When Bowl Championship Series officials leave the beachside hotel in which they’ve gathered to hammer out the future of college football’s postseason, they want to have the choices whittled down to two or three.
The guys in charge met Wednesday for about eight hours to discuss overhauling how a champion is determined and possibly implementing a four-team playoff. It is the fourth such get together this year, and they agreed it’s time to start narrowing the field.
They will reconvene Thursday, and BCS executive director Bill Hancock said the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletics director would like to have it down to a few clear choices.
“I think that’s what everyone wants to do. Get down to two maybe three,” Hancock said. “I think we’re making good progress on that. I think we’re going to make it.”
One thing is clear: “The status quo is off the table,” Hancock said. Though he cautiously added they have not ruled out making over the current system that guarantees only a No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game.
But all signs point toward that being unlikely, and that by the 2014 season the BCS as fans have known it will be gone.
“I would say there is an expectation that there will be significant change,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.
Delany and his fellow commissioners arrived in south Florida with four options to discuss, but much of the focus has been on a four-team playoff with two national semifinals and a title game.
That model comes with many variables, such as where the games will be played, how the teams will be picked and how the bowls fit in — if they do at all.
The role of the bowls represents a potential obstacle. Specifically, the Rose Bowl.
On Tuesday, bowl executives from the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose met with the conference commissioners to give their input and answer some questions about how their games could work in a new postseason system.
An option being discussed could force those traditional bowls to give up holding their games in years in which they host a semifinal or championship game. That could mean a year without a Rose Bowl, which has been played every year since 1916 — most of those games matching the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12.
“We feel like we have something very special and unique in college football,” Rose Bowl spokeswoman Gina Chappin said. “We went into the room with the intention of reaffirming what we are.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 don’t just play in the Rose Bowl, they are partners with the game. Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott have made it clear that protecting that partnership is a priority.
“I just want to make sure that the changes that we make are evolutionary,” Delany said. “That they support the regular season. That they’re from a Rose Bowl perspective, that they sustain that tradition. That we’re also able to produce something that the public appreciates and supports.
“You want to control change. You want to have evolution, not revolution because you don’t know that the unintended consequences will be.”
Delany insisted the Rose Bowl won’t stand in the way of change.
“Everybody is going to have to make some changes,” Hancock said. “Everybody recognizes the importance of the Rose Bowl.”
There have also been discussions about playing semifinals on campus sites and having only the championship game at a neutral site, like a college football Super Bowl. That idea was pushed by the Big Ten, which has long desired getting teams from warmer climates on its frozen turf for big games.
But there are concerns that playing playoff games on campuses could be logistical nightmares and the idea doesn’t seem to be gaining support.
“I think maybe it has more disadvantages than advantages,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “One of the disadvantages is I think when you’re trying to determine who’s going to play for the national championship, what’s the competitive environment in which you put a team to play for the national championship.
“That’s not to say that I wouldn’t listen to it.”
The full group hasn’t even started talking about a new model for revenue distribution, which Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson predicted would be “contentious.”
How willing Delany and Scott are to consider options that could minimize the importance of the Rose Bowl will be pivotal in determining what proposals the commissioners take with them when they leave Florida.
“How it ends up,” Delany said, “to be determined.”