BCS leaders don#039;t plan any new systems

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 17, 2003

NEW ORLEANS - Leaders of the Bowl Championship Series and its critics found a few things to agree on Sunday - although a new system for major college football's postseason wasn't one of them.

University presidents and chancellors from each of the 11 Division I-A conferences came up with a process for their commissioners to devise plans to change the current bowl system.

Going from a process to a proposal won't be an easy task with each conference representing sometimes vastly different constituencies and the need to get television partners and the bowls themselves to buy into a new system.

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''I think we accomplished everything today we could accomplish,'' said Tulane president Scott Cowen, the leader of the Coalition for Athletics Reform that has been fighting to change the current system.

''There was enough common agreement that we can come back in the next 60 or 90 days with proposals from our commissioners. It was as good an outcome as we could have hoped for.''

After a four-hour meeting, the two sides agreed that Division I-A won't go to a 16-team NFL-style playoff like the one used in Division I-AA and each came up with plans at least loosely based on the current BCS system.

Questions of improving access to the smaller conferences, adding games to the current four-bowl structure and putting a championship after the bowls all remain options.

There were also discussions about changing the method for determining the BCS standings, which help decide the teams that make the bowls.

''Clearly there will be changes in the system,'' said Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer, a member of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. ''But the BCS is our point of departure. We're not going to scrap the current system and start over.''

Cowen said ''substantial progress'' had been made since the last time the sides met in September and remained optimistic that an agreement can be reached that will answer the needs of all 11 conferences.

''We have a good sense of what the range of possibilities are,'' he said.

Created in 1998 by the six most powerful conferences, the BCS guarantees the champions of those leagues - the Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 - will play in one of the four most lucrative postseason bowl games, leaving only two at-large berths.

One of those bowls pits the top two teams in the BCS standings in a championship game, which will be the Sugar Bowl this season. The Orange, Fiesta and Rose bowls host the other games.

Smaller schools complain that the BCS makes it impossible for them to win the national championship and puts them at a financial and recruiting disadvantage.

The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the big conferences. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller conferences.

This was the second meeting between the sides. The goal is to create a system to put in place when the BCS contract expires after the 2006 bowls.

Negotiations with the bowls and TV networks will begin next year, putting some sense of urgency to these talks.

The next step will involve the conference commissioners developing and market-testing various plans during the next three months to determine their feasibility.

The presidents and chancellors will then meet to consider the recommendations and forward them to the full conferences.

''Whatever is devised has to pass the test of agreement with our colleagues,'' Frohnmayer said. ''This all needs to be tested in the market. We could devise what we think is the ideal system but find out that it doesn't add value or it takes away from the bowl system.''

Also, there are threats of an antitrust investigation from Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff if a resolution doesn't come soon. Although Cowen urged for more time to resolve the issue amicably.

''We have made it clear from Day 1 that we prefer to resolve this issue among university presidents and not go to Congress or the courts unless we exhaust every possibility,'' he said. ''After today, I don't think that will be the case. I believe we're on the path of success.''