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Penn State president discusses BCS system

| Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010

On Sept. 1, Penn State president Graham Spanier was named chairman of the 12-member Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee. The committee was established in 2003 and expanded in 2009 to include a president or chancellor representing each Football Bowl Subdivision conference and Notre Dame.

Spanier, a founding member of the committee, has represented the Big Ten since the committee was formed. He replaced future Big Ten colleague, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman, as the committee's chairman. Spanier was chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before he was appointed Penn State's 16th president in 1995.

With bowl season in gear, Spanier took the time to answer some of the Tribune-Review's questions through e-mail about the BCS and his role in the controversial postseason system:

Can you describe your duties as president of the BCS Oversight Committee, and what types of decisions the committee makes?

The responsibilities of the chair of the Presidential Oversight Committee focus on leading the governance of the BCS, which includes policy issues such as structure, television contracts and revenue distribution. My goal is to work collaboratively with the other presidents and chancellors, the conference commissioners and the executive director on a smooth-functioning BCS.

You are a founding member of the committee and obviously no stranger to the BCS. Since being named president of the committee, how much more have you found yourself directly answering questions about the BCS and college football's postseason?

Most questions from the media are handled by our executive director, so I don't have to field many inquiries.

Why, in your mind, does the BCS work?

There is a tremendous amount of interest both in regular-season collegiate football and in the postseason BCS format. It works because every game during the season has meaning as well as the five BCS games that occur in the postseason. Many schools get to go to a bowl game, the bowl experience is enjoyed by the players, the host bowls do great things for their communities, fans have three or four weeks to plan for a trip over the holidays, and half of the teams end their season with a win.

Why is a playoff unlikely, despite all of the studies that say it could be much more profitable than the current system?

One should not assume that a playoff would necessarily be more profitable for the universities, although that is possible. More importantly, a playoff is unlikely because most university presidents don't support the idea for lots of good reasons. More money would not be a primary motivating force for a different system. It is the presidents who represent their conferences who in the end would have to decide to change the system, and there is insufficient inclination to do so.

There is a strong contingent of fans and media taking shots at the BCS. Does there reach a point where that criticism is difficult to ignore• A book was released in October titled "Death to the BCS." Did you bother reading it• How do you feel that three reporters spent two years crafting a book aimed solely at taking down the system you are now representing?

We don't ignore the criticism. We follow it and understand it. But we make our decisions on what we believe is best for the overall college game, for our universities, and for our student athletes. I regret that so many journalists spend so much of their time debating and constructing NFL-style playoff scenarios, since it is not likely a good investment of their time and effort. (I didn't read the book.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made headlines by saying he would like to use his money to create a playoff alternative to the BCS. A quick look to the past shows this has been attempted before, most notably with Oklahoma graduate Jim Wheeler in 1999. How often do you see attempts like this• What is your reaction to them and, more specifically, what was your reaction to Cuban's comments this week?

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't send me a new proposal for a playoff. I've seen scores of them over the years since the BCS was created, and even before the BCS existed, when I was involved in the predecessor organizations. I get so many such proposals that I don't even have the time to thank them for their troubles. We have an existing four-year contract for the BCS as currently organized, so we don't plan to entertain any new ideas in the near future. Moreover, there is no compelling sentiment for looking at a playoff beyond the current contract.

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