- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

As the powers-that-be ponder the future in smoke-free back rooms _ one of the few areas where college football has kept up with the times _ maybe we’re finally stumbling toward the era of a true champion.

One determined on the field, with all the cards on the table.

But we have to slow our roll. We can’t get too giddy about where the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision is headed in the next month or two, just because the decision makers are suddenly throwing around the p-word.

Remember, this is a sport that has been governed from one millennium to the next by a group that would’ve green-lighted “John Carter” instead of “The Avenger.” They would’ve put their money on rotary phones instead of the iPad. And these folks actually did claim it was best, for decades and decades, to determine an alleged national champion with a you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours system of bowls and ballots rather than a legitimate playoff, like every other sport.

Those people didn’t just go away.

They merely came to grips with the billions and billions they’ve been leaving on the table.

As always, it’s all about the money _ or to be more specific, the amount of money.

Only now, the greenbacks are flowing like never before. Conferences are forming new alliances faster than Kim Kardashian goes through a marriage, which has forced the oligarchs who run these rapidly changing alliances to change the way they’ve always thought about their good ol’ boys club.

If I was in your shoes, I’d be …

Having a four-team playoff! What a good idea!

Unfortunately, Otter, Boon and the rest of the “Animal House” gang can’t decide some of the more pressing issues: Where will the games be played? Are the bowls going to be part of the mix? Should the champions of the strongest conferences get some sort of preference? Will four teams be enough to determine a legitimate champion?

Already, they’re staking out their positions. The conferences want to come up with a plan sometime over the next month, with the university presidents having something to vote on by the Fourth of July, thereby freeing us all from the tyranny of the redcoats, a.k.a. the Bowl Championship Series.

The Big Ten wants to craft a playoff system out of the current bowl structure, largely because it has such strong ties to the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, which has traditionally matched its champion against the winner of Pac-12. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also says any new format shouldn’t include a team that doesn’t win a division within its own conference _ a definite shot at the current national champion, Alabama, which finished second in the Southeastern Conference West but got a second chance against LSU in the BCS title game.

“I don’t have a lot of regard for that (sort of) team,” Delany said.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is pushing to have two semifinal games played at campus stadiums, which seems to address the concerns of playoff opponents who say that such a system would lessen the importance of the regular season. After all, that would reward the two highest-seeded teams with a home game _ a huge incentive and major advantage.

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