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Change on the horizon for determining national champion

- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — The Bowl Championship Series as college football fans have come to know it is going away.

Over the next six months, the people who oversee the much-maligned postseason format will talk about how to reconstruct the system for crowning a national champion. In the tumultuous 14-year history of the BCS, the appetite for change among college football's leaders has never been stronger.

"It's my impression that ... there will be meaningful discussion about possible changes to the BCS," Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive said last week as SEC rivals LSU and Alabama prepared to play in the title game Monday night at the Superdome.

The 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director will meet Tuesday in New Orleans to exchange ideas.

What the changes will be is hard to say because it's all open for debate, from eliminating automatic bids to top-tier bowl games to creating a four-team playoff - an idea that's known as the plus-one model.

What's not a realistic option is exactly what many football fans are clamoring for, a full-scale playoff that would require numerous teams to play additional games.

"Whatever we do we have to protect the regular season," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Monday at a meeting of the Football Writers Association of America. "I think the larger the playoff field the more damage to the regular season."

Still, there is likely to be a BCS extreme makeover in the 2014 season.

"Everything you can imagine will be discussed," Hancock said. "Everything from format, who plays who, to where they play, to the business aspect of it ... it's all going to be on the table."

The last time changes were considered was 2008. That's when Slive, with the support of Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford, made a push for the plus-one model to the rest of the group.

Slive's proposal was unceremoniously shot down.

Simply put, the plus-one would match the No. 1 team in the BCS standings after the regular season against the No. 4 team in a bowl game, and No. 2 against No. 3 in another, creating two national semifinals.

The winners would play in a championship game the following week.

It's a format that Alabama coach Nick Saban always has liked.

"I just feel that only having two teams sort of takes a lot of teams out of it," he said during media day in New Orleans.

Currently, the top two teams in the BCS standings after the regular season, including conference championships, advance to the title game. It's a format that's led to frequent debates about whether the right teams were getting a shot to play for a national title.

This year's controversy involved whether Alabama (11-1) should get a second chance at undefeated LSU or if Big 12 champion Oklahoma State (12-1, including its bowl victory over Stanford) had earned a shot to play for the national title.

The BCS often has caused as many arguments as settled them, and drawn the ire of fans all over the country in the process. It's also come under pressure from a political action committee called PlayoffPAC, and been the subject of a congressional hearing and a Department of Justice inquiry. Even President Obama has said he doesn't like it.

Apparently, all that consternation is starting to register with the decision-makers in the sport.

"I sense that people who run college football and run the conferences obviously are not tone-deaf," said Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming.

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