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College football meeting will try to hammer out playoff details

Updated: July 21, 2012 6:24AM

A big step toward a college football playoff might be taken Wednesday, when the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners, Bowl Championship Series executive director Bill Hancock and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick meet in Chicago to hash out a plan that hopefully will make everyone in college football happy.

Some of the issues include preserving the Rose Bowl, how a prospective final four would be chosen (by a committee or by a computer, for example), how the bowl system would fit into a playoff format and where the prospective playoff games would be played.

Who ultimately will decide on a playoff format is the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, a group of 12 BCS university presidents scheduled to meet Tuesday in Washington. The hope is the commissioners can agree on a playoff plan Wednesday, so it can be presented to the university presidents at their meeting. If the presidents accept the plan, it might be implemented for the 2014 season.

The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioners support a playoff model that rewards conference champions. But Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive does not, preferring a format that favors the top four ranked teams in the country.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been solid on his support of keeping the Rose Bowl intact, but he has concerns about how the four playoff teams would be selected. Delany has been adamant that the 12-game regular season is the ‘‘bedrock’’ of college football and shouldn’t be ignored. He is against a playoff format that wouldn’t reward a conference champion.

‘‘Certain teams separate themselves during the course of a season, and sometimes the differences are paper-thin,’’ Delany said after the Big Ten athletic directors meetings in May. ‘‘And when differences are paper-thin, the question is how do you value conference champions versus highly regarded and highly rated independents and non-champions from conferences?’’

Then there is the question of where Notre Dame fits into a playoff equation. A school spokesperson said Swarbrick hasn’t issued an official position on a playoff format, preferring instead to defer to Hancock.

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, though, has voiced his opinion.

‘‘The most important thing is that we are not tone-deaf to what the fans want,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘Having the best four teams in a championship format is where we’re headed, but we want to keep the bowl structure the way it is.’’

Phillips agreed with Delany that it is best for a playoff system not to undermine the regular season.

‘‘It’s been talked about for the last three or four years,” Phillips said. ‘‘We have to get our arms around it and reward the best teams that get into [a playoff]. You could base it on computers, but I’m not sure that’s the best way. You could be rewarded by a formula and have a committee set up, but then what is the human element?’’

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