Nebraska's Perlman: Plus-one still preferred

The sense coming out of last week's BCS meetings is that college football soon will adopt a four-team playoff model with two designated semifinals and a championship game.

But don't count out the so-called "plus-one," where the top two teams are selected after the bowl games and face one another for the national championship about a week later.

The plus-one is still very much alive, University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman told ESPN.com on Thursday. Perlman, who serves on the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, said that during informal discussions between Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents and chancellors, the plus-one model has the most support.

"It is clear the presidents will still make the final decision," Perlman told ESPN.com "We've had some informal meetings, the Big Ten presidents and the Pac-12 presidents, and I think we're largely aligned in thinking a plus-one with a different ranking after the bowl games to select No. 1 and 2 would be acceptable. Our second choice would probably be a four-team playoff inside the bowls. Our highest priority is to preserve the status of the Rose Bowl and our connection to it."

He later added: "I don't think we would be very enthusiastic about any of the other options."

That includes a proposal to have semifinal games played on campus, which Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has supported. The plan seemed to lose steam last week at the BCS meetings in Florida, but SI.com reported Monday that it remains on the table.

"I don't think that's acceptable to us at this point," Perlman said of the campus-sites plan. "There would be some advantages to the Big Ten in doing it that way, but the end result would be that the bowl system and the Rose Bowl would be kind of like the NIT in basketball. If you have a playoff system outside the bowls, it would do serious damage to the bowls. ... I don't think anybody would pay attention to the bowls."

Perlman has long opposed a college football playoff and hasn't changed his position, saying Thursday, "I can't figure out a good reason to have a playoff to start with." But like many, he acknowledges changes will be made, and in his view, the plus-one is the simplest option and the best option. It preserves the bowl system and keeps player welfare in mind.

"We play enough football games," he said.

Some more notes from my conversation with the Nebraska chancellor:

  • The selection for a plus-one or a four-team playoff is tricky, and Perlman has no preferred model because, in his view, there isn't one. "If you don't like computers, then you'll think it's wrong," he said. "If you don't like committees, you'll think it's wrong. I think we'll just pick one, the system that seems to have the most fan confidence, and use it. I don't think it's possible to pick the two best teams in the country to play. In football, that just doesn't work."

  • Any type of change to the postseason structure increases the burden for fans. "I don't think it's overblown," he said. "That's one of the reasons why I've never been in favor of a playoff to start with. In order to be successful, it would have to become kind of a corporate event, rather than a school event. While we'd probably do well, given the television revenues, I don't know that it's a favorite of the fans of the schools who participate."

  • Nebraska fans and some local media members don't seem as enthralled by the Rose Bowl as those in other parts of the Big Ten. But Perlman certainly falls in line with the view shared by Delany and the other Big Ten presidents and chancellors. Here's what he said when asked about the potential of having nationally significant games in or close to the Big Ten footprint at neutral sites: "If the last game was bid out, it would certainly be advantageous for us. But on the other hand, would Nebraska fans, in the first week in January, rather travel to Pasadena or Indianapolis? There clearly is a competitive advantage if you're playing in the Rose Bowl against a Pac-12 team, or if you're playing in the Sugar Bowl against LSU or in the Orange Bowl against Florida. But so what? It’s a bowl game. That's just the lay of the land."

  • Although his playoff stance hasn't changed, he thinks elements of the BCS can be improved, such as the elimination of the automatic-qualifying status which has "created incentives for some pretty strange conference realignments that wouldn't have taken place otherwise." Like Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, Perlman favors a system that creates better matchups in the major bowls and eliminates some of the clunkers we've seen recently. "With some tweaks," Perlman said, "you could create a series of games in five or six bowls that would be compelling, and would possibly end up producing a No. 1 or a No. 2 team."

  • Perlman favors a model that reclaims New Year's Day but ends before the start of the winter academic term. He also supports the proposal to give conference champions the most consideration for the title game or the semifinals. "You ought to be able to win your conference to be a national champion," he said.

While many of you disagree with Perlman's view, as do I, he deserves credit for actually speaking up about this topic. Brian Bennett and I reached out to more than half the Big Ten's presidents and chancellors for interviews and were repeatedly turned down.

The Big Ten presidents hold their annual spring meeting June 3 at league headquarters, and the Collegiate Commissioners Association meets June 20 in Chicago.

"At some point, the commissioners will make a recommendation or a series of recommendations to us," Perlman said, "and we will meet and make the [final] decision hopefully before July 1."