Dienhart: Let's Get This Playoff Party Started

Make a note of this day. It’s memorable. It’s historic. It’s the day college football changed forever with the adoption of a four-team playoff. Today in Washington, the BCS presidential oversight committee rubberstamped a four-team playoff that was endorsed by conference commissioners and Notre Dame. The four-team configuration will be in place for 12 years beginning with 2014.

Every sport in America concluded its season with a playoff—even FCS, Division II and Division III football. But not major college football. Those days are finished. Thank goodness.

Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany seemed pleased, citing the playoff format will preserve the importance of the regular season and the bowl system, including the Big Ten’s long-standing ties to the Rose Bowl. In years when the top Big Ten team isn’t in the playoffs, it would go to the Rose Bowl to play the Pac-12’s top team—as long as it isn’t in the playoffs.

Delany also mentioned he liked the more rational and transparent way of selecting teams for the postseason—as opposed to the often confounding BCS formula.

“We are really excited about it,” Delany said at a press conference concluding today’s events in Washington.

In earlier negotiations, the Big Ten stated it was happy with the status quo—keeping the current BCS system in place. Its second choice was a plus-one model, in which the top two teams would be selected after the bowls to meet in a national title game.

The Big Ten got neither, as the four-team playoff model has been endorsed by all parties. And it’s a four-team model that won’t require schools to win their league title to be considered for selection.

Instead, a selection committee will chose the four teams, using a variety of data to make its choices. What’s the data? Stay tuned. But conceivably, a conference could have two of the four playoff teams. That likely would have been the case last season for the SEC, as LSU and Alabama were widely considered among the four best teams according to almost every poll and formula.

Will this help the Big Ten’s cause to win the national championship? Who knows? Since Ohio State won the crown in 1968, the Big Ten has only had one (Ohio State in 2002) and a half (Michigan in 1997) national champions. The SEC has won the last six national titles.

The arrival of the playoff will end an oft-criticized BCS system that has been in place since 1998. That has to make most of America ecstatic. Conferences and universities have to be ecstatic with the specter of the playoff being worth perhaps as much as $5 billion from a TV revenue standpoint.

There was a time when the possibility of a playoff seemed remote, as many felt university presidents would never approve a playoff for fear it would interfere with the academic calendar, sanctity of the regular season and damage the tradition of the bowls.

But, again, the BCS system of selecting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams to meet in a title game based on an oft-criticized formula along with the specter of a massive financial windfall seemingly pushed all parties to this point. Before the ink has even dried on the new deal, some speculated how quickly the four-team playoff would morph in an eight-team playoff.

“Sometimes less is more,” said Delany. “I’m sure this will play well for 12 years.”

Here is how the playoffs will be structured. Teams will be chosen by a selection committee. The teams would be seeded, with No. 1 playing No. 4, and No. 2 playing No. 3. 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—along with two others to be determined.

Two main areas still need to be ironed out. One, is how to structure the selection committee. How many members will be on that committee? Who will sit on the committee? Some speculate it could be similar in size and makeup to the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee. It’s a 10-member committee made up of athletic directors and conference commissioners throughout Division I men’s basketball.

The commissioners also need to figure out how to distribute the money. They have agreed in principle on how revenue will be divided, according to Delany, but that has not been made public yet.

There is time to hash out these details. But today should be about celebrating the arrival of playoff. It’s a day many people felt never would come.

Hallelujah!

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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1 Comment

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D.L. on 6/26/2012 @ 9:52pm EST Said:

The one thing I wish came through was campus sites for the semifinals, just to perhaps maintain or add importance to the regular season and lessen the travel/financial burden to alum/fans who may have to travel three times during the holiday season.

I don’t know what the Big Ten got out of this.

Any Midwest weather advantage is lost (as even a title game would be played in a dome).