NEW YORK (AP) — Conference commissioners will meet Monday, hoping to decide whether to have a six- or seven-game format for the new college football playoff.
Support has waned for adding a seventh marquee bowl game to the semifinal rotation. But there is still a strong possibility some automatic entry to the system will be given to the Big East and four other conferences now without a bowl of their own.
"Whether it's seven games or six games, the commitment to access that was established at the Chicago meeting, I'm confident, is still in place," Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said Sunday from Denver, where the commissioners regular meeting with the BCS presidential oversight committee was being held.
The idea of adding a game to the playoff rotation that starts in 2014 came up at that September meeting in Chicago and initially had strong support.
The tentative plan was to match the best team from Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference against a team from the Pac-12 or Big 12.
But the game drew tepid interest from television networks, including ESPN, because adding a game to the format would increase the overall price tag on the new postseason package.
ESPN.com reported two weeks ago the addition of a seventh game to the format was becoming unlikely. Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco responded there was still support for it among the commissioners.
Last week, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told The Associated Press that both the six- and seven-game formats were still "on the table."
A plan has also been discussed to have the best of the rest vs. Big 12 or Pac-12 bowl as part of the six-game format, but that, too, has met resistance.
In the new format, the Rose Bowl will keep its traditional Pac-12-Big Ten matchup in seasons it does not host a national semifinal. The Big 12 and SEC have locked up the Sugar Bowl when it's not hosting a playoff game.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has a similar deal with the Orange Bowl, and another deal is being completed that would reserve the other spot in the Miami game for a team from the SEC or Big Ten or Notre Dame.
Bowlsby and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott have been pushing for a second access point to the most lucrative games to match the deal the SEC and Big Ten have with the Orange Bowl.
But that would leave only two games (four spots) available for at-large teams, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive would prefer to have more spots free.
Instead, what seems to be more likely is that the commissioners will implement a guarantee that the best team from the five conferences without contract bowls will have a place in the new postseason format if it does not qualify for the playoff.
There are plenty of other issues regarding the new playoff system still to be worked by the commissioners
The revenue distribution and television rights committees held conference calls last week, and both of those items will be on the agenda in Denver.
The television committee has been negotiating with ESPN, which currently owns the broadcast rights to the BCS and has exclusive negotiating rights for the new format until the end of the month. Sports Business Journal reported last week that ESPN offered a 12-year deal worth $7.3 billion.
If the exclusive negotiating period ends without a deal, the new playoff format will hit the open market, and surely draw plenty of interest.
"We've put up the framework of the playoff," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "Now it's a matter of finishing the construction."
ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.