…says Bill Hancock! But they're doing it anyway.
If Michigan can't host at Michigan Stadium this is the second-best option.
Stewart Mandel is the latest guy to throw his sources in the ring in re: what the exact specifics of the Four-Team Event shall be. His version of reality is this:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week's discussions in South Florida have confirmed to SI.com that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams' conferences. For example, No. 1 Alabama of the SEC would host the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 USC of the Pac-12 would host the No. 3 team in the Rose Bowl.
This would have blown up the traditional Rose Bowl in five of the last 14 years, six if you want to throw Nebraska's presence as the Big 12 North Division Co-Champion in the mix. That's nearly half the time and is the kind of thing that makes Jim Delany's fists open and close helplessly.
Home sites are still in the running, though:
That said, it's no certainty the conferences will opt for bowl-hosted semifinals. Contrary to some reports, on-campus sites remain "very much alive," according to two sources. One said the commissioners left the meetings split about "60-40" in favor of using bowl sites. They will present all remaining proposals to their respective conference presidents, athletic directors and coaches at league meetings in late May and early June to gauge their preferences before reconvening June 20 in Chicago.
There are five conferences who matter. You can guess the 40% opposed to the bowl sites right now. For a lot of reasons—amongst them a desire to maybe not have to fly across the country to see a bowl-type event and a belief that bowls are institutionalized stealing from unpaid student athletes—I'm with them.
Q: Can Jim Delany actually pull off the home sites plan? He stared down Comcast, won, and got the Big Ten their massive pile of money that no one save Michigan and Ohio State is bothering to use. ("Oh, hai, I'm Tim Beckman. You may remember me from that one screen Eric Page took for 70 yards on Tuesday night, and by 'one' I mean 'six.'")
Here's he's got one ally-type substance in the Pac-12, two conferences content to leave the status quo as is because it's generally beneficial (SEC, Big 12) to them… and then you've got the ACC and maybe Big East.
Does anyone care about the Big East? Unknown. If they did have a vote you'd think they lean towards home games. Home games would be nice in the event one of their teams ever makes it into the top two; perhaps more importantly for them, sucking four teams out of BCS bowls makes it likely even their oft-tattered champion is attractive enough most years.
As for the ACC, they're in an odd spot because two of the teams expected to be relevant here are in Florida. The other is Virginia Tech. The rest of the conference is flung up and down the eastern seaboard, and will be more so when Pitt and Syracuse join. Here, too, you'd think a majority of schools would prefer hypothetically getting a local game instead of being on foreign turf. The conference might not like the idea of seeing their banner teams travel north, but here too the benefits of sucking four teams out of the sexy bowls would seem to be a big draw. The ACC hadn't gotten a second BCS bid in forever before Virginia Tech was selected for the Sugar last year.
Q: Does Delany have the chutzpah to take his ball and go home? Or threaten to? Probably not. If the Big Ten and Pac 12 walk, things will go one of two ways: 1) Delany gets his way, or 2) the league is fffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuu after having balkanized itself out of a Four Team Event that kinda pretty much is the national title. The Rose Bowl is great, but I don't think the kids are going to be down with that particular sickness. With their hippin' and their hopping, they don't know what the jazz is all about. /shakes fist at lawn
Q: Does this actually make sense for college football? Well, at least they're bidding out the final. They aren't concerned about selling out since it'll quickly turn into a Final Four/Super Bowl type event where it just sells out and then scalpers take on the risks and rewards of properly pricing the thing. So then you've got either a guaranteed sellout in a stadium that averages 80k+ over the years or some version of the current system except that the #2 game matters a lot more and fans are staring down the prospect of back to back trips.
Inevitably the travel will suck money that otherwise could have been given to college football—ticket prices go up, more get sold—and put teams in a spot where they're spending massive amounts of money on the same sorts of scams bowls are currently running. So, no. The whole will suffer to maintain the location bias that the South currently enjoys.
The most confusing thing in all of this is the persistent notion that the bowls have any leverage. Mandel:
An obvious hitch with the anchor-hosting proposal is that based on history, certain bowls would host semifinals far more often than others. For instance, had this concept been in place all along, the Sugar Bowl (SEC) would have hosted six straight semifinals from 2006-11, the Fiesta Bowl (Big 12) five of seven from 2003-09. The ACC, on the other hand, has not produced a No. 1 or 2 team in 12 years, meaning no semis for the Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl is upset. So? What is the Orange Bowl going to do, defect to lacrosse? No. They can only steal money from college football. They'll deal.
Q: Strength of schedule! That's not a question, or a thing that will happen. Maybe it will happen…
As for selecting the teams, the commissioners are a ways away from deciding whether to use a revised BCS formula, a selection committee or some combination of both. "The whole topic of selection and who would get in is something that we've really parked for now," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "We realize that's going to require a whole lot more debate and study." If they do employ a formula, sources said there's a near-universal desire to emphasize strength of schedule. One source said the commissioners also aren't keen on preseason polls, which could signal an end to using the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
…but as soon as this SOS component causes the system to pick someone other than the poll-anointed, it will be declared incorrect and dropped. See: the past.
Q: Will you take it? Yeah. Arguments that moving the line from two to four doesn't reduce controversy have always been ludicrous. Multiple undefeated top five teams have been given zero chance to win a national title in the BCS system. At the very least a four team playoff prevents the Auburn/TCU/Utah/Boise screwjob from ever happening again. Anything is better than what we've got now.
Mandel says he was never a fan of a playoff because it would make the NCAA an "NFL clone," which… 12 of the 32 NFL teams get in the playoffs. An equivalent NCAA playoff drawn from the five major conferences is 24 teams. Anything eight or below maintains almost all of the importance of the regular season to be okay.
Also, in the system Mandel details above the chances Hypothetical Host Big Ten team gets a virtual road game are low. Unless USC finishes in the exact spot to force a matchup, anyone going to that game will be flying. So it could be worse. Could be better. Could be worse.
Q: What happens if the Big 10 and Pac 12 are one-two? Or if there's a repeat of last year, when the top two teams are in the same conference? In the former situation I'd just run a Rose Bowl per normal. In situation two, I don't know, put it in Glendale or something. I'm vaguely hoping that Jerryworld pirates the Big 12 affiliation from Glendale and relegates the Fiesta Bowl to the status of the old Cotton Bowl.