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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2012

BCS officials finally listen to the fans

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Congratulations! You, the college football fans, have spoken and the BCS has listened. A playoff system is on the way. The days of a championship game only, the controversial No. 1 vs. No. 2, will soon be history.

As the 11 conference bosses, plus Notre Dame's representative, went into conclave last week, BCS director Bill Hancock said, "The status quo is off the table." After the first session ended, he stated, "They are listening to the fans."

Finally.

Some of you found the process flawed from the start, which was in 1998. Many of you flung your arms into the air in frustration 10 years later when Kevin White, then athletic director at Notre Dame, emerged from the BCS' annual meeting, which had hinted at restructuring, and instead proclaimed, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."

The breaking point, however, may have arrived four months ago when the BCS produced a regular-season rematch between two Southeastern Conference teams, Alabama and LSU, which assured the SEC of a sixth straight national title. You fans were fed up.

Ironically, it was the SEC's commissioner, Mike Slive, who for several years had pushed for an expansion of the BCS championship process. He and John Swofford of the Atlantic Coast Conference called it the "plus-one" plan. Now, it's clearly going to be a four-team playoff.

The BCS had its moments. But for every Ohio State 31, Miami 24 in two overtimes there was at least one Florida 41, Ohio State 14. For every Texas 41, Southern Cal 38 (and Vince Young's electrifying performance that night alone may have justified the first decade of the BCS' existence) there was at least one USC 55, Oklahoma 19. For every Auburn title (2010) there was another occasion when Auburn (2004) somehow didn't qualify, and that wasn't the only time a team seemed slighted.

That debate won't disappear with BCS reform. Now we'll argue who should be No. 4 instead of who should be No. 2. There will still be blowouts and there will still be upsets. It will be a fairer, more inclusive process. There is safety in numbers. There will be a playoff.

There will apparently no longer be automatic qualifying conferences. That's good for whoever the next Boise State or TCU is that pops up as a legitimate contender. It's bad for all those schools that just made costly and illogical conference realignment jumps simply to rake in BCS dollars. May we all chuckle one more time at San Diego State joining the Big East? For that matter, may we all chuckle one more time at the Big East and its rotting football carcass?

We will live with the status quo for two more years -- the playoff system won't begin until the tail end of the 2014 season -- because there is still much to be decided and negotiated. Plus, remember, the BCS is more than a championship game. Other premier bowl games, including the Rose Bowl, which wants to keep its Big Ten-Pac 12 history intact, remain involved.

(By the way, who cares? Only old folks like me remember when the Rose Bowl had a special stature; both conference champions have faced off just four times in the past 11 years.)

Anyway, the questions:

Will the semifinals be played on campus sites, neutral sites apart from existing bowls, or as part of the bowl structure?

Will the field be determined by poll voters, computers, a selection committee, or some combination thereof?

Will the playoff be reserved for league champions only and, if so, where does that leave Notre Dame, an independent?

How will they slice the rich money pie?

Regardless, it will happen. Congratulations, fans. At long last, they heard you.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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