With the approval of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, the blueprint for a true 4-team playoff has been drawn up and approved. While many details have emerged from the deliberations, there are still some question marks out there. First though, let's go over what was decided and some of the implications.
1. 4-team seeded tournament
Let's just get this out first. We are doubling the teams that will have access to the championship, from two to four. Most presume that is a good thing, including me. Some will say that it will lessen the importance of the regular season, but I disagree with a 4-team playoff. You are still going to be taking undefeated teams, or 1-loss teams most of the time.
You could even see a single 2-loss team every blue moon. But you won't see a team with more than two losses win a national championship. That changes if you go to an 8 or 16 team playoff, but with just 4 teams, you should not have the issue of average team gets hot and wins it all, that we see in the NFL or the NCAA basketball tournament.
So, how does this impact Baylor? Well, it doubles the chances Baylor can win a national championship for one. Secondly, it will (more than likely) increase the payout for conferences with 1 or 2 teams in the playoff.
How does this impact the Big 12? First, the Big 12 is one of really only four (maybe five, for now) conferences that could expect to ever get more than 1 team in the playoff. While the money has not been finalized, you can image that the payoff will be much larger for a conference with 2 teams, versus 1 (or even none).
The playoff will also impact realignment. With the move to a selection committee and playoff structure, the "AQ" status has been lessened. While there will still be 4 other major bowls, they will more than likely get less of a payout and much less interest/recognition than the playoff games. Teams will be more interested in increasing their resume with a better conference slate. If the championship requirement was made, then a 1-loss ACC team could have been selected over a 1-loss Big 12 team, simply because they won a weaker conference (if the 1-loss Big 12 team did not win the Big 12, that is).
However, the lack of a conference title requirement hurts realignment in one way. There is still a way for Notre Dame to get into the playoff and still be an independent. If that door was shut, it would have forced the Irish's hand and made them move to a conference.
2. Selection Committee
The proposal includes a small selection committee that will choose 4 teams based on overall record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and whether a team is a conference champion. That is to say, they will try and pick the best four teams, but are not locked in to picking a certain number of conference champions.
With Baylor being in one of the top 4 conference, strength of schedule should rarely be a concern. If the Bears were ever to get a Big 12 championship, there is a solid chance they would have a shot at the national championship as well. That is always a great thing, and something all but possibly 4 conference champions can't say.
3. 6 Rotating Semi-Final Sites
Honestly, I think this was the most logical and beneficial decision of the options presented to the public. There will be 6 "Major" bowls each year, with two of those games being the Semi-Final games. The other four games will just be bowl games, similar to the non-championship BCS games from the previous system.
So far, there are only two locks for the 6 major bowls, the Big 10/Pac 12 Rose Bowl and the Big 12/SEC Champions Bowl. The ACC is close to an agreement with the Orange Bowl as well, so that will probably be the third. The other 3 spots though are up for grabs. Does it go to the Fiesta or Sugar bowls, or will an NFL stadium make a push to be a destination spot for New Years. According to ESPN, sources say that there is some push to get MORE games in the Southeast, Texas or California. You could expect Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio to be on the short-list of interested cities in semi-final games at least.
This will help Baylor and the Big 12 by possibly putting more high profile games in the Big 12 footprint. It never made sense to me for the Big 12 schools major BCS tie-in to be the Fiesta Bowl, which is not in its area. With the Champions Bowl site not determined either (fixed in one spot or rotating across the country) and the possibility of a Major Bowl always in Texas, this would be a major plus to the Big 12.
4. Highest Bidder Championship game
But the semi-finals aren't the only thing up for grabs. With the semi-finals being a more consistent presence, the championship game appears to have more of a Super Bowl type thought process to it. Let all the rich stadium owners and their cities bid for the pleasure to host your crown jewel, and take the best bid. The 3 previously mentioned Texas cities will all be in play for this (though San Antonio is probably more of a long-shot), and I would expect at least 1 championship in the state.
5. New Years Games are back!
Okay, I lied about the semi-final's being my favorite part. This is the best news I think. Personally, it has felt weird having New Year's games take a back seat in the championship race the past few years. New Years is college football, and this will put it back in its rightful place. The two semi-finals and the other 4 major bowls are going to be played on New Year's Day or New Year's Eve, making 6 HIGH level games a must watch every year. I love this part. There is no major benefit to the Big 12 or Baylor, but this benefits every college football fan.
6. 12-year deal, starting for the 2014 season
The worst part about this, we have to wait 2 years to get the playoff. But with a 12 year deal in place, the system will be around long enough for us to pick it apart, hate it and draw something better up.
Now, for what we don't know.
1. How will the money be divided?
Reports are saying that this has been decided, but the commissioners have not shared that information yet. This is the biggest piece left. How will the money (ESPN pays $165 million for 5 games currently) be split up. But even more importantly, how big will the pie be? If you are getting $165 million for 5 games, what can you get for 7 games with 3 being in a playoff for it all in the current market? The expectations are rather high, to say the least.
Without knowing how big the total pie is, it is foolish to speculate on the amount of dollars per school or conference. But how will it be split up? Will each power conference (right now ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) get some share, and then extra shares for the conferences with schools involved? Or will it be purely on you get a school in=you get paid, shutting out the conference or conferences with no participants? What about the smaller conferences? Do you cut them in to keep them happy? There are a ton of questions on the details.
2. How will teams from Smaller Conference have access?
With all three of the most successful mid-major teams now in one of the 5 power conferences (Boise State, Utah and TCU), this question has not gotten as much play as I thought it would. But how will teams from CUSA or MWC get into one of the 6 major bowls or even the championship playoff? With the selection committee in charge of the playoff, these mid-major schools will have to still be undefeated, and hope for some losses ahead of them.
They will also have to have bump up their non-conference schedule, which might be harder than before. With more conferences getting larger, there could be less incentive for a power-conference school to bring in the feisty upstart, and take on the risk, when they already have a solid strength of schedule. With 4 playoff spots, you can get into the tournament with a loss to a conference rival, but can you with a second loss to a mid-major team?
However, with 2 additional major bowl games, there will be more spots out there for mid-major teams to fill. The details on the selection process and how to qualify for one of these spots is still up for debate, though one can expect it to be similar to the current BCS bowl selection process.
3. What will this lead to?
We got a four-team playoff, how long before we go to 8 or 16 or even higher? Major League baseball just expanded their playoffs to add another team, and they are the most rigid sports league in terms of change in the history of man-kind. College basketball used to be 32 teams, then 64, then 65, and now 68. When you get a playoff it will ALWAYS get larger. There is too much money, and TV demand to stay small.
With more details to come, check back with BearsIllustrated.com as we keep you up to date on all things Baylor.