The idea of building a college football playoff system around a conference champion model doesn't scare Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. Despite the fact that the Irish are unaffiliated, he's confident that one of college football's most successful programs won't be at any disadvantage.
The NCAA, which plans to adopt a new postseason model by 2014, will likely somehow incorporate the top four teams in the nation into a playoff system. Whether the NCAA will go by top-ranked teams or adopt some kind of conference champion model remains to be seen, but either way, Swarbrick doesn't expect Notre Dame's independent status to be a problem.
If a conference champion model is selected, it is likely that the top teams from the Big 12, the SEC and the Pac-12 would be awarded bids, along with one at-large team. That way, elite teams that don't come from whichever conferences are chosen still have the opportunity to compete for a berth.
Even if a conference champion model is the route that's chosen (a decision will likely be made on June 20, according to CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy), Swarbick is confident that if the Irish deserve to be in the playoffs, they will be. And if they're one of the top four teams in the nation, they should be there, one way or another.
Swarbrick recently told ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna:
I remain comfortable at this point. I haven't heard any conference champion proposals that wouldn't allow us if we finished in the top four to be one of those teams. There have been all kinds of models for us—some are three conference champions and an at-large. There are a lot of permutations of it. None of them that have been discussed would preclude us from earning our way in.
Still, there have been discussions about Notre Dame taking this opportunity to finally join a conference—perhaps the Big 12 or the Big East, the latter of which the Irish's Olympic sports are already affiliated with.
Despite the fact that the time might seem right to finally give in to the pressure and make the move to a conference, Swarbrick is holding strong. Joining a conference like the Big East likely wouldn't do the Irish any favors as far as getting a bid to the playoffs, since the Big East is unlikely to be one of the three conferences whose champion receives an automatic bid.
Joining the Big 12—which Swarbrick declined to discuss in detail in order to halt speculation—would be much more of a challenge than an advantage for Notre Dame.
If and when a playoff system is determined, participating will still come down to performing like a top-tier program. Just like the goal in the BCS is to finish in first or second to make it to the championship game, the goal will be the same once the playoffs are instituted.
If you're good enough to be in the mix for No. 1, you should be good enough to be in the mix for the playoffs, conferences aside.
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