BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and Conference USA head Britton Banowsky agree that change is likely coming in the method of crowning college football’s national champions.
Banowsky expects more than just cosmetic changes to the system.
“It’s my sense that there’s an interest in change, some meaningful change going forward,” he said Monday. “I don’t know how dramatic that will be, but I don’t think that means making tweaks to the current system.”
Banowsky, Slive, the Sun Belt’s retiring Wright Waters and Atlantic Sun chief Ted Gumbart spoke at the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast regional meeting across from Southeastern Conference headquarters.
Discussions on changing the BCS, conference realignment, agent rules and paying college athletes were among the topics.
BCS leaders are scheduled to meet for a fourth time April 24-26 in Hollywood, Fla., when the Football Bowl Association holds its annual meetings.
“We’re all trying to do what’s good for college football,” said Slive, whose league has captured the last six football national titles. He has previously pushed for a plus-one model with a title matchup decided after the bowl games.
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The All-SEC BCS championship game matchup of LSU and Alabama in January helped spark the movement for change.
A new BCS format must be in place before television negotiations with ESPN open in the fall. The current four-year deal runs through the 2014 season.
The commissioners have acknowledged a four-team playoff is among the options being considered.
USA Today has reported that the potential plans also include a “plus one” format, an amended version of the current system, and a four-team playoff proposal that would ensure a Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl semifinal pairing.
The last model prompted a smile from Slive.
“It’s not one of my favorites,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is simplify in many ways. I don’t think that adds to the simplification of the postseason.”
The commissioners also weighed in on other hot issues.
• Slive doesn’t mince words on the current rules governing agent dealings with college athletes.
“The rules we have are more part of the problem than the solution,” said Slive, who pointed out there are ongoing discussions to address what has become a major issue. “I don’t think those rules work. I don’t think they’re realistic.”
• An advocacy group’s report last September estimated the average fair market value of top-tier college football and men’s basketball players is over $100,000 each. Slive, though, is not in favor of paying players beyond the full cost of getting an education, saying that would make them professionals and “unaffiliated with the academy.”
“It’s a very tender line,” Slive said. “We are in the world of academia. One can get cynical. But we are in academics, and I think therefore the universities are not interested in having professional athletes as a subset of its academic mission.”
Then again: “We’re talking about an academic enterprise that has culturally become a phenomenon it was never intended to be.”
Waters, who is being replaced by former Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Carl Benson, noted that the athletic scholarships don’t cover the full cost of attending college.
“There are scholarships on campus that do cover all of the costs of going to college,” he said. “We have to recognize that our grant has to be competitive to any grant on campus.”
• Banowsky addressed the recent conference expansions and Conference USA’s plans to merge with the Mountain West, creating a league with as many as 24 teams across five time zones.
“I view these changes as more or less natural changes,” he said. “I think it just happens and you can decide how you want to react to it, whether you fear it or embrace it. We’re trying to reposition our universities in the best possible way and move them forward.”
He said consolidation “continues to be something that’s getting a lot of traction.”
In the big picture, Slive said college athletics isn’t in altogether new territory with current challenges.
“We have to work hard to keep the balance and try not to tip it over,” he said. “The issues we face are difficult, but every era of collegiate athletics have faced significant issues of this nature.”
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