I have been very passionate that the best solution to fix college football's postseason woes was the so-called "Plus One" system. Unfortunately, no one who mattered seemed to care about my opinion and the Lords of the Game have agreed on a four-team playoff starting in 2014.
As potential outcomes go, I must admit that this one is actually pretty decent. The plan has some of the best elements of "Plus One," while creating the raw excitement of a "Final Four" playoff. However, contrary to the conventional wisdom, there are still some big potential problems with this plan and I am utterly amazed that some of the parties have agreed to a plan which could end up doing them great harm. At this point, I suspect that they may not fully realize what they are getting themselves into.
Here are questions about the new plan which I think will inevitably prove to be problematic and could potentially cause hurdles to a truly final agreement.
How is picking the fourth best team going to be any easier than picking the second best?
This issue is pretty obvious has been pointed out by other commentators, so I will mostly just let it speak for itself. I will just point out that, based on recent history, you could argue that picking between a fourth and fifth team is actually more difficult because they are virtually certain to not be undefeated.
How will the revenue be split and how is the Big East not destroyed by this scenario?
The money has yet to be split up, which makes the notion that there has actually been a real agreement rather humorous. Since when have you ever heard of a contract of this magnitude not including the specific splitting of billions of dollars?
Even more interestingly, how in the world is the Big East conference going to survive under this plan? There is no way that the "Big Five" conferences are going to allow a league like the Big East to get a full share of revenue without having teams which play in the "Final Four." Based on that presumption, a greatly weakened Big East, which has been ludicrously reconfigured in a desperate attempt to chase BCS dollars -- which no longer exist -- will never have a team qualify.
The Big East will be like the person who divorces their spouse and leaves their kids for someone they mistakenly think is rich. They have given up everything that made them unique and now it is hard to see how, at least for football, they don't eventually implode.
Why would Notre Dame go along with this plan?
Maybe they didn't have any other choice, but on the surface this plan is a disaster for Notre Dame. Not only is their basketball conference going to be further pressured to its ultimate breaking point, but they have apparently lost their special status along football programs when it comes to big-time postseason play.
Under the BCS, Notre Dame was basically guaranteed a spot in one for the four major bowls as long as it won at least 10 games. Because they are a football independent, they also had the potential of a huge revenue stream which they wouldn't have to share directly with other conference members.
Now, barring some unknown backroom deal, it would seem that Notre Dame is just like everyone else and, given their relative struggles over the past two years, would appear highly unlikely to ever make the "Final Four." From here, it looks like Notre Dame could be the biggest loser in the long run here.
Why would a top ranked team ever want to win the SEC Championship game now?
While college football tends to be cyclical, it sure seems as if the dominance of the SEC conference is here to stay, especially with the recent addition of two more quality programs.
Assuming this is true, given the results of recent years, it is very easy to envision a scenario where a team would have little if any incentive to win the SEC conference championship game. Think about it. An undefeated SEC team could easily lose their conference title game and still make the "Final Four." In many years, their conference may actually have a strong financial incentive for that team to lose so that they could get two teams into the "Final Four" and they could presumably double their school's revenue stream.
In case you somehow think this scenario is far-fetched, consider that the SEC's supremacy is so pervasive that last year a team which didn't even make the SEC title game, made the BCS final and actually won it rather easily. Had undefeated LSU lost the SEC title game last year they would have still been a lock to make any rational "Final Four."
What happens now to the future of the Rose Bowl?
One of the reasons that I supported the "Plus One" plan is that it would have returned the Rose Bowl to its rich traditional roots. Every single year the Big Ten and Pacific 12 champions would play each other in the "Granddaddy of them all." Now, that tradition is apparently effectively dead forever.
At least once every three years the Rose Bowl will be one of the national semi-finals and there would be almost no chance that the game would have its old conference ties. Two out of every three years there will be an excellent chance that at least one of their conference partners will be in the "Final Four" and the Rose Bowl will be an irrelevant exhibition played with leftovers.
Just as troubling for the Rose Bowl is the notion that the semi-final games may be played on News Year's Eve rather than New Year's Day. A New Year's Eve Rose Bowl would simply be impossible because the Rose Bowl parade begins at 6 a.m. the following morning. Then there is the issue of the fact that on years in which New Year's Day is on a Sunday the parade and game take place on the 2nd. This would mean that the Rose Bowl would be placed awkwardly between the semi-finals and the finals (of course the NFL will also have a say about weekend television programming that time of year).
In short, this new plan still has more than a few important kinks to be worked out. From here, it feels more like an engagement than an actual wedding. It will probably come to full fruition, but there is a good chance at least someone is going to regret it.