BCS expanding to five games

PHOENIX -- For eight years, the Bowl Championship Series has created as much confusion as clarity.

And one year after it worked perfectly, with two unbeaten teams squaring off in a classic championship game, the BCS is changing again. And its top official wonders if fans will understand why.

"Just the fundamental format, I think, needs explanation," Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said as the BCS' annual meetings opened here Monday.

The BCS is expanding to five games next year, with a new stand-alone national title game being added to the existing four bowls -- the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange.

Like the old format, the top two teams in the final BCS standings will play for the national title. Unlike the old format, they won't play in an existing bowl game. The title game will rotate among the four BCS sites beginning with the Fiesta in Glendale, Ariz., next January.

"I think one of the things that we need to be doing over the next several months is explaining the double-hosting model, which is in effect the national championship game rotating through the four bowls," Slive said. "I think there might be some confusion as to how the teams get to the [title] game."

It will help when the new game has a name and a title sponsor. That could be announced as early as Tuesday.

"We will [have a name] before we leave here," said Slive, who is starting his first of two years as BCS coordinator.

For the first time in three years the BCS meetings are generating little buzz.

Two years ago, the BCS responded to growing criticism by simplifying its standings formula, emphasizing the polls over the computers. Last season the formula stayed the same, but a new poll was created to replace The Associated Press Top 25. The AP poll was replaced by the Harris Interactive poll, which included former college football players, coaches and administrators, plus some media members.

There's little call for change this year, partly because the 2005 season played out perfectly from the BCS' perspective. Only two teams finished the regular season undefeated -- Southern California and Texas -- and they played for the BCS title in the Rose Bowl, with the Longhorns upsetting the defending champion Trojans.

The BCS' biggest change was adopted two years ago, when the fifth game was added in response to pressure to improve access for non-BCS conferences.

With more slots available, commissioners Monday discussed adding more at-large teams to the BCS-eligible pool. Under the present system, at-large teams must win nine games and be ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. Commissioners are considering allowing lower-ranked at-large teams into the pool.

"The reason it came up, we raised it because you've added 25 percent more slots by going from eight to 10," Slive said. "Should we examine going to more than 12 [in the standings] as the cutoff for eligibility for at-large? We just started some dialogue today. We're going to continue to talk about that.

"I'm hoping that we'll come to some decision here," Slive said. "We may not. It's an important topic and we may want to talk about it more."

Any change would have to be approved by the BCS' presidential oversight committee.