At his worst, Bill Hancock is a good soul. He's a warm and gentle man with big heart and very little ego, which made him an odd choice when he became executive director of the Bowl Championship Series. He seemed too humble, too nice, to become involved with the bullies of college football.
Our paths first crossed in 2002, in an arena closer to figure skating than football. For years, Hancock offered a helping hand to hundreds of sportswriters covering the Olympics. He was a media officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, a fixer who opened doors for others and looked out for underdogs like him.
It was hardly a surprise Tuesday to hear Hancock announce that the abolition of the BCS, the very body that he was hired in 2009 to oversee, and the implementation of a four-team playoff system was "a great day for college football.'' It was just the latest example of him pursuing the greater good.
Good man, Bill Hancock, but he was leading a flawed operation. He inherited a system for crowning a national champion that was unpopular and ineffective, a problem the fixer couldn't fix even though lower divisions long ago had found the solution.
Division I football came with different sets of issues, but there was little argument it needed adjustment to continue its progression. It was time to get with the times. The 12-year deal, which starts in 2014, follows decades of glacial change.
No system will ever be perfect. Too many teams and not enough Saturdays exist in college football to determine a true winner on the field. Hancock, as the former head of basketball's Final Four, knew as much as anybody. It's a matter of time before a fifth-best team getting squeezed out squawks about the four-team system.
At the very least, the new format is a start toward getting it right. The regular season will be more intriguing and – we can't forget the money – the playoff system will pump billions of dollars into the cash cow known as the NCAA. Thankfully, officials came clean and announced the national championship game would go to the highest bidder.
Is four the right number? Perhaps. Maybe they'll realize that an eight-team format would be better and still manageable. Other loopholes are certain to emerge as administrators look for every advantage. Overall, the new system makes sense.
While the four-team setup is an upgrade over the archaic pre-BCS system and the confounding one currently in place, it could come at tradition's expense. The playoffs will be rotated among the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls. It means they will alternate in terms of importance every year. It's a small price of evolution.
The number of bowls in college football already had diminished the bowl season. The national championship game was being rotated, so sharing the big bowls is hardly breaking down walls. College football will be better. The key was getting administrators to push their egos aside and strive for the greater good.
And that's where Hancock came into play amid stubbornness and a what-about-us mentality that too often gets in the way. He became a voice of reason over the past six months with his mild-mannered personality. He doesn't have a what-about-me gene. Anyone in his path knows he's geared toward what's best for everyone else.