NEW ORLEANS, LA -- BCS officials are going to have some serious discussions in the upcoming months about going to a plus-one format, which could create a four-team major college football playoff.
Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, the new coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series, said Monday he intends to lead a "thorough" evaluation of the plus-one format. The BCS must determine in the next nine to 12 months what format it will use for the 2010 season (2011 bowls) so it can negotiate a new television deal.
Swofford takes over this year for Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive as the public face of the BCS.
Swofford and Slive, speaking to the Football Writers Association of America, said there was increased support among conference commissioners and university presidents for having serious discussions about the plus-one, which would set the national championship game matchup after the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls have been played.
Top-ranked Ohio State and No. 2 LSU were to play in the BCS national championship Monday night.
Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe have also said they'd like to look deeper into a plus-one.
Big Ten commissioners Jim Delany and Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen have said the university presidents they work for are opposed to moving the BCS to a plus-one, in part because it could make the Rose Bowl less attractive.
The Big Ten and Pac-10 have a contractual relationship with the Rose Bowl.
"Not withstanding that opposition, we will continue to discuss and evaluate the plus-one or formats of interest brought by others that come to the table," Slive said. "Fully understanding that in the final analysis that it comes down to each conference deciding what format it prefers."
Commissioners from all 11 major college football conferences will meet in Miami in April and the plus-one will be a topic.
"I think we would be remiss if we didn't have that discussion in full and play it out and see what the ramifications of it are in great detail," Swofford said. "To see if there are unintended consequences there. What are the pluses, what are the minuses? Really drill into it so we can have the right kind of information.
"Evaluate it in a thorough way and ultimately make a decision. You don't know unless you have that discussion."
Both Swofford and Slive said if a plus-one was adopted, they would support seeding the top four teams after the regular season and playing No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in bowl games, essentially creating two national semifinals.
Rose Bowl officials have said they are wary of any change to the BCS that would lessen the significance of their game or make it more difficult for them to line up the their traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup.
"That's a definite hurdle," Swofford said. "I don't know if it's the biggest, but it's significant."
The winner of the semifinals would play a week later in the BCS national championship game.
Had such a format been used this season, it still would have left several teams -- including Georgia and Southern California -- with a good case to be playing for a national title out of the mix.
Ohio State would have played No. 4 Oklahoma in one game and LSU would have played Virginia Tech in the 2-3 game. Both Virginia Tech and Oklahoma lost their bowl games.
Georgia and USC finished fifth and seventh in the BCS standings, but had impressive victories in their bowl games.
Currently, the BCS championship game matches the top two teams, using a combination of poll rankings and computer ratings, after the regular season. The other four BCS bowl matchups are made with no regard to pairing the remaining highest ranked teams.
The BCS is in the middle of a four-year, $320 million contract with Fox that runs through the 2009 season and 2010 bowls. The BCS will begin negotiating with Fox on another deal in the fall. Fox has exclusive negotiating rights with the BCS.
Chuck Gerber, executive vice president of college sports for ABC and ESPN, said if the BCS opens negotiations, ABC would be interested in reacquiring the television rights to the BCS.
ABC had the BCS until the 2006 bowls.
ABC still has the rights to the Rose Bowl, a deal that runs through 2014. Gerber said ABC's deal with the Rose Bowl would not stand in the way of the BCS changing to a plus-one.
"If the Rose Bowl wants to do this, we'll make it work," he said.
That's a big "if."