Senior College Football Columnist

Dying BCS ready for fresh name, image prior to 2014 playoff


OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- When Keith Richards is your reference point, how hard can it be to resell, rebrand and rename the BCS?

That thought had to pass through Mike Goff's mind recently. The chief marketing officer for Premier Sports Management here is the point man on giving the BCS a new coat of paint, a new image, without all the previous baggage. Think of it as the Witness Protection Program of college football.

The BCS is dead. Long, live ... what's the new name for a fractured, dying, tarnished brand?

"Simple and direct," Goff said. "The words 'college football' just go together."

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There's your hint for what the Overland Park-based boutique marketing firm has in mind for renaming the BCS in the new playoff era beginning 2014.

Now fill in the blanks.

"The National Championship of College Football" fits because there are indications the name is going to be simple, definitely noncontroversial and without initials that can be easily clipped to "BS."

By all reports the BCS commissioners were impressed by a presentation from Goff and Premier president Gary Heise on Jan. 8 in Key Biscayne, Fla. According to sources, the commissioners left with a list of possible names for their new 2014 property.

My Big Fat Geek Playoff? Controversy 2.0? Roy Kramer's Baby All Grown Up? Nicki Minaj?

Nothing that colorful, but the playoff name is one of the seminal items left on the commissioners' agenda. The structure has been determined. The money has been determined. It's time to wrap things up with the last BCS meetings coming up April 22-24 in Pasadena, Calif. Compared to the BCS -- which over the last 15 years has earned the acronym street cred equal to NCAA and IRS -- the new playoff will be easy to promote.

"We've thought of it as this being the second-biggest sports property there is in the U.S.," said Goff, a gray-haired father of two, grandfather of one and Kansas grad known as something of a genius in sports marketing.

The biggest sports property? That February thing put on by the NFL. That's what the commissioners want you to know. The playoff is going to be big -- Super Bowl big. Premier will be responsible for setting the stage of the mind, from promotion to game-day experience. Goff and Heise even commissioned a fan survey to find out what you think.

"It's almost like it's going to have to evolve," Goff said. "It's almost like you're going to have to deprogram fans: 'OK, this is the new thing.' "

Which brings us back to Keith Richards. It was back in 1997 that Goff's old employer -- Sprint, the cell phone giant -- had entered into an agreement to sponsor the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon tour. The tour promoter already had sweated Goff into a deal during a 2 a.m. closed-room meeting complete with claustrophobia and European cigarettes.

"To their credit, they were the first band that thought of themselves as a brand," Goff said.

Keith Richards subsequently told Rolling Stone Magazine that using cell phones was "like sticking your head in a microwave oven."

"I'd say compared to dealing with those four guys, anything is a lot easier," Goff said.

At this point in the history of the game, the commissioners need to be told what to do. Their past, uh, "marketing" of the BCS has been a flop. When the Bowl Championship Series launched Twitter and Facebook accounts a few years ago, they became little more than portals for all forms of BCS bitching -- some of it without curses.

Two years ago, criticism of the BCS was termed "childish invective" by the now executive director of the playoff system. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman flipped too. In the midst of the Fiesta Bowl investigation 18 months ago, Perlman said he preferred to "stay the course with the system we have." Perlman was recently named chair of the BCS presidential oversight committee, which will oversee the playoff.

This sort of image rehab is best left to professionals. During his Sprint stay, Goff rebranded NASCAR and established significant partnerships with the PGA Tour, NFL and NCAA. All the while he forwarded the name of Sprint when the company was going through its many iterations. His haunt now is third-floor office space in suburban Kansas City.

It is a place where he can reminisce about Richards eventually apologizing for his "microwave" remark. No such remorse has been expressed by those in charge of the three initials that shaped our game for the last 15 years. The BCS remains a strange place, and it still has one more year to stand.

"This is a little more complicated than having a Super Bowl," Heise said. "You've got a national championship game. You've got a four-team playoff. You've got bowls playing in a rotation."

You've got a slam-dunk, Premier. Ask the IRS or NCAA if they'd want a new image, a new brand and a new name.

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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