Dienhart: Get Ready To Embrace Football Playoff

It’s so close, you can see it. There’s one last hurdle to clear. And then, the holy grail of college football will be reached: a playoff. I still can’t believe it.

After years of wanting, wondering and dreaming about a college football playoff, it could become a reality as soon as today, when the BCS commissioners will present their playoff proposal to the 12-member presidential oversight committee in Washington. If the guys wearing the mortar boards who sit behind massive mahogany desks in ivy covered ivory towers rubber stamp the idea, it will be full steam ahead to a playoff beginning with the 2014 season.

The odds of that happening? They appear to be good.

It seems unlikely the presidents would overrule the proposal brought to their table for consideration in the nation’s capital. After all, the conference commissioners have spent months kicking around ideas, debating the topic and molding a playoff structure. These are smart men who know the sport, understand the sport and have been empowered by their leagues to make prudent judgments. Surely, the presidential oversight committee will trust their judgment—with perhaps a few tweaks to consider.

The presidential oversight committee could OK the proposal ASAP, but there is no hard-and-fast deadline for approval. But time is ticking. Any playoff format must be decided upon by the fall, when new television negotiations begin. So, we may not get an affirmative from the presidential oversight committee until later this summer. Still, it figures to come at some point in the very near future.

There could be stumbling blocks in the presidential oversight committee. Take Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, who is opposed to a playoff and wants to maintain the status quo. But I think even he will come around to accepting a playoff. Just listen.

“Clearly, that all the commissioners reached a consensus of some sort is a big step,” Perlman told the Washington Post. “I think the presidents would be reluctant to overrule the people that actually work in the area unless there was good reason to do so.”

Amen.

To review what is on the table: A four-team playoff that would incorporate the bowls and include a selection committee component. The national semifinal games would be played on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, with the sites rotating among the four current BCS bowls—Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, with another bowl or two also possibly getting into the mix. (Hello, Cotton Bowl!).

The winners of the national semifinal games would meet in the national title game about 10 days later at a site that would be bid out in much the same fashion the NFL bids out the Super Bowl.

I like it. And so should the accountants at schools. According to Matt Hayes of The Sporting News, a playoff could command as much as $5 billion – BILLION! -over a 10-year deal from television.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the playoff proposal is the selection committee. Who would be on it? Former coaches? Former A.D.s?

Why not use the same formula that comprises the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee? The 10-member basketball selection committee is made up of athletic directors and conference commissioners throughout Division I men’s basketball.

It’s a transparent committee that always explains itself moments after unveiling the bracket each March. Not everyone agrees with the committee’s selections, but it at least explains its logic. And logic—among other things–is something that often is lacking with the current BCS system that should and must be trashed. (Sorry, Harvey.)

This year, it would have been easy to pick the top four teams: LSU, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma State.

Honestly, this isn’t rocket science. You don’t need to be a former coach like Bobby Bowden, Barry Switzer and R.C. Slocum to pick the four best teams in the nation each year. Believe me. You don’t need to understand the nuances of the power trap, zone blitz or when to go for two in order to pick the top four teams. Picking the four best of anything is typically easy.

But, details like the composition of the selection committee can come in time. For now, let’s just get the OK from the presidents on a playoff so we can move ahead in the evolution of the greatest sport on the planet.

Then, it only will be a matter of time—Two years? Four years? Six years?—before the nation begins to complain about something else. Like the fact four teams are too few for a playoff.

Oh, brother.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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