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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Plus One format could be brought up once again

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PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- A high-ranking official for BCS rights holder ESPN expects a "Plus-One" postseason model to be on the table in the next round of negotiations for BCS television rights.

That wouldn't be different than previous negotiations, but it does suggest the subject remains a hot topic as the BCS debate rages. Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming, was asked to speculate on the ratings and attractiveness of a Plus One, basically the top four teams seeded in a bracketed playoff.

"It's another big game with a big audience, it's impossible to project without knowing how it would [do ratings wise]," Magnus said Monday. "It would be impossible to project because it doesn't exist ...

"We tread lightly. We're not the stewards of the game. We do not see that as our role in any way."

That didn't keep former ABC Sports president Loren Matthews from proposing two Plus One models to the BCS commissioners during their annual meeting here 6½ years ago. The commissioners rejected both: One, for an extra game. The teams would be decided after the bowls by a "blue-ribbon" panel according to Matthews. The second proposal was for a football "Final Four" using the existing bowls.

"We already had the specs," said Matthews, now retired in Charlotte, N.C. "We said, 'If you really want to maximize the money here are two scenarios. If, in fact, you are looking to a playoff down the road, this would be a nice starter.'"

The increase in rights fees would have been "significantly better than what they were getting," Matthews said.

Shortly, thereafter Fox won the rights for the 2006-09 BCS games. ESPN is in the first year of a four-year deal to televise the BCS bowls. For the first time Monday night, the championship game will be seen on cable television. Magnus and Matthews emphasized that ABC did not "walk away" from the BCS because of the rejected proposal. They lost the rights in the regular bidding process.

In April 2008, SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford supported a Plus One at that year's BCS meetings. Slive told CBSSports.com last week that he longer favors a Plus One. That's not surprising considering the SEC has won four straight BCS titles. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban proposed a playoff that would generate $500 million. His idea was quickly shot down by BCS officials.

A Plus One would work nicely this year with TCU being assured of being one of only two undefeated teams left. But it finished No. 3 in the BCS behind Oregon and Auburn and will not get to prove itself against Monday night's winner. The Frogs were relegated to the Rose Bowl where they defeated Wisconsin nine days ago.

"For the BCS to unequivocally work you need only two undefeated teams from BCS conferences," said Matthews, who votes in the Harris Poll, a component of the BCS standings. "Nobody can say it doesn't work. At least it is decided on the field."

BCS officials are concerned about a Plus One because of so-called "bracket creep" -- that a four-team bracket would eventually lead to an eight-, then 16-team model. BCS executive director Bill Hancock was asked during the Football Writers Association of America annual breakfast Monday morning whether the commissioners could sign an exclusive deal to keep the Plus One at four teams. In other words, sign a 15-year contract with a rights holder much the way conferences do with networks.

"Don't kid yourself with some kind of playoff," Hancock said. "The bowls would suffer. I know some people want something different. Those people don't realize if they did something different they would be taking something away from the athletes and throwing it in the trash.

"What about the fans? Would these hordes of Auburn and Oregon people go from Miami then back to Pasadena the next week and then down here the next week [in a playoff]? They would not do it, I think."

Magnus said he attended a recent I-AA football meeting where, "a large part of that discussion was impassioned pleas by several people there to expand the brackets to 24, 28 or 32 after one year of being 20 [teams]. The phenomenon is real. I'm not passing judgment on whether it is good or bad. You just shift the argument from where you draw the line, who's in and who's out."

Hancock said he received several e-mails this postseason saying "Congratulations, the BCS got it right ... All this talk today is really premature. People on campus will talk about it. I can't stress strongly enough that I don't see enough groundswell for an NFL playoff."

The next "open" season when the postseason model could be altered is 2014. Negotiations for how college football's postseason will look -- essentially whether the BCS will continue -- will likely start in 2012.

In other BCS news

  Hancock addressed to what amounted to a "threat" by BCS commissioners to non-BCS commissioners last month in New York. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe told those non-BCS leagues not to push for more access or money from the BCS. They both said if the power conferences are threatened enough by anti-trust lawsuits and criticism, they would break up the BCS and go back to the old bowl system.

"We have commissioners and presidents in this enterprise that are rightly looking out for the best interest of their folks," Hancock said. "Jim Delany is one of the most honest people that I know with a big, old heart. He was saying what was on his mind."

Out of that discussion came the term "BCS defense fatigue."

"I think we all get a little tired of being defensive and being called a cartel," Hancock added. "The fact is there is no groundswell among presidents or the commissioners for change. When I say change, I mean seismic change."

  Hancock expressed concern over the BCS standings having to be altered the day after Selection Sunday on Dec. 5. CBSSports.com BCS columnist Jerry Palm discovered that the final numbers were wrong because BCS computer participant Wes Colley forgot to input a I-AA score. It ended up affecting the 10th- and 11th-place teams. But the prospect that it could have affected the national championship matchup, sent shivers of fear through the BCS.

Hancock said it's possible a central clearinghouse for scores may be established for the computer masters. That doesn't address the fact that all but one of the computer gurus don't release their formulas, calling into question the validity of the standings.

"I do understand the Pepsi-Coca Cola analogy," Hancock said of the computer guys. "This is their livelihood. They cannot put the Coca Cola recipe on the street."


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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