Philadelphia, PA – On Wednesday yet another step was taken towards installing a playoff system in Football Bowl Subdivision, as the BCS commissioners announced they reached a consensus on a possible playoff structure to be put into place as early as 2014.
"We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport," said BCS Commissioners in a statement released after Wednesday's meetings.
Details of the proposed structure have not been officially revealed with any plans still needing to go before the BCS presidential oversight committee next week in Washington D.C.
So the questions about what exactly the BCS commissioners have come to a consensus on remain. The statement Wednesday did not completely reject a Plus- One format, which has been pushed by the Big Ten and Pac-12, who want the importance of the Rose Bowl to remain intact.
"On many issues we have achieved widespread consensus; on some issues, important and valuable alternatives have been suggested," the statement reads while also explicitly stating that a discussion of a plus-one format will be part of next week's meeting.
Still all signs point toward a four-team playoff structure wherein a selection committee will determine the teams to play. These teams will meet in a pair of semifinal games that will be played within the existing BCS Bowl structure.
The four-team playoff structure is no surprise as the commissioners have made it clear from the onset of this process that ensuring the continued integrity of the regular season and bowl games was of utmost importance.
"We are determined to build upon our successes and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season," the BCS said in a statement from last week.
For those opposed to the idea of a playoff the argument goes that because there is no playoff system in place the regular season has much more meaning. While a valid argument it can also be argued that without a postseason fans are robbed of the excitement and certainty of determining a national championship by playoff. The same type of uncertainty that leads to the massive popularity of March Madness.
The BCS commissioners were quick to reject any postseason structure that went beyond four teams though. Although this would allow for the inclusion of more teams the number of games that would be needed would definitely cut into the regular season.
"We believe that either an eight-team or a 16-team playoff would diminish the regular season and harm the bowls," said the BCS Conference Commissioners in a statement in April.
That possible formation of the playoff system brings to light another, if not the most pressing issue facing the BCS commissioners. Who gets to play in this four-team playoff and how is that determined?
There are 11 total conferences in the FBS and six of those are considered automatic qualifying conferences or BCS conferences in the current structure. With only four slots open there can be no way for every conference champion or every BCS conference champion for that matter, to receive a bid.
Much of the resentment for the current BCS system is that it favors teams of the major conferences and makes it almost impossible for a team outside of those six to get a shot at the national championship. Last season eventual national champion Alabama went 11-1 with a loss in the regular season. Due to Alabama's play in the powerful SEC, and the one loss coming against then No. 1 LSU, the Crimson Tide had the opportunity to play for a national title.
For BCS-crashers like Boise State and TCU, that luxury didn't exist. The demands for a team outside of the BCS to get a shot at the national championship game are much greater requiring not only a perfect season but a dominating one.
A four-team playoff will give teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences a greater chance at a national title but will still keep the pressure on those teams to stay perfect throughout the regular season.
So while it remains to be seen if the anticipated proposal will be more of a lateral move than an actual advance towards equity, the anticipated structure will certainly provide some exciting college football.
Under the assumption that the playoff system would include the four highest ranked teams at the end of the regular season, last year would have featured a playoff between LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford.
The storylines for such a playoff would have written themselves. LSU and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who finished fifth in the 2011 Heisman voting, taking on the future No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal. The smothering defense of Alabama against the gunslinging offense of Oklahoma State. Will a team finally end the SEC's long run of national championships?
That's just a taste of the intrigue that a playoff system in college football could create.
There is still a ways to go before college football fans will be able to savor such matchups though. Even with approval, the earliest date for the beginning of a BCS playoff would be 2014.
Still for those who have always wanted college football playoffs, the wait shouldn't be all that agonizing.