On Monday morning, the Football Writers Association of American convened at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale, to give out various awards for writers and athletes, and to look ahead into the future of the industry. The highlight of the event came when Bill Hancock, the executive director of the new playoff series, spoke about the still under-construction system for college football that will replace the BCS system after the 2013 season.
“We are committed to a high level of transparency,” Hancock said of the new playoff committee. It will consist of 15-18 members which include representatives from each conference, as well as two or three at-large members. Hancock also noted that the committee could even include a former college football writer.
Hancock stressed that there is much to be decided and finalized before the playoff is put into practice, and he thinks that even with a playoff, there will be those who long for the BCS model back because this new one still does not give the fans everything they want. In spite of that, the committee strives to have a system similar to that of NCAA hoops, as Hancock formerly headed the Final Four committee for 13 years.
The committee plans to announce the first championship site before they announce those for the semifinals, said Hancock. That announcement will come some time before April as the committee has between 12-15 locations to consider as possible hosts. The semifinal games will all be held either on New Year’s Eve or New Years Day going forward, with the Championship game always being held on Monday. Pasadena, New Orleans, and Miami are guaranteed to be in the cycle of cities for the semi-final games, while 12-15 other cities have also expressed interest. Like in the NFL playoffs, the new NCAA playoffs will not rule out “cold-weather” cities as possible semi-final sites, such as those along the upper east coast.
Unlike the current BCS model, the new format will not continue the BCS rankings, something that Hancock has reservations about. “We absolutely know the value of the BCS standings,” Hancock said. There has been no decision yet as to what kind of ranking system will be used going forward, but it will place more emphasis on conference championships and head-to-head match-ups.
But without the BCS rankings, what does that mean for the Coaches’ Poll trophy?
The crystal ball trophy is one of the most iconic awards in sports, but its role in college football could change going forward. Hancock even joked that the crystal ball could be replaced with the “iconic kicking tee or something.” On a serious note, the executive director stressed that they do not yet know what trophy the new system will feature, and that is one of the major “balls in the air” that still needs to be fielded.
Another issue to work out is how the teams will be paired in the semi-final games. The prevailing idea is that the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will never be at a home crowd disadvantage, though the pairings will be geographically based on the best match-ups. So, for example, a No. 1 USC team would not have to face a No. 4 LSU team at the Sugar Bowl, as that would provide LSU with a home-field advantage. Hancock also made it clear that two teams from the same conference will not be excluded from the playoffs solely because they represent the same conference. So, if Texas and Oklahoma are No. 1 and No. 4 respectively at the end of a season, both get a spot in the playoffs.
The one thing Hancock is especially concerned about with the new playoff is the fan experience. Ticket allotment would likely change in the new playoff system, with less being given to the schools for either the semifinal or the championship game. That being the case, more corporate sponsorships will be created, which suggests less of a fan presence and more of a business one. “97-percent of the people present will care about the game tonight,” Hancock said of the BCS National Championship set to kickoff later Monday evening. “We have got to keep that.”
There are still many kinks to be worked out before the new playoff makes its debut in 2014, but Hancock and his committee are working tirelessly to create a system that addresses the flaws in the BCS systems and tries to rectify them. In the coming months we will know more about the format, and how it will impact the landscape of college football going forth into the future.