There are Bowl Championship Series meetings scheduled to begin in Phoenix tomorrow, and sources at ABC and within the BCS say television officials are ready to come in with a hardball offer for a "Five Bowl Plus One" plan that would create not only a fifth BCS bowl but a one-game "championship playoff" after the BCS games.
"I've heard some sentiment for that," said Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who is finishing up his two-year stint as BCS coordinator. "But I'm almost certain nothing will be decided at the meetings in Phoenix. We might hear some ideas, but I would be very surprised if anything gets done."
But a source familiar with the ABC proposal said, "They're going to come in and try and blow people away with a money offer to get this Five Plus One deal done."
The proposal will be made to commissioners of the six BCS conferences -- Big East, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and Southeastern -- as well as Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who represents the Irish interests as a full BCS partner.
The catch is that ABC, which controls all four BCS games under the current contract (through the 2005 season), wants exclusive bargaining rights on the deal.
Tranghese says he is not sure that can or should happen.
"That means a long-term commitment [perhaps 10 years] for one network on the main college football bowl games," said Tranghese. "I have some concerns about that."
What is in agreement is that the new BCS contract will expand from four to five bowl games, which would allow greater access to non-BCS leagues such as the Mountain West and Mid-American. The idea of a sixth ("Plus One") game to settle any arguments about the No. 1 team in the country also is gaining support. Tranghese favors it, and a majority of the conference commissioners reportedly are open to the idea.
Had such a system been in place last season, the embarrassment of having the No. 1 team in both polls not given the opportunity to play for the national championship would have been avoided.
Southern Cal was No. 1 in both polls but No. 3 in the BCS rankings behind Louisiana State and Oklahoma, who met in the BCS title game, the Sugar Bowl. USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and was awarded a share of the national title in the Associated Press writers' poll, while LSU beat Oklahoma to claim its half in the coaches' poll.
Under the system ABC will propose, LSU would have met USC in a one-game playoff.
Tranghese also said the BCS is making progress on other details, such as adjustments in the polls that will ensure that a team ranked No. 1 in both will play in the title game.
The BCS also will have to weed through the applicants for the fifth bowl slot. While games such as the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Peach Bowl in Atlanta appear to be front-runners, Tranghese said almost all of the non-BCS bowls have expressed interest and his inclination is to let the process play out. There would be bidding based on several factors, including attendance and financial commitment, rather than any arbitrary selection.