Unlike BCS, playoff won't be tinkered

The conference commissioners involved in the early years of the BCS will admit it: They made some errors.

The lesson learned? Have some patience with this new playoff thing.

"I think it had its place and was overall good, as controversial as it was, but I think we made several mistakes with the BCS, and one of them was that, for a while, we were continually changing certain aspects of it," said ACC commissioner John Swofford, the BCS coordinator in 2000-01 and 2008-09. "They weren't huge changes, but we were certainly tweaking it, almost on an annual basis, the first five or six years. People couldn't really get comfortable with it, couldn't get used to how things were done, and when you're changing that often, you're basically sending the message, 'We don't have this right yet.'"


"We got it right," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said.

After one season in the era of the College Football Playoff, the general consensus among the 10 FBS commissioners who comprise the playoff's management committee was a ringing endorsement of success.

Don't expect major changes in Year 2 because there won't be any. That is partly because they simply aren't needed, but it's also because the suits of the sport are more willing to let the system play out than they were with the BCS system.

"You would hope we would learn from our history," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. "In the case of the BCS, they started it from scratch, so they were building metrics as they went. To think that there wouldn't be a time period of calibration, that's just logical to think that's going to occur. One of the big complaints about the BCS was the lack of the human element. Now we have a big dose of the human element. Some people like it, some people don't. You don't overreact. You let it play out a little bit to really get a sense of it."

The commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick -- not the 12 members of the selection committee -- are the playoff's decision-makers. While the selection committee can suggest changes, only the commissioners can vote to enforce them. The selection committee is expected to meet in Indianapolis in early April to review the season, and the commissioners will meet with playoff executives in Dallas at the end of April.

The majority of commissioners said the only significant change in 2015 should be fewer than seven weekly rankings. When the rankings were initially discussed, it was proposed they would be released every other week.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he would ask the group to consider "a poll midseason, a poll at Week 9 and a poll at the end" to avoid "the abrupt fluctuations you sometimes had this year."

"Having somebody left out is always going to cause a lot of heartburn. It also causes a lot of the anticipation and a lot of the enjoyable tension people feel as they watch their team through the season." Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on the four-team playoff

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he would suggest three or four rankings and releasing them every other week in November, before the final ranking in December.

"That's really the only change I would hope we have a conversation about in April," Thompson said. "We don't need seven. I know ESPN likes seven. It's great ratings, but there's other ways you get around it. It's good information because all week you can argue back and forth ... so it's all good for the sport. But they don't mean anything, quite honestly."

In addition to the number of rankings, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said the commissioners should consider the philosophy behind them.

"The issue was with what happened with the TCU situation: winning 55-3 and going from three to six [in the Week 16 rankings]," Aresco said. "We can talk about whether there should be continuity week to week, as opposed to starting from scratch. It's a debate. I don't know how I feel, myself. It's something that publicly was one of the criticisms of the committee's process because is it fair to the kids who think, 'OK, we're No. 3, and we win 55-3. We've been very impressive, and we fall all the way to six'? That one is something we have to talk about."

Aresco said the group also needs to discuss how much strength of schedule mattered and, if head-to-head matters, whether it should matter more immediately in the rankings.

"Should you wait to the end to have Baylor overtake TCU on the head-to-head?" Aresco said. "That was the example this year, but it could manifest itself in other ways in the future. I think you have to look at that. If head-to-head matters, should we clarify that earlier in the process? I don't know. The committee does look to the commissioners for guidance as to what the guidelines are."

The one change fans won't see anytime soon is expansion. The majority of commissioners interviewed said four teams is enough.

"I've been a part of modeling to 16, so I understand the range here," Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said. "I think we've got it calibrated pretty well right now. This year was a good indicator that we got the right teams in the mix. I don't feel any sense of urgency to move the format to a larger scale."

Larry Scott agreed.

"We spent a lot of time thinking about it. We looked at other models with more teams," he said. "First and foremost, I think we don't want to go further, in terms of the number of games the student-athletes are playing. We want to preserve the importance of bowls that are not in the playoff. We want to keep the importance of the regular season and the drama involved, and we want to keep college football a one-semester sport and not go further into January. For me, those are the four primary reasons we think four is the right number."

No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Ohio State certainly didn't have any objections, but No. 5 Baylor and No. 6 TCU might beg to differ.

Not even the Big 12 commish, though, is sold on a bigger bracket.

"Having somebody left out is always going to cause a lot of heartburn," Bowlsby said. "It also causes a lot of the anticipation and a lot of the enjoyable tension people feel as they watch their team through the season.

"Four is a compromise. It is the right place. I don't think there will be any serious consideration of a larger number anytime soon."

Still hoping for eight? It can wait. After all, patience is part of the new system.