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Senior College Football Columnist

'Impasse' between conferences throws push for four-team playoff for a loss

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'Status quo is not on the table,' BCS executive director Bill Hancock insists Wednesday. (AP)  
'Status quo is not on the table,' BCS executive director Bill Hancock insists Wednesday. (AP)  

CHICAGO -- Nothing. Actually, less than nothing.

If you expected further progress Wednesday toward major college football's first playoff, count yourself among the disappointed. At least you, like us media hacks, didn't have to fly to a Chicago airport hotel and listen to the now familiar commissioners' refrain that "progress is being made."

This time, it was really hard to buy the company line from the 11 BCS commissioners and Notre Dame. This was regression, not progress at the latest BCS playoff meeting.

Taken as a whole, it was more of the same. After a giddy annual BCS meeting in April, commissioners had taken the playoff issue to their conferences for vetting during spring meetings. But taken as a bit of foreboding, developments Wednesday were not good. According to a source, "a bit of an impasse" has developed between the power axis of the Pac-12/Big Ten and Big 12/SEC.

"If the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents had embraced the four-team playoff, then I think there would have been a place where everyone was on the same page, and then ready to fill in all the gaps," the source said.

It's no secret that the Big 12 and SEC stridently favor a top-four format. That's the best four best teams in the country ranked, in some way, 1-to-4.

"The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren't," said one commissioner, possibly referring to Larry Scott's assertion that a plus-one -- a championship game after the bowls -- is still on the table. 

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman has said his Big Ten peers favor A) the status quo, then B) a plus-one before considering a four-team playoff. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been sufficiently ambiguous supporting the best four teams, but adding that conference championships should matter.

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"There has been very public pushback by the Big Ten and Pac-12, so it's not surprising that what once was unanimity among the commissioners back in [Florida] isn't the case within the respective conferences," the source said.

Things sounded a lot more optimistic coming out of the annual BCS meetings in late April in South Florida. The commissioners practically came out of those meetings hand-in-hand declaring a new day had dawned.

Then: "Seismic change," according to BCS executive director Bill Hancock.

Wednesday: "It could be a while before the future of the game is known," he cautioned.

In other words, if you were anticipating the playoff model be approved by June 26, don't get your hopes up.

That's when the BCS presidential oversight committee will consider the issue. Nothing happens until the CEOs say it does. Previously, that group rubber-stamped whatever was put in front of it by the commissioners in the BCS era. Without that impasse, the presidents perhaps could consider a basic four-team playoff that day with the details to be determined later.

Fill in the gaps, as it was termed. They're nowhere near that point at the moment.

"The presidents may or may not make a decision that day," Hancock said.

Wonderful. For now, it appears the CEOs might be asked to figure out the mess themselves.

"The presidents aren't 'rubber stamping' anything," one commissioner said. "The challenge is the commissioners have had eight or nine meetings. We've been talking about it for 100 hours and then you can't give it to the presidents and expect them to digest it in four hours." 

"They'll [presidents] look at the four-team playoff and look at the plus-one," said another source, confirming what has been known for weeks. Compromise, at the moment, is not in the air. A four-team playoff consolidates the power of the SEC and Big 12, which have combined to win the past seven national championships.

A plus-one -- a championship game after the bowls -- preserves the exclusivity of the Rose Bowl.

When asked if a line in the sand was being drawn, acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said, "No, that would be wrong. Everyone deserves to be heard. Everybody explained their position. Next week, we're going to sit down and talk a little more."

Ah, yes. Next week. Another BCS meeting. Here. Again. More talk. Stay tuned. Or don't. Rest assured, progress is being made.

College Football Insider Brett McMurphy contributed to this report.


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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