Twenty-three years ago, Chuck Neinas presented a proposal for a college football playoff.
Neinas was then executive director of the College Football Association, which had a committee develop plans for a 16-team format. He presented the idea in May 1989 to Southwest Conference athletic directors in Austin, Texas.
It's taken nearly a quarter of a century, but a playoff — albeit smaller — for major college football now appears imminent. And playing a key role is Neinas, now the outgoing interim commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
“We had a committee study a playoff, just to show the membership how it would work,” Neinas said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman, adding that his proposal was well-received by CFA member schools.
Conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced Wednesday they've reached an agreement for a four-team postseason tournament, which would feature semifinals within the current bowl structure, followed by a national championship game, the location of which would be bid on like the Super Bowl.
The playoff proposal will be presented to university presidents Tuesday in Washington, where both Neinas and new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will represent the conference.
Although a “plus-one” model, where a championship game would be played after all the regular bowls, will also be presented to the presidents, the seeded four-team playoff is the favorite.
“I think that most of my colleagues would agree that it's going to be the four-team playoff,” Neinas said.
Neinas said he'll stay on with the Big 12 through at least the end of July and maybe into the first part of August.
“I've been the conference's representative in all the BCS talks, and Bob is now there with me, but I've been involved since the beginning,” Neinas said. “I was also involved in the beginning of the TV talks. So I hope to get those things wrapped up before I depart.”
He'll continue working with the conference to help Bowlsby during the transition period, and also to “pinch hit” for the new commissioner while he's in London for his duties with the United States Olympic Committee's board of directors, Neinas said.
Neinas, who was commissioner of the Big Eight Conference from 1971 to 1980, became the Big 12's interim boss after Dan Beebe was fired in September. Neinas is widely credited with stabilizing the conference, which had just lost Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC.
Under Neinas, the Big 12 added TCU and West Virginia, signed new long-term television contracts and announced the creation of a Champions Bowl to pit the winners of the Big 12 and SEC each year.