The great postseason debate

Texas head coach Mack Brown is adamantly in favor of a change.

Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder prefers it stay the same.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops largely agrees with his mentor Snyder in that he'd like to keep the bowl format and what it adds to college football.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson wishes for the plus-one format, should there be any change.

In all reality, there are four options on the table: keeping the current system with some structural tweaks; implementing a plus-one national championship game after the bowls; installing a four-team playoff separate from the other bowls; moving to a four-team hybrid format that preserves the Big Ten and Pac-12 Rose Bowl ties and picks two championship participants out of three bowl games.

All four of those options are in discussion this week during the Bowl Championship Series' meetings with conference commissioners, athletic directors, bowl executives and television representatives in Hollywood, Fla.

And there's sentiment toward change.

Fans and coaches alike around the country were agitated last year when Alabama and LSU met for the second time in the national championship, with the Crimson Tide winning the rematch after the Tigers defeated them in Tuscaloosa earlier in the season.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock suggested that growing sentiment will inflict some sort of amendment to the current system when he told the Tulsa World last week he thought "there will be changes" although they won't likely be "as seismic as some want."

Still, it's a step in the direction the 15-year head man at Texas is in favor of.

"I hope that it's something different than what we've got now and I'm really not sure what I would think would be best," Brown said. "But I don't like our current system."

Stoops is in favor of change so long as the aforementioned tradition is kept within the structure of college football.

The allure of the game shall not be lost by completely wiping away the bowl system, he insists.

There are too many memories developed by this student athletes from taking in what he refers to as the "bowl experience."

"I guess my hope and again, I'm not schooled in all the details that they're going to visit about, but I'm not for a playoff because it would ruin the bowl system and I don't believe that would be good for student athletes, college athletes, players," Stoops said. "The bowl experience overall is too positive for them. I'd like to see the plus-one."

He even has a vision for that plus-one format, one that would, in fact, preserve the bowl tie-ins to a certain extent, which is a major issue.

In his proposal, Stoops would like to pair four teams in a pod, squaring off in two BCS bowl games.

The two winners face each other in the national title game, another BCS game, and the bowls rotate on a biennial basis.

That would effectively do two things to alleviate concern that most against the postseason shift have: continue to let the rest of the qualifying field play in normal bowl games and maintain the Rose Bowl's Big Ten-Pac 12 annual rivalry basically since its existence.

And it would allow most teams to enjoy Stoops' so-called "bowl experience."

"That way you have a week long experience or five, six days, whatever it is at the bowls," Stoops said. "Again, a very positive experience for families, for players, this, that and the other. And then whoever qualifies for the national championship game the next week or say eight days later, you just go in two nights before the game, you don't have the bowl experience.

"You're playing for the national championship. So, anyway, that to me would preserve, again in my opinion, hopefully would preserve the BCS system and the BCS bowls and all of that and then you just have the plus-one."

It's a scenario Patterson actually sees as the most feasible, the most likely.

It wouldn't be that time consuming, another issue most against change bring to the surface.

In fact, because the timing of the bowls wouldn't probably change much, the institution of this "plus-one" type model would still likely pose some of the month-layover problems that are discussed currently with teams that match up in the BCS.

"So if we're gonna do anything next, I think the plus-one is going to be what we're gonna end up doing," Patterson said. "I think that's the best way without getting too many ball games. You know, having--put two ball games, two of the bowl games and state that those are going to be your top four teams and then the winners of those guys are gonna play the next one. You know, it's hard. You have a month to prepare for that ball game and then you get about a week to prepare for the next one. So, makes for interesting conversation."

And while he's largely against change, Snyder said he could deal with the enhancements, should they, as Stoops specified, maintain that so-desired bowl format.

"I understand, the plus-one I can understand," Snyder said. "Feasibly, maybe a four-game playoff. I mean, I'm comfortable the way it is in all reality because there's no impact that it has on the bowl system, which I think is extremely important the way it is."

There has been some desire from fans for quite some time to move to a postseason format which would play out similarly to the National Football League (NFL) or Football Championship Subdivision's (FCS).

But that possible eight- or 16-team playoff bracket won't be happening anytime soon, much to Stoops' satisfaction.

The head man about to start his 14th season at OU has continually insisted it would not work around the academic and holiday calendars.

Many coaches around the country, including Snyder, agree.

"I can't imagine us getting into eight-team playoffs or 16-team playoffs," Snyder said. "That's certainly not, to me, wouldn't work. That's just my opinion."

And it's the BCS' as well, so it isn't amongst the four options.

Whichever option officials choose, they won't make the final decision this week.

The goals of these meetings are simply to narrow down the list and/or allow conference leaders to gain as much information as possible so they can discuss it at their own meetings early this summer before BCS leaders gather again in late summer.

In response to that, these respective coaches each have their own suggestions to keep in mind when considering the right route to pursue.

"I don't like the fact that last year two teams played twice," Brown said. "I don't like to not feel like that the BCS gives credence to really strength of schedule because we've had some teams play in the BCS that have played some poorer teams and still had an opportunity to play. I don't like the fact that we depict between BCS and non-BCS as far as who plays. That's the money cycle, but I'd rather see the best teams play at the end. And I don't think that happens always with the BCS. So, I'd rather have a different strength of schedule on evaluation for that.

"I would rather have a different means of evaluating the best teams in the end like Alabama and LSU were two great teams last year. I think if there's three teams if Arkansas was good enough last year to have been in the BCS. I think the best teams should play at the end, and that's more fair to the coaches. That's more fair to the players, and that's more fair to the fans."

For Snyder, it's all about having a regard for long-standing tradition.

"Now, my understanding is that they feel like they can do it without impeding the bowl system as it is presently," Snyder said. "So, I mean, there's so many parameters there, like I said, I really don't have a dog in the fight. I don't have any wherewithal to help make the decision, so let it happen the way it happens."

Stoops, well, it's about not structuring the games at on-campus site even if the Sooners were to get a couple games on Owen Field.

"Again, then the bowl games go away and that would not be positive," Stoops said.

And Patterson? He wants the execs to keep players' bodies in mind.

"It does put a little bit different thing on the staying healthy, you know, as far as the team and how do you do it," Patterson said. "I think that's probably the most critical thing about having the plus-one. Yeah, you find a national champion, at least two [best teams]. I don't know if you know that--what if it's in the top eight teams? Or what? Because I always feel like out of the top eight, 10 teams, anybody can beat anybody unless there's just somebody way above everybody else. But I think having a plus-one would be the most efficient and best way to do it."

With these valid suggestions in mind, of course, a bulk of the decision will fringe on what option will best keep the popularity of college football at a premium.

That means making the first 13-14 weeks just as high on the priority list as what comes after.

"Whatever we do, we want to protect college football's regular season, which is the best and most meaningful in sports," Hancock said in a March statement. "We want to preserve the great bowl tradition while making it better and more attractive."

To put it in perspective, college football set a record for the fifth time in six years for the number of people attending games at the 638 NCAA schools with nearly 49.7 million making their way out to watch a home, neutral-site or postseason-matchup, according to the National Football Foundation.

It's an increase of 28,524 over the record set in 2010 and an increase of more than 32 percent since 1998.

College football posted its fourth-highest fan total with more than 37.4 million in attendance last year, according to the NFF.

College football games ranked as the No. 1 Saturday night program for 11 of 14 weeks in 2011, according to Neilsen.

And despite dropping off in popularity from the previous year, arguably largely due to the rematch, last year's BCS National Championship Game ranked second all-time, only behind the last-second victory for Auburn over Oregon in the 2011 BCS Title Game.

It pulled in 16.1 million households and 24.2 million viewers, both the second-best in cable.

So, all the interest is there, even with all the controversy in the current postseason format.

That's why it's important for these experts to analyze everything closely before making their decision, which will likely impact the 2014 season and after.

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