Ted Simons: The controversial BCS system used to determine a college football champion appears to be history. The BCS has approved in principle a new four-team championship series starting in 2014. The new head of the Fiesta Bowl Robert Shelton is here to talk about the proposed championship system. Good to see you, thanks for joining us.
Robert Shelton: Ted, thank you for having me. I like the term “new”, I've been at it for nine months now. You’re keeping me young.
Ted Simons: Well considering after 10 years, pretty new there. But this playoff system, what did the BCS agree to?
Robert Shelton: I want to emphasize that there has been no conclusion yet. This is a group of commissioners and the A.D. at Notre Dame. They have been working rapidly, slowly, depending on your point of view. They are now focused on some kind of a four-team playoff configuration as different from the current BCS.
Ted Simons: How would the final four teams be decided?
Robert Shelton: That is still up in the air. There are discussions about the set of polls, just taking the top four. There is a discussion, in addition to that you have to win your conference. There are good comments about how you get, for lack of smaller terms, the smaller conferences, making sure they have access, say the Boises States. All of these factors are still in play. I think the one thing we can count on is it's now zeroing in on four teams as the focal point.
Ted Simons: People will want to know. National rankings, will they be a factor? Will these polls be a factor because boy, people are upset with those two factors in the BCS.
Robert Shelton: You're going to have to have some way to determine who's one, two, three, four. And that means a series of polls. Do you want computers, coaches, the A.P.? There's no doubt when you get into social choice you can't please all the people all the time.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, will all schools have equal access to the championship, and how do you do that?
Robert Shelton: I think all schools have access but you gotta finish in the top four.
Ted Simons: How do you do that?
Robert Shelton: Well, that’s a good question. Let's say you come from one of the power conferences. Now you play within your conference a number of tough games, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-12, ACC. When are you going to schedule outside of the conference? Are you going to schedule other tough teams so strength of schedule come into pools or if the polls don't take into account strength of schedule, are you going to face less challenging opponents? A lot of scheduling is going to revolved around how you determine those top four.
Ted Simons: Now can you look at the basketball championship? When you look at March Madness, the Final Four, all those things, they have a committee in a room somewhere figuring out who's number one and who's number 16. Will that be similar, do you think?
Robert Shelton: I doubt they are going there. It's different picking 64 or 68 teams, who knows how many there will be next year and picking four. There's a lot of heat over the difference between four and five, less heat, the difference between 68 and 69.
Ted Simons: Let's get to local concerns here. Where would these games be played? Let's go with the final four. Where would the finals and semifinals be played?
Robert Shelton: There are still options. One might be you play them in the four current BCS bowls where you would alternate a semifinal a regular opponent and semifinal and regular opponent. You’re going to have two semifinals and four bowl games. Every other year you have a semifinal. The championship game could be in those bowls. There's a lot of sentiment to bid that championship game out. Hopefully the greater Phoenix metropolitan area would be aggressive and strong in that bid. I've already talked to some people. There's some sentiment for playing at least the semifinal rounds on the home field of the higher-ranked team. I don't particularly like that. I don't think you have the right infrastructure at all these home sites. Last year, for example, Givingstill Water, Oklahoma State, an all expenses paid trip to Tuscaloosa might not have been in the best interests of college football, with all respect to Alabama the reigning national champ. So nothing has been settled on this but these are all possibilities they’re thinking of. They seem to have iterated to four teams, and now you only have about 25 other variables that you have to deal with on those four teams.
Ted Simons: What about the Fiesta Bowl? Where do you stand in all this?
Robert Shelton: We have been very up front, very assertive, talking to the commissioners, talking to the presidents on the BCS Presidential Oversight group. Certainly talking to Bill Hancock, who runs the BCS, about what we bring. We bring value-added. Locally it's well-known we have a volunteer cast of thousands that are second to none. We've got a destination that people love. You've got the Valley of the Sun, all these municipalities with the resorts and activities going on. You don't have ice dropping off of your arena or tornadoes to worry about. This is a place that people love to come. It's because of the infrastructure. Kudos to all of the municipalities around here that put it together. We can really claim, as no other site can, to be in a genuinely neutral site.
Ted Simons: Can you get past the past? In other words, is the speed bump? Is that a handicap?
Robert Shelton: That is gone. I've gone around and met with all the commissioners, and they say that's done, you've handled it, you've got a board and bylaws, you've set up a government structure that's the envy of bowls around the country. Let's talk about the future.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the reaction of the commissioners and football conferences. And what happens about a consensus? Obviously it's kind of vague right now. What if a concensus isn't reached?
Robert Shelton: Well they definitely somehow. I told them, they have a very tough job, when I had my one on 30 meeting with them in Florida last week. They will reach a consensus, they know they have to. I think they will reach it before the July 4th holiday. Then these options, plural, will go to the BCS Presidential Oversight Group, and that will be the final deciding group sometime in the future.
Ted Simons: Will we hear more details? When do we get something a little harder and faster?
Robert Shelton: The commissioners meet later this month of May, the presidents at the end of June. I think those are key dates to look for more specifics to come out.
Ted Simons: Alright. Sounds encouraging.
Robert Shelton: I’m encouraged. It's not done, we certainly don't control our own fate. People are very receptive and they know the Fiesta Bowl is a place where teams and fans and donors and supporters like to come.
Ted Simons: Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.
Robert Shelton: Thanks for having me.