CHICAGO — Big Ten administrators would prefer a plus-one system over a four-team playoff to determine a national champion if the BCS can't be maintained in its current form.
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said conference presidents would choose to keep the current BCS system as it is if there were a vote today. But he added that change appears to be inevitable. In the plus-one format, the bowl games would be played, and then the top two teams would meet for the title.
"We think that in many respects, (the current system is) as good as you could do, with obviously some changes about automatic qualifying and perhaps how the top two teams are selected," he said. "But we're also realistic. That doesn't seem to be one that has gotten a lot of support, and that some movement is necessary."
Perlman spoke on a conference call with reporters Monday, a day after presidents and chancellors met at league headquarters in suburban Chicago. As the top conferences negotiate over a playoff system, the Big Ten is showing some flexibility while remaining adamant that the bowls and its alliance with the Rose Bowl be preserved.
While it prefers the plus-one model, the conference seems willing to listen to proposals for a playoff system. Either way, commissioner Jim Delany acknowledged, the current poll-based system is flawed. A selection committee might be an option in picking the postseason teams, Delany said.
Three meetings this month could go a long way toward molding the playoff model, although Delany said discussions could stretch beyond that — the BCS meeting June 13 in Chicago; the NCAA Division I Conference Commissioners Association on June 19-20 in Chicago; and the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee June 26 in Washington.
"The key issues are honoring champions, honoring strength of schedule, honoring teams and coaches that try to play good schedules and recognizing a team that plays an additional championship game versus one that doesn't has an additional obstacle of challenge," Delany said.
He has floated the idea in the past that top three conference champions and an at-large team make up the playoff field "as a way to think about who's in the event" but isn't married to that concept.
"We do feel strongly that champions ought to be honored," Perlman said. "There was little disagreement that the polls and certainly the computer polls are not sufficiently transparent. People don't respect them as much as they could. They can't take into account a variety of circumstances. I think we would feel comfortable with a selection committee, but even if you move to a selection committee, I think there are issues about what instructions they're under with regard to how they determine who the best four teams are. We didn't resolve that at this point."
The Big 12 and SEC say the top four teams — not necessarily conference champions — should be in a playoff field.
"I would agree. I think it should be the four best teams," Delany said. "I think the question is whether or not a computerized poll managed the way the one is today is an appropriate proxy for the four best teams. I totally agree we should have the four best teams."
He also believes winning a conference championship "should matter."
"That's the way we've been structured for 100 years," he said.
Delany reiterated the Big Ten would like to include the bowls in any postseason format, with the championship game being bid out either to a current site or cities that aren't necessarily bowl hosts. He also said the plus-one scenario remains on the table, and he mentioned the Rose Bowl when he was asked why the conference prefers that option.
"The Rose Bowl, I think, is one of the outstanding sports events, sports properties, sports brands in the world," he said. "I don't think that's an overstatement."
Delany also said there would still be "reasonable access" to championship opportunities for the Big Ten in a plus-one format even if the odds would seem to be better with a playoff.
"When you're working with groups of people, sometimes, you can't have your cake and eat it, too," Delany said. "That's what compromise is about. And you try to avoid demands. I would say one of the reasons we have a chance to come together is not everybody is trying to get their cake and eat it, too."