GRAPEVINE, Texas — Before there will be significant changes to college football's postseason and how to determine a champion, there are plenty of options to be considered.
Conference commissioners who run the Bowl Championship Series are just getting started on that process.
"We're just trying to understand conceptually what the pieces are. ... It's at the very beginning," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. "While I think people have a reasonable idea on the range of what's under consideration, the study and the inspection and understanding of that range I think is going to be months in the making."
The 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director spent two days meeting with BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock at a hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. They are scheduled to meet there again March 26.
Hancock characterized the meetings, which encompassed more than eight hours over two days, as "very, very, very productive" with great dialogue and sharing of ideas. He wouldn't get into specifics about what discussed.
"They are determined to do what's best for the game," Hancock said. "Everything is still on the table and there will be a time when they obviously have to start taking things off the table. But that point hasn't come yet."
In a joint statement posted on Facebook even before they had emerged from their meeting room, the group said it had a self-imposed deadline of "sometime this summer" to decide what changes to propose.
The process could take much longer to get finished.
"No one really knows what the actual drop-dead date is," said long-time WAC Commissioner Karl Benson, who takes over as the Sun Belt's commissioner in April.
As Delany described it, "Nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in. ... This is going to be an extra-inning game."
While there seems to be growing support for creating a four-team playoff to determine a champion, how exactly that would work remains to be seen.
But there also appears to be some confusion over what a plus-one model would mean. Some attending the meeting, again without being specific about what they had discussed, indicated that a plus-one model could be a singular championship game played after all the bowls when the top two teams would then be determined.
But there are also plenty of other things to be figured out before how to determine a champion. Among them are revenue issues and access issues for teams now in conferences without automatic BCS possibilities.
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson likened the process to what's going on with his conference in forming a new league with Conference USA. Plans are to begin in 2013 and have as many as 24 teams in five time zones.
"You've got a big circle and you're trying to tighten the circle and get it down to some manageable, workable deals," Thompson said. "Everybody's come in good faith and consciously trying to do what's right for college football. ... There is no clubhouse leader from what I'm listening to."
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, whose league has won the past six BCS national championships, said there are plenty of issues that have to be reviewed.
"Every aspect of this is going to be looked at," Slive said. "By making this a marathon and not a sprint, we're going to have the luxury of looking at every element of every possibility and view it against the regular season. I think that's the sum and substance of where we are."
Part of the meeting Tuesday was spent reviewing final exam schedules for all 120 schools. Hancock said the commissioners would like to avoid playing games from early December to about Dec. 21, when most schools have finals.
They also don't want to play games much past Jan. 1. The BCS title game has been held as late as Jan. 10, and has regularly been played on Jan. 7 or 8 since it was implemented for the 2006 season.
"I'm very pleased with the conversation, a lot of good, robust discussion about objectives and opportunities related to postseason college football. ... Very open, very engaged, very creative and thinking about the bigger picture," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. "Everyone's focused on balancing the regular season, balancing the bowl tradition, balancing the very important academic parameters, and from my perspective, we're focused on the right issues.
"I'm pleased with how it's begun," he said. "It's an ongoing process that is going to take some time. We're at the very early stages."