. Have an Eastern, Southern, Midwestern, and Pacific regional bracket and host those games in geographically strategic areas. Host games in New Orleans, Miami, and Tempe and call them the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls if you want to. But come up North and host games in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia as well.

The next piece of the puzzle is deciding who gets to play. And in my opinion it has to be conference champions. I've always felt if you can't win your conference you don't deserve to play for the National Championship. I don't care if your team is a late starter. Start earlier next year. And I don't care if the fourth best team from the SEC could destroy the ACC champion. Don't tell me about polls and computer rankings and head-to-head matchups during the regular season. Win your conference. Consider it the unofficial first round of the playoffs.

Of course you have the problem of Notre Dame and the non-BCS conferences. Again, in a perfect world I would make Notre Dame join a conference. Their arrogant insistance on remaining independent has to be factored into any decision and frankly I'm tired of it. Get with the rest of the 100-plus college football programs and join the 21st century. As for the other non-BCS conferences, the easiest solution is to expand the playoff to 16 teams and allow them to send their conference champions to first round slaughters. But this creates a new set of problems.

As a Penn State fan I would not be enthused about having to drive to Indianapolis to watch the Nittany Lions play MAC champ Akron in the first round. I would probably be inclined to skip that one and hold out my money for a second round opponent. While not pretending to speak on behalf of all Nittany Lions everywhere, I suspect a lot of fans think like I do. Unattractive matchups will lead to poor ticket sales and television ratings which leads to less dollars. And we all know how the NCAA feels about less dollars.

So I think the best solution has to be an eight team playoff where the conference champions from the six BCS schools automatically get in. The remaining two schools will be selected from the conference champions of the non-BCS schools. This will allow the Hawaii's and Boise States to get in when they have good years, but we won't be forced to watch the lions and tigers eat the Christians like Roman days.

This post turned out longer than I intended. Sorry about that. But it's the offseason so let's have the college football playoff free-for-all debate.