Athletic directors of the newly expanded Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences found consensus on a "plus-one" football national-championship proposal at meetings early this week that could signal movement toward a revamped Bowl Championship Series. [Link]
This is significant, because the Big Ten and Pac-12 have always staunchly opposed any kind of playoff, even one as limited as this. Although the details could change, some version of it will surely be implemented, if the two conferences remain in favor. It probably would have happened long ago, if they hadn’t been so adamant in their opposition.
Under the proposal, the top four teams in the BCS standings would be seeded into “semi-final” games, which the BCS bowls would host on a rotating basis. A championship game would be played the following week. January 2015 is apparently the earliest it could happen, when the BCS will have a new TV contract.
The Rose Bowl would be part of the championship rotation, but it would not host semi-finial games, so that it could continue its tradition of hosting a Big Ten team vs. a Pac-12 team. It is not clear how this would work, however, as in most years at least one of the two conferences would have a team rated high enough to make the semi-final. It is hard to imagine the Rose Bowl signing up permanently for a match-up of second-bests.
This is the next logical step for college football, bearing in mind that the athletic directors and presidents remain opposed to a full-bore NFL-style playoff. It’s also a system that would eliminate the worst inequities of the BCS, such as the years when there are three major-conference undefeated teams, and a formula decides which one to eliminate. It is the rare year that there are more than four teams with a legitimate claim that they belong in the championship game.
Obviously, no matter how big your playoff, somebody gets left behind. The NCAA basketball tournament admits 68 teams, and there is always a 69th on the bubble. But a “plus one” system is more than good enough to handle the situation we have today, where a USC or Auburn rips through the regular season undefeated, and then inexplicably doesn’t even get to contest the championship.