Football Final Four moves closer to reality

We've been having some fun this month with the Big Ten Champions Tournament while dreaming of what a March Madness for college football might look like.

Well, a playoff sure seems to be coming, folks, even if it's not the full-fledged one some people prefer. Conference commissioners met Monday in Dallas to discuss the future of the sport's postseason. While any decisions are still far away, the group put out a statement Monday evening saying it has gotten down to "brass tacks" in talking about a four-team playoff.

That's significant because it shows the commissioners no longer are debating whether such a system should be implemented but instead now are talking about how it should be structured. Everything from neutral vs. campus sites, whether to use a BCS-style rankings system or a selection committee and when to play the games is still up in the air.

But the fact that they're discussing those things signifies that a four-team playoff is now more likely to happen by 2014. I wasn't sure that would ever arrive in my lifetime.

I'm in favor of using campus sites for the semifinals and having a selection committee choose the teams. Yet any new system they come up with will be better than what we have now.

I live in Louisville, where everybody is going crazy about the Kentucky-Louisville showdown in the Final Four this weekend in New Orleans. Can you imagine a similar scenario for the Big Ten in a football Final Four? What if Michigan and Ohio State were to meet in a semifinal or championship game? Would either fan base be able to control itself or concentrate on work in the weeks and days leading to that game?

Such postseason rivalries are more difficult to pull off in football. An Ohio State-Michigan playoff game would have to follow the teams' meeting in the regular-season finale and a possible rematch in the Big Ten title game. It's hard to imagine how both teams would get in given that setup. It may be more likely with two teams in the same division, just as Alabama and LSU ended up in the BCS title game this year. How about a Michigan-Michigan State national semifinal? Or Iowa-Nebraska?

Those possibilities are fun to think about, and a football playoff opens up all sorts of fascinating scenarios. The Big Ten just needs to make sure it can get one of its teams to finish in the top four in as many seasons as possible, something that hasn't happened the past two years. And the league should continue to lobby for campus sites, which benefits the conference much more than neutral sites.

But the playoff day sure seems to be coming soon. Thank goodness for that.