Iowa AD's position on football playoff system adapts to acceptance

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IOWA CITY — Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was one of the few to openly admit he preferred the much-scorned Bowl Championship Series to a playoff system. But Barta’s opinion evolved recently when he saw a new format could achieve what the BCS couldn’t, and it also could maintain what he deemed vital to college football.

“One of the biggest reasons I preferred the status quo was my fear of losing some control,” Barta told The Gazette on Wednesday. “The popularity of the sport is at an all-time high. I think there’s a few reasons for that. One of them is the regular season so important in college football, so I don’t want to lose that. Also, one of the things unique to college football is the bowl system. Those are two things that I want to make sure for the game of college football that we don’t lose.”

Tuesday, the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee agreed to overhaul the football postseason and set up semifinals within the bowl system. The conferences will stage a championship game outside the bowls. The new system will take place in 2014 and has a 12-year agreement in place.

Barta, who won a Division II championship in a playoff system as a quarterback at North Dakota State, wasn’t against a plus-one system provided his primary principles remained intact.

“Really if you think about it, because we kept within the bowl system, this essentially becomes an and-one scenario with modifications,” he said.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz laughingly called the overhaul “anticlimactic” on Wednesday but praised the new format for generating excitement and as “a real positive step.” He also was asked if the decision came 10 years too late, when the Hawkeyes finished the 2002 regular season 11-1 and 8-0 in the Big Ten but were denied a chance to play for the BCS championship. Unbeatens Miami and Ohio State outranked Iowa in both polls.

“I guess maybe, yeah,” Ferentz said. “But we’ve had a couple of chances to be in that mix and that’s the fun of playing; you just never know where you’re going to be playing at the end of the year. A lot of factors go into it.”

There are plenty of obstacles and both Ferentz and Barta admit controversy will swirl regardless of the format. But both believe the system is a positive step forward for the sport.

“What I’m hopeful for is (Tuesday’s) decision is sort of the first move toward the reconfiguration of college football without a major departure from the bowls,” Barta said. “If we can use this opportunity to strengthen the bowls, hopefully that will be one of the outcomes.

"The fact that we were able to keep it within the bowl system, the fact that strength of schedule and regular-season championships will all still be relevant, I think it’s ended up being a good move forward."

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