The Big Ten is not only ready to listen to proposals regarding a national four-team football playoff, league and school officials are kicking around an intriguing idea.
Sources told the Tribune that a Big Ten plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS bowl pool and have semifinal games played on the college campus of the higher seed. That would do away with the facade of "neutral" sites such as New Orleans, Miami and Pasadena, Calif., and ease travel concern for fans.
The championship game then could be bid out, like the Super Bowl.
The concept of the Big Ten even entertaining playoff proposals seemed laughable as recently as two months ago. But in the wake of a low-rated BCS title game that satisfied few outside the Southeastern Conference footprint, the conference is ready to study and contribute ideas.
"We have to listen to the fans; we cannot be tone-deaf," said Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips, who chairs the Big Ten's Administrators Council. "The Big Ten is open and curious."
In 2008, the SEC proposed a Plus-One -- a more palatable term for a four-team playoff -- during BCS discussions, and the ACC supported it. But with the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12, Big East and Notre Dame disapproving, the plan never materialized.
"There has been a lot of bantering and rhetoric," Phillips said, "but no one has come up with a formal plan."
BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said that 50 to 60 BCS bowl/playoff plans were presented the day after the BCS title game in New Orleans, but they apparently lack details. The next college football cycle begins with the 2014 season, and most expect a new system to be approved this fall.
Also on the table: Creating a seven-win requirement for bowl teams, a rule that could torpedo more than a half-dozen money-losing games and end embarrassing contests between schools that dumped their head coaches.
And moving up the BCS title game. Alabama's trouncing of LSU took place Jan. 9, a day after the NFL's wild-card weekend. Fourteen percent of the country tuned in, marking the third-lowest rating in the 14 years of the BCS.
"There is a very strong sense that we have missed the boat and are playing games too late," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the Tribune. "Students are back in class, people are back at work."
Delany would not comment on any potential Big Ten playoff proposal, saying he first needs to take the temperature of university presidents, chancellors and athletic directors.
But he did say: "I think sports fans are conditioned to playoffs. I don't begrudge them that. They're looking for more games, but we're trying to do the right thing.
"It's a matter of coming up with something that does not kill the baby with the bath water. We have a regular season that is vibrant. We have 12 games plus a (conference) championship game -- that's a lot of games. We have academic calendars, though that doesn't resonate with many people. But if you're dealing with university presidents, faculty and coaches, you're talking about it."
— Chicago Tribune