Friday, November 18, 2011

Behold: The end of the BCS era?

image5ESPN Senior Columnist Gene Wojciechowski has a report that, depending on your view of the Bowl Championship Series, either horrifies you or has you cackling in delight. The current BCS agreement and contracts with the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls all turn back into pumpkins and mice after the end of the 2013 season.

According to El Geno, at least one of the proposals being seriously considered is scrapping the multiple bowl agreement and having the BCS manage only the championship game, freeing the major bowls to develop whatever matchups they can bargain for at the end of each regular college football season.

Such a proposal—if accepted—would mean the end of highly profitable yet deeply controversial system in which conference champions automatically qualify for a berth in one of the largest bowls, with the two top-ranked team meeting in the BCS Championship Game.

According to sources with direct knowledge of meetings held in San Francisco earlier this week, the suggested change calls for the BCS to sever its direct ties with the so-called BCS bowls -- the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio -- and concentrate solely on arranging a No. 1 vs. No. 2 national championship matchup.

In addition, the BCS title game could potentially be bidded out to nontraditional sites, such as Jerry Jones' Cowboys Stadium.

The proposal also would eliminate automatic BCS bowl qualifying status currently given to the six major conferences. All conferences would be free to make their own deals with the 34 other existing bowls.

The reconfigured BCS would undergo significant change relative to its present revenue sharing system, too.

"There's a lot of stuff being thrown at the wall," said one official who attended the meetings. "I think the people in the room really want to get it right. They're tired of getting beat up. So you'll probably see us go slow on this one."

The most radical of those ideas is also the least complicated: the BCS would be responsible only for creating a national championship between the two top teams in the country.

”They’re tired of getting beat up.”

Last January, when asked about pressure being applied from non-automatic qualifying conferences and football programs, Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany had this to say:

“The only thing I would say, if you think [the the non-AQ conferences] can continue to pressure the system and we’ll just naturally provide more and more and more.  I don’t think that’s an assumption that our presidents, athletic directors, football coaches and commissioners necessarily agree with.”

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott echoed the sentiment. “The six (BCS) conferences have bent over backwards and tried to be politically correct to their own detriment, probably further than they had to, maybe should have.”

Although he no longer presides as commissioner, then Big 12 honcho Dan Beebe was even more direct, and probably speaks from the mindset that produced the ideas Wojciechowski is reporting on. “Don’t push it past this because if you push it past this, the Big 12′s position is we’ll just go back to the old (bowl) system. You’re getting the ability to get to places you’ve never to gotten before. We’ve Jerry-rigged the free market system to the benefit of those institutions and a lot are institutions that don’t even fill their stadiums.” The “this” Beebe was referring to was the expansion of the system in 2004, which created the BCS Championship Game and opened the door to the BCS for more non-AQ schools to berths in bowl games built by traditional AQ conference tie-ins.

Judging from the mood of the conferences and the school administrations their officials represent, the BCS powers that be have grown weary of responding to calls for greater non-AQ access, only to be met with threats of anti-trust litigation, a full-scale media assault from BCS Anarchists and political action committees led by playoff zealots. Wojciechowski also reports that a number of ideas are being floated, including a pure playoff model and the plus-one model favored by the SEC and ACC.

But if you think the FBS presidents and chancellors are interested in creating the playoff zealots’ nirvana of a multi-round college championship tournament, you haven’t been paying attention. The CEO’s of the major universities want absolutely no part of an NCAA-run football playoff that provides automatic berths to Conference USA, Western Athletic Conference and the other current non-AQ leagues. And the BCS appears to be in no mood to continue having one (or more) of the big bowls hosting awful matchups like Oklahoma vs. UConn or Georgia vs. Hawai’i.

So the BCS may be on the verge of throwing up its hands, taking the least complicated route described in Wojciechowski’s story, and saying to hell with the rest of it. Which of course, means the end of having a WAC, C-USA or Mountain West team in a marquee bowl.

Sounds a lot like what we had in 1991, doesn’t it?

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.