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Posted on Tue, May 15, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Big Ten ADs favor 4-team football playoff that includes bowls; selection committee popular

By Kyle Meinke

CHICAGO -- A college football playoff is imminent, and a four-team model is preferred by the Big Ten. This much is clear.

But that's the easy part.

How are the four teams selected? And where will they play? Those are questions being weighed this week by the Big Ten's athletic directors, who are in the midst of a three-day summit in Chicago.

Ohio State's Gene Smith affirmed each of the league's ADs now favor a playoff. That means Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, a longtime hold out on a playoff, has changed his stance on the issue at these meetings.

But Smith said determining which model is used to select the four playoff teams could complicate things more than the BCS ever did.


Gene Smith


Mark Hollis

"I think once you guys get into the reasoning of it, start looking at the history of some of this stuff, teams (ranked) three, four, five, six, you can’t put a piece of paper between those teams," Smith said Tuesday afternoon during a break between sessions.

"It’s just like the NCAA (basketball) tournament. Who’s left out? That’s what’s going to happen, and I worry about that."

While the details of a four-team playoff remain undetermined, there are a few principles upon which many of the Big Ten's athletic directors seem to agree.

Smith said he's "adamant" the playoff doesn't expand to eight or 16 teams, because it would damage the regular season. That sentiment was echoed by others.

"I think the most important thing in college football is the regular season," said Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis. "I think anything that detracts away from that regular season is a disadvantage for university life, college football and just the gathering and engaging that we want those home games to have."

So how will the four teams be selected? Smith and Hollis said they favor a committee, similar to the body that selects the field for the basketball tournament. This was discussed "heavily" by the league ADs on Tuesday morning, Smith said.

He added he favors installing a selection committee because it's the surest way to account for the nuances that separate teams battling for a playoff spot.

"There's a part of me that feels you have to have a people element in there, particularly for (teams ranked) three, four, five, six," he said. "There's something to be said for looking at who teams play, and where.

B1G SPRING MEETING sports reporter Kyle Meinke is in Chicago to cover the Big Ten Conference’s spring meeting. His reports:

Michigan players, Dave Brandon back 4-team playoff that includes bowl system

Michigan to spend $250 million to upgrade facilities for non-revenue sports

As Big Ten’s playoff model takes shape, conversation shifts from ‘what’ to ‘how’

Jim Delany favors raising bowl threshold to 7 wins, reworking ticket distribution

Athletic directors favor 4-team football playoff that includes bowls; selection committee popular

Michigan-Michigan State after dark? No trepidation from MSU AD Mark Hollis

"Otherwise, we could get to the point where non-conference schedules would be very interesting."

So where would these games be played? The Big Ten seemed to be considering college campuses as semifinal hosts, but Hollis said that no longer is on the table.

Instead, the Big Ten has shifted its focus to including the bowls in the playoff structure. That also would preserve the importance of the Rose Bowl, which has been a priority of the league.

"For me, it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Hollis said. "There's a lot of historical value and there's a lot of future value to having the Rose Bowl connected with Michigan State, with Michigan, with the Big Ten Conference, and the home (game idea) takes that out."

Smith said he also has concerns of playing playoff games in cold weather, which seemingly would offer the Big Ten an advantage against Southern teams.

"Let’s say Ohio State is hosting, and it’s whatever the date may be -- January or December. Let’s say it’s 5 degrees. Is that right for the game? We’re not pro," Smith said. "I think a fast surface, good weather is important for the game. It’s important for the kids.

"The only thing I prefer now is we play in the bowl system. All the other stuff, I’m still spinning on where we’ll end up."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently drew some fire for saying he would like to see conference champions ranked among the top-six teams earn automatic bids into the playoff.

Hollis and Smith, though, said their preferred systems include either two or three automatic qualifiers who are conference champions, and one or two spots reserved for at-large bids.

It's clear the Big Ten athletic directors unanimously prefer a four-team playoff, but are a long way from firming up the details. They'll continue to hash it out through Wednesday, and Smith said he hopes to have things finished up by September.

Whatever system wins out, Smith knows it still won't be perfect.

"You have to have body guards after you're done selecting," he said.

Delany is scheduled to meet with the media Tuesday evening. Brandon will take his turn Wednesday.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Wed, May 16, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

Disappointed by the B1G. Giving up the idea of home playoff games in favor of the bowls?!?!? For once, the Southern and West Coast teams may have to actually play a game below 50 degrees. Why does the B1G care SO much about the Rose Bowl? If a B1G team is not in the playoff, they won't even play in the bowl. Even if one B1G team is in the playoffs, they still might not play in the Rose. Sad to see the B1G give up on the only advantage we have (weather) for something that does not even benefit the conference.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

why is this so difficult? just eliminate the bowl system and do a normal playoff like every other sport at every other level. The only reason college football hasn't done this yet is because of people wearing yellow blazers who continue to steal money from schools and conferences.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

4 teams is to little, it should be at least 10-12, prefearbly 16 with the top teams getting a buy for the first weekend. Games should be played in the higher seeded stadium. The one problem though is alumni and others travelling o away games. Combat this by selling regional tickets to fixed sites for these games that people can purchase and invest in just like regional basketball games. Just make sure it snows in two of the venues a few times a year.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

You need the regular season to remain very important. So 8 teams should be the limit. If you got rid of the conference games and replaced them with the start of the 8 team tournement those 4 games would garner a LOT more attention then the conference games ( SEC, BIG 10, ACC, BIG EAST, PAC 10, BiG 12) The lost revenue from playing 2 less games can come from bowl play-in games that every 6-6 and up would play. Having one loss teams in the tourny is important because they are often times better than the undefeated teams.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

They will start out with four teams but there will eventually be an uproar because a deserving team did not get in. The leagues will evolve and realign until there are 8 leagues with 14-16 teams each. The format will eventually expand to a format that includes all Division I conference champs. That's a max of two more games than a team plays now.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

The teams chosen should be based off of the top 8 in combination with a selection committe. Why should they be only able to send one team ? There will be a times in the next couple of years that Ohio St and zzMichigan deserve to play in this game. The same goes for Alabama , florida and LSU . The four best teams should play, not some politically correct farce.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

Ted, not a bad idea except who determines the eight teams? Using conference champions takes subjectivity out of the equation. Each conference can independently choose the team to represent their league. But they can only send one team.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

Essentially Alabama got a bye to the Championship game when LSu beat them


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Allowing only conference champions in the playoff is a bad idea. Just replace the conference championship games with their first round of an 8 team playoff. the amount of games played is the same. LSU should not have been punished by having to play an extra game because they were a better team. the conference championships do not make any sense for a number of reasons and thier unintended consequences.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

I think an 8 team playoff is better than a 4 team playoff. Anything that gets closer to avoiding a 13-0 team NOT being a champion. Is there any other level of sport where a team can win every game on its schedule and not be the champion?

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

""I think the most important thing in college football is the regular season," said Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis. ' Translation: I think the most important thing in college football is the money it generates for my University. Anything that might cut in to that bottom line is bad.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

I disagree with a 8 team playoff for these student athletes. A 4 game playoff is enough, but no matter if it is 4 or 8 teams in a playoff, you will still have teams who feel they were left out.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

My idea of replacing the conference championship games with the start of the 8 team playoff allows for playing only 15 games at the most !! Thats as many as they will have now with a 4 team playoff !!


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

...and the games of that first round of the 8 team playoff game will be hosted by the higher seeded teams.


Tue, May 15, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Get rid of the Conference Championship games !!! Replace that weekend with the start of an 8 team playoff. The most a team can play will still be 15 games. Also on that weekend there should be cross-conference matchups to play-in to the bowl games.


Fri, May 18, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

The conference championships more that likely DO NOT determine who the best team in the conference is . Look at the SEC last year for example. Also do you really think it is fair that LSU had to play an extra game while a potential opponent had the luxury of sitting home resting and scouting them ? These games for that reason alone inherently have terrible unintended consequences that punish success and create unfair advantages. Before these games were played we still were able to determine who the conference champs were, so getting rid of them won't change that. So actually, it IS a great idea.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:06 a.m.

Conference championship games determine who is the best team in a conference! That seems fairly simple and obvious in it's importance. Most of these programs first goal for each season is to WIN THEIR CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP! But yeah let's eliminate those. Great idea Teddy!