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Most likely BCS playoff scenario -- four teams, semifinals off campus

by | CBSSports.com College Football Insider
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Presumably, a 2011 national semifinal would have been held at Bryant-Denny Stadium. (Getty Images)  
Presumably, a 2011 national semifinal would have been held at Bryant-Denny Stadium. (Getty Images)  

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- There are four options under consideration for what college football's postseason will look like beginning in 2014.

Well, make that three legitimate options. Go ahead and eliminate the comical "four teams plus" model that featured the Rose Bowl as one of three semifinal games.

The remaining options that will be discussed this week in South Florida by the 11 FBS commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, the BCS' lawyers and television consultants are different variations of a one-game final (similar to the current BCS) or a four-team playoff.

There are challenges of deciding on a four-team format, like deciding if the field should be limited to conference champions only (which still hasn't been discussed at great length yet, sources said). Another concern is how the major bowl games could be affected by a four-team playoff.

Taking those challenges into consideration, the original "plus-one" model -- one game played after the bowl games are completed -- would probably present the fewest headaches, industry sources told CBSSports.com.

Except for one major negative.

"There would be such an outcry from the public and the media if we went with a one-game final because the four-team [playoff] is so far out there," a commissioner said.

Officially, there has been no decision what format will be used in 2014. But with what the BCS officially calls the "four-team event" the most likely format, the next decision is if the semifinals will be played on campus or at neutral sites/bowl sites. By the way, they did not refer to the "four-team event" as a "playoff" in their official memo obtained by USA Today so here's hoping their "four-team event" has more success than NBC's sci-fi drama The Event, which was cancelled after one season.

Holding the semifinal games on campus received a lot of early support, especially from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. In a poll of the 11 commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick by CBSSports.com last month, the respondents slightly favored holding the semifinal games on campus.

The biggest proponents mentioned that semifinal games on campus would guarantee full stadiums, reward the top two teams with home-field advantage -- you know, like the NFL does it -- and would alleviate travel concerns for fans having to travel cross country for a semifinal one week and a final game the next.

Some commissioners were concerned that if the semifinals were not played on campus sites, then the semifinal games would have attendance issues, similar to the NCAA basketball tournament's regional final round, where some fans won't spend the money to go to a regional, but instead wait to see if their team makes the Final Four. Some commissioners felt football fans would do the same: refuse to travel to a neutral-site semifinal because they were waiting to travel to the final.

Another issue would be inconsistent revenue numbers based on what schools would play host to the semifinals. This certainly wouldn't be an issue if teams with home stadiums with capacities of at least 100,000 -- such as Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas -- hosted a semifinal, but what if a semifinal were played at a stadium with a capacity of 55,000 or less such as Stanford, Oregon, Boise State or TCU?

BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said there are questions about whether some college campuses had the infrastructure necessary to accommodate the crush of fans and media attending a college football semifinal.

"The infrastructure needed on campus is significant," Hancock told the Associated Press. "That's a factor. That's just one example of the intricacies that are part of this."

One commissioner, who is against semifinal games being played on campus, said: "The NCAA [men's basketball] tournament doesn't have campus games, do they?"

No, they don't. And it appears that the 2014 playoff model won't either. The Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that holding the semifinal games on campus sites "is on life support."

The biggest negative -- the only negative? -- about holding semifinal games at a neutral or bowl site would be the travel challenges/difficulties for some fans. Still, I find it hard to believe that a national semifinal college football game played at one of the existing BCS bowl sites or a neutral site -- or heck, even on the moon for that matter -- would not result in a sold-out stadium.

The semifinal games could be rotated among the existing BCS bowl sites (New Orleans; Pasadena, Calif.; Miami Gardens, Fla.; or Glendale, Ariz.) or be selected through a bid process to either the BCS sites or other neutral sites, such as Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, Atlanta, or San Diego.

Whether the semifinals were played on campus or at neutral or bowl sites, the final most likely would be selected through a bid process at a BCS bowl or neutral site, setting up the highly anticipated culmination of the FBS's inaugural college football "four-team event." The BCS prefers that you don't call it a playoff.

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