Next week, the leaders of the college football world will sit down in South Florida for their annual meetings. For the first time since the talk of real change started to emerge will the BCS conference commissioners sit down to discuss the various proposals with athletic directors, bowl officials, and television executives. Everybody has heard the ideas, but if you listen to what the bowl officials are saying, they've been kept out of the loop. Is that a sign that the bowl system may have lost it's death grip on college football?
Perhaps. Kevin Ash, chief administrative officer of the Rose Bowl, told Sports Illustrated's Stuart Mandel that they first heard of the controversial "two-semifinal plus the Rose Bowl" proposal in the media.
"That was the first we ever heard of that model..." "We're not at the table," said Ash. "Our [conference] partners are at the table."
Of course, that proposal was probably thrown out there to mollify the traditionalists in the Big Ten who worry that Jim Delany is somehow abandoning the Rose Bowl. SEC commissioner Mike Slive pretty much brushed that idea aside.
"It's not one of my favorites," Slive said Monday. "I think what we're trying to do is simplify in many ways, and I don't think that adds to the simplification of the postseason."
So really, the discussion is focusing on how a college football playoff could work, and if not, how do you fix the bowl games. Big East and ACC fans should be concerned that the automatic qualifier rule might be abandoned. That's probably good news for the Orange Bowl, which has grown increasingly irrelevant with it's annual matchup of teams not even in the same area code of the top ten. Likewise, the two team limit from each conference probably goes by the wayside as well, in a push to get the best teams in the biggest games.
No matter what happens, the big bowl games will survive; it's the smaller ones that are in doubt. The Rose Bowl will continue to match up a Pac-12 and Big Ten team, though in the future, those teams may not be the conference champion. And that's a good thing, because that means that the teams are playing for a national title, and not just merely defending a tradition that's doesn't mean much to anybody outside those two conferences.
If the national championship battle expands from two to four teams, the focus will be on how it might fit in the bowl system. Bowl sites insist that the bowls are the best place for the semifinals, but that's really an act of self-preservation. Some media members might share that opinion in order to continue to enjoy warm weather vacations that they can write off on their tax return. (Miami or Phoenix in January? Oh, I suppose I can make the sacrifice.) The empty seats in the stadiums should be proof enough of the folly that is trying to salvage the bowl system as part of a playoff.
Want proof of the lack of substance behind the bowl system's proposal to host the semifinals?
"If there are semifinal games, if there's a championship game, I think it makes sense to have it in the existing bowl structure rather than try to duplicate it in other areas," said Fiesta Bowl CEO Robert Shelton. "I've been to State College, it's a beautiful place, but it doesn't have, for instance, the 1,500 volunteers that work for us every year. It would be very hard to host an event without that existing infrastructure."