An interview with Bill Hancock

John Paquette: Thanks everyone for joining us on this BCS media teleconference. In the past few days or actually the last week or so as we get closer to the season opener, we've received some media calls inquiring about the new playoff format, and also our views on the last two years of the BCS, so we thought this might be a good idea this afternoon to have Bill Hancock available for your questions. Bill has some opening remarks first, so first, executive director of the BCS, Bill Hancock. Bill.

Bill Hancock: Hey, John, thank you, and thanks everybody for joining the call. This will be just a backgrounder, I think, just a call to bring you up to speed on things.

Of course, I can't wait for the regular season to start. I've been counting the days, just like many of you, and it's going to start with a tremendous weekend. All the games of course will count on the drive to the national championships. If I can't be at a game in person, I have a date in the Hancock house with my easy chair, my remote, my TV and my wife and hopefully a grandchild or two. That's what the fall is all about. So let's get going.

As you know, it's been a very productive and exciting off season for all of us. And of course, in two years we will launch the new post season with a new four-team seeded playoff to determine the national champion. As you know, the semifinals will be played in bowl games on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and we love that because it keeps the holiday tradition alive and well.

And of course, since it's four teams it will protect the regular season. So continuing in the future every game will count. But we have some very important work ahead of us, and I thought I would just touch on that before we turn it back to you, John, for some questions.

Broadly, three decisions are to be made and the commissioners and presidents will work on them all along this fall, basically on more or less parallel tracks. The media rights agreement, the selection of the sites and then the operation of the selection committee. And from my conversations with many reporters and fans, it seems like the structure and the mechanics of the selection committee is the first thing on people's minds. So I'm going to just give you a little more information on that.

Nothing in this is final, but some of the leading suggestions so far include that every conference would be represented on the committee, that there may be additionally some at-large members. As for the number, I think we're talking about somewhere in the 15 to 20 range. There will be recusals to prevent conflicts, just like we had in the basketball committee. So the committee size would have to be large enough to accommodate those recusals, and we will obviously make sure the committee has ample resources to do its job.

Who's going to be on this committee? You know, this is fascinating to consider. The people who will be making those decisions will be football people, and they will use their expertise and good old-fashioned common sense. None of this is in stone, but I know they will consider records, strength of schedule, head-to-head results against common opponents, all those commonsense things that we would all expect a group to look at.
The time table for finalizing the committee has not really been set. It's in the very preliminary stages now, and finishing up the mechanics will take several months. I would think maybe it would be in place by next summer.

As far as the site selection, that's on a little faster track, that is, where we'll play the semifinals and the championship games. We expect to start that process shorty and be ready to announce those sites sometime in the next year.

The television negotiations for the new structure will also happen this fall. We think that'll begin sometime in October. And the fourth aspect one I didn't mention before will be that the revenue distribution discussions will continue kind of along the same timeline. So that's a quick snapshot of where we are.

And John, before we go to questions, I would just like to say a couple of things about where we've been. As all of you know, this will mark the 15th year in a row for the BCS which brought the top two teams together in a bowl game, which almost never happened before. And I just think it's worth another reminder, that before the BCS that the top teams almost never met for the championship in a bowl game. And it was a seismic change when the BCS came in. And it had some wonderful good consequences. I tend to think the best one of those is what it did to the regular season because the BCS turned what I thought considered to be basically a regional game into an extremely popular national sport.

And yes, we all understand our format has had its share of controversy, but I believe and will always believe that the BCS is the reason college football has grown so exponentially from a regional sport to truly a national one.

So as the BCS is taking its last laps, so to speak, I just want to remind folks that our system will be recognized for having been a powerful and positive part of the sport's great and wonderful history. And also we're looking forward to the future. So John, let me stop there and I'll be happy to take any questions.

JP: OK. Again, for questions it's star 1 on your telephone and then the operator will introduce you. Questions for Bill Hancock, please.

Can you talk about more specifics on the selections for the bowls? I know you got three that are essentially in right now. Where do you go specifically for the Fiesta Bowl?

BH: Sure, Craig. There will be six bowls. The semifinals will rotate among six bowls, as you know. The exact location hasn't been determined. But we intend to send an RFP to prospective hosts sometime later in the fall. I would point toward November for that. The three existing bowls have an exclusive first negotiating window. So we will implement that.

And then, Craig, at the same time we will be sending an RFP to the cities who are interested in hosting a championship game. And I would expect the final decision would be made by spring, maybe April.

Would you have a decision possibly earlier for the current BCS bowls to have the first right of refusal? Would they know before and then possibly open up the slots for a couple of other bowls after that or would you wait until April to announce all of them?

BH: There's a possibility that the first negotiating window would conclude with some of the bowls being selected, yeah.

OK. When is that?

BH: We don't have an exact time table for that, but I would say sometime either late fall or shortly after the first of the year.

JP: OK. We'll take one more swipe for questions. If you want to get a question in, star 1.

Hey, Bill. How you doing today?

BH: Hey, Matt, doing fine.

One of the things I wanted to ask is you talked about the committee and what sort of possible requirements you might have for it. Do you have any idea or guess -- you talked about football people. But maybe specifically what kind of football people are we talking? People currently in the conferences or people who have connection with conferences?

BH: That's yet to be determined. But I do think that probably the best model for this committee will be NCAA sports committees. You know, they work. They've been successful. They're something that we're all familiar with. And those are made up of administrators from conferences and institutions. So if you take that as a model, I think that would be the direction at least that we will start in.

As far as the at-large members, we just don't know. There have been all kinds of conversation about it, but I think the bulk of the committee membership will be current administrators at schools and conferences.

And one more question. You talked a little bit about that the RFP going out for the National Championship for cities interested in that. But do you have any specific guidelines for those cities or which cities you might include in that or is it just a general?

BH: We're working on the guidelines. But any interested city that meets the guidelines will be considered. I expect the minimum seating capacity to be somewhere in the 65,000 to 70,000 range. We'll be looking at hotels, transportation into and out of the city, the city's ability and willingness to conduct a major event of this kind. And we know there will be lots and lots of interest from cities who would like to be a part of this.

JP: Again, it's star 1 for questions. We'll take one final swipe for questions for Bill Hancock. Hit star 1. Bill, looks like we're good here -- we had one just come in late and we'll go to that questioner.

Thank you, Mr. Hancock. I'm interested in your opinion on this. Do you think it's a good thing for some of these conferences to have the AQ status going away in two years?

BH: You know, Jerry, the conferences expressed in our meetings that automatic qualification was not in their best interest, and their brethren, the other conferences, heard that. Yes, I think it's a good thing for college football.

What we've done is basically decentralized the post season. Our focus will be on the semifinals and the championship game. And then within that, every conference will be free to make its own bowl arrangements.

And then we have slots in some of the top tier bowl games when they're not hosting semifinals, those games will be available to the highest ranked teams. So I think the decentralization of the sport will be good for everyone, as will the fact that every conference has the ability to make its own bowl arrangements.

That's what everybody's saying. Thank you very much.

BH: You bet.

I wanted to follow up on the question that came from Pittsburgh. Will the committee slot teams for all six of the bowls in addition to the championship game?

BH: Three of the six will be contract bowls, so their slots will be filled by their conference contracts. The other three, of course, will have semifinals on occasion, and the working concept is that each of those would have semifinals four times in the 12 years.

And although we don't know for sure, and I would ask you when you write this just to predicate your statement with the fact that nothing is in stone and the conversations are very preliminary. But the working concept is that the committee would assign the participants in the other games that are not contracted or not hosting semifinals. And the concept is that the highest ranked available teams, as ranked by the committee, would be slotted into the games with consideration for geography as well as the best matchups.

For example, the Rose Bowl if they're not hosting a semifinal or if their teams are not playing for national champions, they would take the Big 12 and you would see them in the Big 10 and the PAC-12 champion.

Again, local question. Fiesta bowl has no tie-in two years from now, so if they are in that six-bowl rotation, then would the committee then find the two best teams to play in the Fiesta Bowl; it wouldn't be up to the local Fiesta Bowl committee to select those teams?

BH: That's the working concept, Craig, and I'm sure the committee would listen to the bowls about what their geographic considerations might be. But again, the concept is at the end of the day the committee would make those pairings.

OK. All right. Thank you, Bill.

JP: Final swipe for questions. Star 1. Looks like we're good, Bill.

BH: Have a good season, everybody. We look forward to seeing you on the road.