If major college football adopts a playoff format, University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez would like to see the media have a major role in implementing it.
Bowl Championship Series officials are trying to devise a Final Four model to present to TV executives by June 20. The current BCS contract with conferences, bowls and ESPN, the current rights holder, expires after the 2013 season.
At the heart of the playoff discussion is the notion a selection committee should determine the semifinalists, not the current amalgam of human and computer polls.
Alvarez, an early proponent of the selection committee idea, believes it should be made up of people who have football backgrounds — who can break down game film and assess the quality of team personnel — and said media members should have a prominent role on it.
"The ideal thing would be to get some media people involved," Alvarez said this week. "That is really important because they then can communicate to the public what the criteria are, how difficult decisions were made and why they were made."
Asked for examples of media candidates, Alvarez offered ESPN color commentator Kirk Herbstreit and CBS color commentator Gary Danielson. Both are former Big Ten Conference quarterbacks who are highly regarded nationally for their insights and football acumen.
Alvarez, who attended the BCS meetings in Florida last month, said the selection committee needs to be as transparent as possible because choosing the four best teams will bring scrutiny and controversy.
At the moment, the BCS rankings are determined by two human polls and six computer models. One of the human rankings, the USA Today coaches' poll, won't publish its ballots until the end of the season. Five of the computer equations are kept secret.
The selection committee could provide weekly updates once the conference seasons begin, thus eliminating the undue influence of preseason polls. It's been suggested committee deliberations be televised live so that nothing is concealed.
Conference commissioners and/or select athletic directors could be part of the selection committee, but Alvarez said the group must have a voice.
"If you have media people, they can carry the load as far as why the decisions were made," he said.
The biggest debate between now and the June 20 deadline is how the semifinalists will be defined.
Will it be the top four teams as determined by selection committee or BCS ranking, which is what officials from the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences as well as Notre Dame appear to want?
Or will the Final Four be devoted mainly to conference champions, an idea endorsed by the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, Big East and Pac-12?
The line between the two ideals isn't gray. During the SEC spring meetings, Florida president Bernie Machen said his league won't compromise on the makeup of the semifinals.
"I think the public wants the top four," he said. "I think almost everybody wants the top four."
Alvarez said he prefers a format with three conference champions and a wild card, provided all four are ranked in the top six.
"Then your championship game isn't just a money grab," he said.
Applying that formula to last season, the final four would have been SEC champion LSU, Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and Pac-12 champion Oregon with one-loss Alabama, which finished behind LSU in the standings, serving as the wild card.
If the top four teams are conference champions, the semifinalists are obvious. If not, the wild card would be the highest-rated team in the top six that didn't win its league title.
"You're going to have four of the top six for sure," Alvarez said.