New playoff built to protect regular season

The eleven conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reached solidarity on a four-team, seeded playoff. From the very first meeting to the conclusion on Wednesday, the paramount element was ensuring the exciting regular season would not be harmed.

The BCS committee has spent hundreds of hours deliberating and debating specific elements of a new postseason model. One key issue became the paramount of the discussions from the very beginning to when an ultimate consensus was reached.

The group reached the conclusion that a four-team playoff is best suited for college football. That agreement was formed on the basis that the game's regular season would hold its excitement and integrity each Saturday.

Through countless disagreements, the eleven conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick fought to preserve the 12 games preceding the new postseason.

"College football has the strongest and best regular season of any college sport, or professional sport, for that matter," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "In trying to fix and improve the postseason, you don't want top hurt the regular season. Trying to have that balancing act has been part of our discussion for years."

The current BCS system has been widely scrutinized for years as the thrilling regular season has created controversy. Despite the system's flaws, most BCS conference schools have regularly filled their stadiums as the excitement builds in anticipation of the postseason.

With that in mind, the committee's top priority was to ensure any implemented model would not damage it. Those discussions led off the initial meeting on January 10 in New Orleans.

"The first thing (the commissioners) agreed was: we cannot do anything to hurt the regular season," said BCS executive director Bill Hancock.

Through the following five meetings, the bedrock in each collaboration was protecting the regular season. Significant progress developed when each representative felt comfortable that it would be secure.

In the end, the committee's final step in reaching solidarity was analyzing how a four-team playoff would impact the season.

"I think even our harshest critics realize that we do have the best regular season in sports," said Hancock. "It's certainly justifiable to want to protect it. When (the commissioners) decided we could have a four-team tournament and not take away from the regular season, that was probably the biggest turning point in all the conversations."

The next step in implementing the four-team playoff is an approval from the Presidential Oversight Committee, which meets on Tuesday in Washington D.C. That group must decide how a new postseason model will appear to the public. The key issue is ensuring the new system expresses transparency.

"I think all of that will be improved going forward," said Swofford. "I think it will be better understood by the public, when it's all said and done."

As the conference commissioners and Swarbrick stood united after Wednesday's meeting, their chief concern was secured. College football fans will continue to pack the stadiums each Saturday, knowing each game offers critical influence on the new postseason.

"We're all convinced that this can be done and keep the regular season healthy," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "Maybe healthier than it has been."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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