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January 31, 2012

Hyman: Momentum building for 'plus-one'



Four years ago, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, supported by Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, proposed a plus-one model for determining the national champion in college football.

He was laughed out of the room.

If Slive presented that same proposal today he would be warmly embraced.

A number of factors - not the least of which is the SEC's continuing domination of college football - have convinced college and bowl game officials that a new system might be needed, escalating the chances the BCS will be radically changed when the current contracts expire at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.

In other words, the current system of deciding the top team in college football will remain in place for two more seasons.

After that, a different model, possibly the exact one proposed by Slive in 2008, could be implemented. The idea has gained momentum in recent weeks and months, USC athletic director Eric Hyman told Gamecock Central recently in a one-on-one interview.

"I think there will be a change after the next two years and we'll see the plus-one," Hyman said. "Mike (Slive) has been an advocate of it. The ACC has been an advocate of it. In the next six months, we'll see a lot of dialogue and discussion on it. There is a lot more momentum in that direction now towards a plus-one than there used to be."

Under the increasingly popular 'plus-one' model, the No. 1 team in the BCS standings after the regular season would face the No. 4 team in a bowl game, while the No. 2 team would square off against No. 3 in another bowl.

In effect, those two bowl games would act as the national semifinals, with the winners matching up in the national championship game the following week. As a result, there would be an additional game beyond the current bowl setup, hence the moniker 'plus-one.'

However, every system has flaws as far as pleasing everybody involved. Hyman already anticipates that the fifth-ranked team will undoubtedly complain about being left out of the playoffs.

"There is always going to be an issue," Hyman said. "No matter what, it won't be perfect. If you have four teams, somebody has to be the fifth team. There is always an issue. That's the system we have right now."

The staunchest opponent to the 'plus-one' or any playoff system for that matter has been Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney, who fears it will lead to an expanded playoff format down the road.

Hyman described the Big 10 and Pac 12 as the major "stumbling blocks" in the ongoing quest to alter the current system.

However, notwithstanding the expected opposition from those leagues, Hyman emphasized change is on the horizon.

"If you read the tea leaves, I think you'll see something like (the plus-one) after the BCS contract has expired," Hyman said. "In the eyes of some people, the plus-one will be a fairer way of determining the national championship. In the end, though, there is no perfect system."

Eventually, Hyman predicts, all the major conferences will jump on board for a plus-one. The Big 10's main objective is maintaining the traditional Big 10-Pac 12 matchup in the Rose Bowl. If that is able to get worked out, most of the opposition to a plus-one system will melt away.

"Back then (in 2008), more people were against it than supported it. But you've seen that flip," Hyman said. "We just have to work through the issues."

NCAA president Mark Emmert told the Associated Press Monday at a function in Tallahassee, Fla., that "if I had to guess, we'll see some movement in the format. Where it's going to wind up, I don't know."

What's been the impetus for changing the minds of some people when it comes to the 'plus one'? One reason, of course, is the SEC's six straight national championships.

Many people, especially those outside the southeastern region, disdained the LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS championship game and would have preferred to see Oklahoma State get a chance to play for the title.

"Alabama and LSU were probably the two best teams, but Oklahoma State captured the attention of a lot of people," Hyman said. "That's one of the reasons why there wasn't that kind of enthusiasm or interest nationally at that (championship) game because LSU and Alabama had already played each other.

"Whereas, if you had Oklahoma State, it would have created more interest from a national standpoint. If I was just a fan, I would have probably preferred seeing Oklahoma State play LSU because it would have created more interest for me."

In addition to changing how the national championship trophy is earned, automatic conference tie-ins to BCS bowl games could be eliminated, meaning a BCS bowl could pick any two teams it wanted as long as they met whatever criteria is established.

This past season, the No. 11 (Va. Tech), No. 13 (Michigan), No. 15 (Clemson) and No. 23 (West Virginia) ranked teams in the final BCS standings participated in BCS bowl games, while the schools ranked No. 6 (Arkansas), No. 7 Boise State, No. 8 (Kansas State) and No. 9 (South Carolina) in the final standings settled for non-BCS games.

Because of that, some people are demanding change.

However, shifting to a so-called 'free market' system could, as some fear, result in BCS bowls selecting teams from the power conferences exclusively, shutting out schools like Boise State or other schools from the Mountain West Conference and other non-BCS leagues.

Slive told reporters in New Orleans covering the national championship game between LSU and Alabama that he anticipated 'meaningful discussion' on the plus-one system in the next few months.

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D. McCallum


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