- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The race for the Democratic nomination for president has been cast as a debate between the status quo and change. In the world of college football, a similar debate has emerged, with those in favor of change perhaps gaining an upper hand.

Monday night’s BCS Championship game resulted in LSU being named the top team in college football, but that’s hardly a comfort to fans that notice a host of other teams (Georgia, Southern Cal, Kansas) with similar overall qualifications and equally impressive season-ending wins.

Fans and media have been griping about the BCS for years, often presenting a flurry of playoff proposals that would give college football a true, undisputed national champion like nearly every other sport. Rarely, however, do playoff proposals get serious consideration from those in a position to establish them, namely the NCAA, college presidents and bowl operators.

But there now appears to be some movement.

Incoming BCS coordinator John Swofford, who is commissioner of the ACC, said he would support serious discussion of a “plus-one” system that would add an additional game to the current five-bowl system.

Four conferences — the ACC, Big 12, SEC and Big East — have expressed interest in the proposal. The Pac-10 and Big Ten are opposed (more on them in a second).

Meanwhile, Georgia president Michael F. Adams has written a letter to NCAA president Myles Brand expressing support for an eight-game playoff system. Adams, who also is chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, said the Bulldogs’ inability to play for the BCS national championship motivated him.

“This year’s experience with the BCS forces me to the conclusion that the current system has lost public confidence and simply does not work,” Adams said. “It is undercutting the sportsmanship and integrity of the game.”

Adams’ proposal shortens the college football season from 12 to 11 games, and the four major bowls would serve as first-round sites for the playoff.

Rose Bowl organizers long have opposed any type of playoff system, largely because they don’t want the bowl to lose its status in the college football landscape. Organizers believe they already gave up enough when the BCS Championship game was added two years ago and the Rose Bowl lost its guaranteed Big Ten/Pac-10 tie-in.

Adams, however, alludes to the Rose Bowl’s reluctance in his letter to Brand.

“If one of these bowls chose not to participate, another game could be found to fill the void,” Adams wrote.

Translation: Join the playoff or be marginalized.

In theory, Adams’ proposal could set up an intriguing game of chicken in which the NCAA decides to move forward with a playoff system and the Rose Bowl must decide to join in or be cast aside.

But it seems unlikely the NCAA would support a playoff system without the endorsement of the Big Ten or Pac-10. (Brand and Co. have shown no interest in any kind of playoff system in the past.)

And fans would be utterly confused and likely outraged if the Rose Bowl was demoted to second-tier bowl status. Furthermore, the Rose Bowl’s contract with Fox is negotiated separately from the other BCS bowls and does not expire until 2013.

In the end, the proposals from Adams and Swofford may end up floating away in the wind like every other attempt to fix college football.

But was it not Barack Obama who said there’s nothing wrong with the “audacity of hope”?

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