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BCS WIDENS ITS LEAGUE POOL

The Bowl Championship Series is opening its automatic bids to all Division I-A conferences, starting with the 2008 season, and the leagues will be judged from top to bottom.

Currently, only the six conferences that formed the BCS could earn an automatic bid to college football's four major bowl games, including the title game.

The previous standard for holding on to automatic qualification was based on the average BCS standings finish over a four-year period of a conference's top team in the rankings. That will still be a factor, but not the only one.

The BCS will also take into account the number of teams in a conference that finish in the BCS top 25 in a four-year period.

"In addition, we will look at a conference's overall strength," BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said on the final day of meetings with officials from 11 major college football conferences and Notre Dame's athletics director.

The Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big East champions have had automatic entry into the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls since the BCS was implemented in 1998.

Of the original six BCS conferences, the Big East would appear to be most affected by the changes. The league lost Miami and Virginia Tech last season to the ACC; Boston College follows this year. However, the addition of Louisville this year, along with South Florida and Cincinnati, should help the Big East's chances of keeping its elite status.

Beginning in 2006, Notre Dame will earn an automatic BCS berth with a top-eight ranking, Weiberg said. Also, Notre Dame is now guaranteed BCS money every season -- even when they don't play in a game.