By LARRY LAGE, Associated Press
The Big Ten, which helped squash the notion of a four-team playoff to crown a national champion in college football several years ago, is taking another look.
BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said Tuesday night that's good news.
"Our process is working perfectly," Hancock said. "One of good things about our process is that there's no timetable so that a deliberate and thoughtful decision can be reached.
"The tricky part is our 11 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame AD may have 12 different opinions about the direction we should go over the next six to eight months."
Hancock, who still expects a conclusion in July, said the group of BCS decision-makers will meet again at the end of this month.
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said all of the Big Ten athletic directors are comfortable exploring the possibility of a four-team playoff.
"Four is better than two," Hollis said.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith agreed and said the discussions stem from feedback "that we need to do something different," especially after the recent BCS title game between LSU and Alabama drew lower ratings that other championship games.
"The fans have been loud and clear," Smith said. "We also recognize that structurally there's things that we want to try and change with the bowl system — how teams get in the bowls. It's time to be curious about everything."
The BCS title game pits the nation's top two teams based on poll and computer rankings. The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that one idea before the Big Ten calls for playing the two semifinal games on the campuses of the higher seeded teams, with the national championship held in a city awarded hosting rights — like the Super Bowl.
The so-called plus-one format — two semifinals plus the title game — was proposed in 2008 by the commissioners of the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference. It was shot down by the leaders of the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big East, Big 12 and Notre Dame.
"I am pleased to hear there is renewed interest in the plus-one format, the same format we introduced for consideration in 2008," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement to the AP. "There are many details that need to be considered and it is premature to be campaigning for any particular plus-one model."
The 11 Bowl Championship Series conferences have already met to discuss possible changes to the system starting in 2014. NCAA President Mark Emmert has said he supports a four-team championship playoff and is strongly against a 16-team format.
Emmert has also said there has been talk of using a Final Four model, a scenario which could have matched LSU against Stanford and Alabama versus Oklahoma State this season, with the winners advancing to the title game.
Despite the Big Ten's interest in a playoff, there is at least one big hurdle: The Rose Bowl, with its storied history to two of the nation's biggest conferences.
"The Rose Bowl is extremely important to Michigan State just as it is to every school in the Big Ten and Pac-12," Hollis said. "There are more questions than answers about how any format would work, including where the games would be played and what the bowl-type experiences would be like in a championship format.
"My eyes are always open to explore all opportunities, but I don't think we want to exceed 15 games."
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, who is open to any option that includes keeping the conference and Pac-12 tied to the Rose Bowl, said he's not sure the plus-one model will please everybody.
"I know a lot of people would love to see one more great football game, but I'm not sure this type of playoff will make it more fair," Brandon said. "At some point, you have to draw the line. With four teams, there will be controversies about who those four teams should be because it's usually not clear."
Smith said there are too many bowl games, lagging ticket sales and teams are already playing "too deep into January" with players who happen to be students, too. He had reservations about a playoff where students play back to back games.