By Jeff Latzke
WEATHERFORD, Okla. (AP) — BCS executive director Bill Hancock hears the outcry from fans who want a playoff to decide college football’s national champion.
For now, he’s cautioning everyone against getting too fired up about changes they anticipate just because it’s time for the Bowl Championship Series to look over its rules — just as it does every four years.
Practically everything is on the table, from the format to who can automatically qualify to play in the BCS. The proposals for the next cycle, beginning in 2014, range from minor adjustments to the current system to a four-team playoff plus eight other BCS games that may have no direct impact on the championship.
What will be approved at the end of the process is anyone’s guess entering an annual meeting next week in Florida that he’s quick to point out is “the next step in the process, not the end.”
“There’s no leader in the clubhouse on this,” Hancock told The Associated Press on Thursday night before he spoke at a leadership banquet at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
A memo to college football officials, first reported by USA Today last week and obtained by the AP, detailed four options that are up for consideration: minor tweaks to the current system, a “plus one” format, a four-team playoff and a four-team playoff plus other games.
“The most important question is, ‘Is there a need to make a significant change, and what are the reasons why a significant change is important?’ If there’s a need to do it, then it should be done,” Hancock said.
“Many fans would like to have a tournament in the postseason and the commissioners hear that. They get it. But can you have a tournament without detracting from the regular season?”
Any system that would jeopardize the regular season — which provides the lion’s share of athletic department budgets across the country — is not feasible, even if it makes for a more orderly crowning of a champion.
“The biggest disconnect with the fans is they don’t get how important the regular season is. All of the commissioners have seen what’s happened to the regular season in basketball, and it worries them,” Hancock said. “They can’t afford to have that happen in football.
“Our regular season is absolutely unique and, frankly, the best in sports.”
Hancock would not discuss pros and cons of any of the proposals, saying he didn’t “want to color the discussion in any way.” But he does understand both viewpoints on the system.
“The No. 1 and 2 teams are meeting in a bowl game, which seldom happened before the BCS. The conferences are having access to the top-tier bowl games now because of the BCS. That never happened before,” he said. “But still, people want a tournament. It’s complicated.”
Beyond the big picture ideas, there are smaller problems to confront in any of the proposed changes. For instance, Hancock said there would be questions about whether certain college campuses such as Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., or Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., could accommodate the crush of fans and media that would attend a college football semifinal.
“The infrastructure needed on campus is significant. That’s a factor,” Hancock said. “That’s just one example of the intricacies that are part of this.”
He said any semifinal format would likely have to include two games being played within a two-week window from around Dec. 27-Jan. 9, creating potential travel difficulties for fans.
“No one in the group really wants to play during finals or have practice for a semifinal game during finals,” Hancock said. “You’ve got 120 schools that you have to factor into the schedule. … That two-week period is it.”
Hancock spoke at the event after his great niece, who is part of the SWOSU President’s Leadership Class, suggested him as a potential guest speaker. He grew up in nearby Hobart and his wife and mother both attended Southwestern Oklahoma State.
He called the school the cultural, scholastic and artistic center for people in southwest Oklahoma when he was growing up and recalled visiting the campus to play the piano and clarinet in music competitions. It was also his connection to Route 66.
It was a brief diversion before he heads to Florida to get back to BCS business.
“I want a decision that will benefit the game for the next 10 to 15 years, whatever it is. Whatever decision we make, there will be people who don’t like it when we work something out,” Hancock said. “That’s just part of the game. But I want to come away thinking, ‘You know what, we did the best thing for college football.'”