And with that, Pitt fans should be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
The 11 commissioners of the FBS conferences and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick all met in Hollywood, Florida today to decide on the future of the BCS and a potential playoff with the BCS contract set to expire after the 2013 season. The consensus out of Florida is that the BCS as we know it will be no more. In it's place will be a four team playoff. Also on the table were 8- and 16-team playoffs, but the group shot down both of those plans as well as the Rose Bowl plan in case the Big Ten or Pac-12 champions were among the four teams in the playoffs.
With Pitt on it's way to the ACC, Pitt can be considered "safe." And by "safe", I mean that if Pitt were to run through an ACC slate unbeaten (or perhaps 12-1 with an ACC title), the Panthers would safely be in the top four and likely in the playoffs. The same can't be said if Pitt were to stay in the Big East. Looking at it's future alignment, would Boise State and San Diego State still be in the Big East? Without the AQ bid, is the conference still a desirable option? Both schools would definitely make more money in the Big East, but does that make up for the increased travel costs and being in a potentially weaker league? The Mountain West has recently been the stronger conference.
Without Boise and San Diego State, the Big East is the clear 7th best league. And who knows if schools like Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, or UConn would still be in the Big East with other conferences still potentially expanding. Right now, a playoff doesn't appear to be a good thing for the Big East.
The next thing the commissioners will have to decide is how the playoffs will be arranged. Will it be the four best teams in the country? Will it be the top four conference champions? The best for Pitt would have to be the four champions model. That would give them the best chance at qualifying for the playoffs should they go unbeaten.
The current favored model would be incorporating the BCS bowls as the semifinal rounds, although not so shockingly the Rose Bowl isn't completely on board with that plan. It is also possible that say Pitt were to win the ACC and the Orange Bowl wasn't a part of the playoffs that Pitt could head to the Orange Bowl. Bowl games will still be a part of college football in the future since there's too much money tied up in them, with the bowls picking teams after the playoff teams are picked. How teams will be selected is still in question. Would champions be picked for the bigger bowls? Or will the bowls pick teams that are guaranteed to draw the biggest crowds and ratings?
There will be a lot to debate and discuss before the commissioners meet again in Chicago on June 20th. But it's looking like college football will finally have a playoff.