It sounds so easy. Just bring the top-rated college football teams together and let them play for the NCAA championship.
But it is very, very tricky. A committee studying ways to set up what many believe would be the most-watched and most lucrative collegiate event ever may not even make its own self-imposed deadline.By sometime Friday, the 24-member panel was expected to announce a recommendation for the 106 Division I-A schools to vote on at the NCAA convention in January.
But subcommittees have been formed to study revenue distribution, athletes' welfare and the structure of the format itself, and nobody is flatly predicting any recommendation when the committee holds a Friday news conference at the end of its second full meeting.
"We get different reports every day about the sentiments of the membership," Tom Jernstedt, chief operating officer of the NCAA, said Wednesday. "I don't think I've ever had less intuition on a matter than I have on this one."
The committee's options range from enthusiastic support for a specific playoff plan to scrapping the idea altogether to asking for more time to study. The format must be approved at the convention and the deadline for submitting legislation is not until Sept. 1.
Other key dates are the NCAA Presidents Commission's meeting June 28-29 and the meeting of the NCAA Executive Committee on Aug. 2-5.
A voluminous report issued last month indicated as much as $62.7 million in "new" money could be realized from an eight-team playoff. The committee also is studying two-, four- and 16-team formats.
Further complicating the mix is a playoff formula that a majority of Division I-A conference commissioners have proposed.
It would set up a six-team, three-game scenario to include one game on New Year's Eve, one on New Year's night and one Jan. 2. They would seed teams 1 through 6; every third year, each of the three bowls invited to participate would have a 1 vs. 2 matchup.
This would include the Big Eight, Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East, along with Notre Dame. The bowl coalition would be rolling the dice and gambling that the No. 1 team would not belong to either the Big Ten and Pac-10, which are tied to the Rose Bowl and lukewarm to any playoff proposal.
"I think we're going to come out of the Friday meeting with something," said Chris Plonsky, associate director of men's athletics at Texas and chairman of the subcommittee studying a playoff structure. "I like the fact there are things happening out there. Anybody who believes we should stick to the status quo is living in utopia, and I don't know anyone with that zip code."