- Associated Press - Thursday, May 10, 2012

It has taken college football’s elite more than 100 years to be dragged toward a playoff system that will likely still only have a handful of teams.

Smaller schools have been doing the playoffs for a long time _ and they’re about to make them bigger.

The Football Championship Subdivision is on the verge of expanding its playoff system from 20 to 24 teams by 2013. The proposal would give an automatic bid to all FCS leagues that want one, seeds the top eight teams and gives them first-round byes and home games in the following round.

“The concern has been we’ve haven’t had a full tournament with automatic qualifiers for all the existing conferences. That’s a big part of making sure everybody has an opportunity for their champion to participate,” said Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the new chairman of the Division I Football Championship Committee. “The sentiment is that by seeding the top eight, it keep more to a truer sense of what a national tournament is about, and I think that’s the beauty of what we have.”

The proposal goes before an NCAA championships cabinet next month and will be subject to final approval by an executive committee on Aug. 2. It is expected to pass and be in place for the 2013 playoffs, which will include three more at-large bids and one more automatic qualifier in the Pioneer League.

“It’s the next logical step in our development of the FCS championship,” said Kyle Kallender, the Big South commissioner and chairman of the FCS commissioner’s committee.

For Football Bowl Subdivision fans who’ve long thought the BCS was unfair, seeing the words logic and champion in the same sentence might be strange.

But the FCS has been holding a playoff since 1978. It expanded to 20 teams with five seeds in 2010 and, according to Kallander, started considering further expansion even then as a way to more fairly accommodate a growing membership that will include 124 teams in 2012.

There was also a desire to provide an automatic bid to the Pioneer League. The Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference don’t send their champions to the FCS playoffs.

With those tenets as a starting point, FCS officials brainstormed a number of possibilities that included:

_ A bracket model that seeded all 24 teams.

_ A regionalization model with six teams seeded in four regions based on geography.

_ A Final Four model where national semifinals and the title game would be played on sequential weekends on one site.

For reasons ranging from attendance to money to competitive fairness, none of those ideas made the final cut.

Cobb said the main problem with the bracket model was a lack of reliable data to seed more than eight teams fairly. FCS schools rarely play outside their region, making it difficult to accurately gauge strength of schedule.

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