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BCS AQ format could be gone, with Plus-One to follow

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick says he's not a big Plus-One fan. (US Presswire)  
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick says he's not a big Plus-One fan. (US Presswire)  

NEW YORK -- The name and date of death have yet to chiseled in a granite tombstone, but it might be time to start reading the BCS automatic qualifying format its last rites.

R.I.P. the BCS AQ format. Born 1998, Died 2013.

Perhaps the death of the BCS automatic qualifying status is a bit premature, but there certainly are signs that it's on its last legs.

At Thursday's IMG Forum at the Marriott Marquis in New York, commissioners from the Big Ten, ACC, Conference USA and the Mountain West along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick discussed several aspects concerning the future of college football, specifically the new BCS format that begins in 2014 and the Plus-One model for determining a national champion.

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"Some of the people that don't have [BCS AQ status], say they don't want it," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "Some of the people that do have it don't really care about it. Maybe it needs to be reconsidered.

"I'm not wed to it. I'm wed to the 1-2 game and I'm wed to the Rose Bowl. I'm not wed to the [BCS AQ] selection process or the limitations."

The current BCS format expires after the 2013 season. There is growing speculation that when the new format is voted on and established in 2014, it could simply be reduced to only pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a bowl game or a Plus-One model (the top four teams would be seeded in the bowl games) with the two winners meeting for the national title.

Either with or without the Plus-One model, it would allow the other current BCS bowl games -- Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose -- to simply align with whichever conferences they want and would not be required to select teams based on a BCS ranking. In other words, the bowl system would revert back to the old way with the biggest and best conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12) getting the highest paying and most desirable bowl games.

What it basically boils down to is trading the BCS AQ format for a four-team playoff.

Conference USA is currently one of five non-BCS AQ conferences along with the Mountain West, Mid-American, Western Athletic and Sun Belt. C-USA's Britton Banowsky said the non-AQ status label is viewed as being "not as worthy. We do everything they can to get the stamp of approval."

While some might question those five conferences supporting the old bowl system model, they likely will for two reasons: (1) they realized they never would acquire BCS AQ status anyway and (2) this makes them appear more of an "equal" with the other conferences, specifically the Big East.

"I feel strongly it [BCS AQ status] has been a negative driver from our perspective," Banowsky. "I hope to be involved in a BCS where we do it in a way where we can create a more happy BCS without these 'class systems.' I think it's possible to do it. In a competitive format that requires teams to be competitive teams in order to participate."

Added Delany: "As long as I can go to the Rose Bowl, I don't really care," Jim Delany said.

Don't worry: Delany can have his Rose colored cake and eat it, too.

Finish in the top four in the (whatever the new format is called) final rankings and earn a berth into the Plus-One playoffs or be thrown in with the remaining 116 schools and wait to be chosen for a bowl game, if eligible.

Among many issues to be decided is without the BCS AQ format, the six BCS AQ conferences would not be guaranteed their annual BCS money ($22.3 million per conference this season). In fact, one of the biggest unknowns is how the BCS bowl revenue -- $146.5 million -- would be divided up.

Would each of the conferences receive the same amount? Currently each of the six AQ conferences currently receives $22.3 million and the non-AQ conferences receive $13.2 million if they don't qualify for a BCS bowl ($26.4 million if it does). Notre Dame receives $6.1 million if it makes a BCS bowl and $1.8 million if it does not.

That obviously will be a major negotiating point when the conference commissioners determine the new format -- minus the BCS AQ format -- for 2014.

When they do, expect the Plus-One model to be added (don't tell the commissioners that it's actually a four-team playoff, because we know what they think about a playoff).

In 2008, the Plus-One model fell "a couple of votes short," Banowsky said. On Wednesday, Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby said he thinks the Plus-One model is "inevitable."

"I'm not a big Plus-One fan," Notre Dame's Swarbrick said. "There's momentum for change, but I'm a little less certain of Bob of the change."

Delany and Swarbrick appear to be among the minority of college leaders that are not in favor of the Plus-One model.

"It remains to be seen [what happens]," Banowsky said. "The ability to protect the historical relationships on one hand and on the other hand ensure the product going into the postseason is highly competitive and does not overlook teams that have achieved a lot in a season just for the sake of an automatic bid."

Ironically on Wednesday, the Big East announced five new members to help offset the loss of West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Big East is the weakest of the six BCS AQ leagues and needed to restock its league to be as strong as possible in case the BCS AQ format continues in 2014 and also to make its upcoming media rights deal as financially attractive as possible.

What will happen to the Big East if there are no more BCS AQ conferences? Who knows? And what will happen to the smaller conferences, such as Conference USA and the Mountain West (although a merger looks to be on the way)?

"It takes so many forms, it's hard to draw a conclusion from that," Swarbrick said. "You could fashion a version which probably would be good and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to fashion a version that might not be good. That's a good example.

"I do think change is likely, that's one version of change that's in active discussion right now which doesn't necessarily comport with the plus one model."

There are a lot of uncertainties what will happen in 2014. One thing appears certain, though: the richest in college football will continue to only get richer. That much you can bank on.


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