Big East has high hopes for playoff

Folks in the Big East have high hopes for the future four-team playoff, and the place the league will have in it should a member team go undefeated.

Interim commissioner Joe Bailey said in a phone interview Wednesday, "This gives every team in every conference an equal opportunity to compete for the national championship. And in terms of the other bowl games, while there's plenty of things to be decided upon, we're pretty confident based on the recent performance of our programs we'll be participants in a number of high-level bowl games. The bottom line is the Big East will be well represented in a lot of the bowl games, and certainly in the top four."

Bailey went on to list the performance of current and future Big East members, noting teams like Boise State, Louisville and Cincinnati have finished in the Top 10 going back to 2006. But the last Big East team to play for a national title was Miami in the 2001 season.

Still, there is hope the Big East can get there again. USF coach Skip Holtz said in a phone interview Wednesday that the four-team playoff is a "true play-in" system, with the elimination of automatic qualifying status.

"This is a landmark," Holtz said. "The thing that excites me so much about what they decided to do is it is the first time we’ve had an actual playoff system where it’s going to four teams, but even moreso what excites me is there are no tie-in connections so to speak. It is a true play-in system, not to be influenced but public opinion or public bias but to be decided on a committee by the body of work a team puts together that season. It will continue to put a premium on the season and a premium on nonconference scheduling."

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross echoed the hopeful sentiments in a statement, saying, "We are extremely pleased with the new structure, especially as we transition into the ACC. This gives Syracuse football a clear vision as we continue to enhance our program and strive to compete amongst the best in the country."

The hope is that a cross-section of people will be on the selection committee, and seriously consider the merits of winning a conference championship, along with strong nonconference play and quality wins. That may go a long way toward removing ingrained biases, and misperceptions about the Big East.

At one point, the Big East was not in favor of a selection committee. But now Bailey sees some merits to the system.

"At the end of the day, while they'll take into consideration strength of schedule, they'll look at performance on the field, and take all the noise out of the evaluation of a team's performance. That, I suspect, will ultimately be the way they operate. The other good thing about a committee -- they're concentrating on the teams and they're doing it over a long period of time over the course of a season. It's not as if there's some sort of randomness about it. They will see all the teams. So we think for a variety of reasons such as those, it will be a much more focused, concerted effort on the evaluation of teams and team performance. That's very good."

While that may give some fans hope, there are others who wonder whether a selection committee can truly remove the bias and choose the four most qualified teams to make the playoff. Many, myself included, have wondered whether a committee would pick an undefeated Big East team over a one-loss team from a conference that has a better national reputation.

Holtz has no fear of that, at least not at this point.

"I’m not going into this with a negative concern," he said. "I’m going in with a trusting opinion that the committee they put together is going to make the right choice and take the body of work and evaluate it over the course of the season and who they played. There’s not a conference that says they're a shoo-in. I think the whole thing we’re trying to do is take the bias out and let that decisions be made on the field."