In recent years, college football fans have been crying “foul” over the current BCS post-season system. On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, NCAA conference commissioners will convene to discuss potential alternatives to the current BCS post-season system. While it is unlikely that the commissioners will adopt a new post-season system on this date, it is likely that in the coming months, they will work towards approving a plus-one system for the post-season.
Essentially, a plus-one system amounts to a four-team playoff. In a plus-one system, at the end of the season, the number-1 and number-4 BCS-ranked teams would face off against each other, while the number-2 and number-3 BCS-ranked teams would play each other. The winners of each respective game would play in the BCS National Championship game.
So, why at this moment, may NCAA conference commissioners be inclined to adopt a plus-one system? There are several reasons.
Currently, the participants of the BCS National Championship game are those teams ranked number-1 and number-2 in the BCS system at the conclusion of the post-season. The method under which the BCS currently operates its post-season is set to expire after the 2013 season. Given that the date of expiration is quickly approaching, and television contracts must be negotiated, it is time for NCAA conference commissioners and the BCS to begin negotiating what format they wish to adopt next for the BCS post-season.
In 2008, SEC commissioner Mike Slive was a proponent of the plus-one system. However, his support of the format largely fell on deaf ears. However, given that the SEC has won the BCS National Championship game every season since 2006, Slive’s commissioner cohorts may be more willing to hear his idea out this go-around. If a man whose conference has been largely successful under the current system is willing to revise the current format, it is likely that other conferences who have not achieved such post-season success should follow suit.
2. Additional Support
As noted above, in 2008, Slive was hard-pressed to find support for his plus-one model, with only the ACC outwardly lending support. However, it is likely that in 2012, he will be able to obtain the support of another football powerhouse conference: the Big 12.
Chuck Neinas is currently serving as the interim director of the Big 12. Neinas has publicly stated that he believes that the plus-one model should be revisited as a BCS post-season model.
Given the Big 12’s success on the gridiron, this stance should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Although SEC teams have won the BCS National Championship game every year since 2006, the Big 12 has sent teams to the BCS National Championship game twice in the last five years, and won the BCS National Championship game six years ago. Additionally, if a plus-one system was in place during the past five years, it is possible that the Big 12 could have fielded even more teams to the BCS National Championship Game. Such is arguably the case this season, when Oklahoma State only lost one game during the regular season and was otherwise recognized as being one of the top-performing teams in the country.
A plus-one system allows the top-four BCS-ranked teams to compete for a chance to earn their spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Given the Big 12’s success on the football field in recent years, they will likely support the adoption of a plus-one model.
If the ACC retains its support of the system as it did in 2008, it is very possible that the three conference commissioners can sway the opinions of other commissioners and college football fans will see a plus-one system in place beginning with the 2014 season and 2015 postseason.
The current BCS system has been the subject of not only fan distaste, but also of deeper controversy including most recently, a Department of Justice investigation into whether the current system complies with antitrust laws, amongst other issues.
While it is legally debatable as to whether the current BCS postseason system violates antitrust law, adoption of a plus-one system would likely detract some attention from the Department of Justice and other legal opponents away from the BCS.
By adopting the plus-one system, the BCS could argue that they are truly giving each deserving team the opportunity to compete for the National Championship. This in turn would diminish an antitrust argument. Pursuing such action would arguably be in the best interest of the BCS and conference commissioners.
It is not hard to understand that more games equals more money in the hands of television networks.
College football fans have long been clamoring for modification of the current BCS postseason system. Adoption of the plus-one system, albeit not a full-blown playoff system, would spark interest amongst those who have sought change in the BCS. Additionally, the four-team playoff would present two more games before the BCS National Championship game, which media outlets could televise and sell advertising for. All of these factors equal more dollars into the pockets of the network and more negotiation room for the conferences.
The Bottom Line
The January 10 meeting of NCAA commissioners to discuss concerns over the current post-season model is likely the first of many which will be held in the coming months. Ultimately, the conference commissioners have heard many fans cry out for change. While a playoff system would be an extreme remedy (although called for by many fans), the plus-one system presents a reasonable alternative with significant benefits.
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