After giving his annual state of the association speech Thursday in Indianapolis, Emmert acknowledged he would back a small playoff if that's what Bowl Championship Series officials decide to adopt.
"The notion of having a Final Four approach is probably a sound one," Emmert said when asked what he heard coming out of New Orleans this week. "Moving toward a 16-team playoff is highly problematic because I think that's too much to ask a young man's body to do. It's too many games, it intrudes into the school year and, of course, it would probably necessitate a complete end to the bowl system that so many people like now."
Emmert spoke two days after the 11 Bowl Championship Series conferences met to discuss possible changes to the system starting in 2014, but there is no consensus yet.
BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said Tuesday that 50-60 possibilities for various changes were presented during a deliberate meeting in New Orleans, where Alabama beat LSU in the BCS title game Monday night. Hancock anticipates it will take another five to seven meetings to reach a conclusion in July.
One possibility is the four-team playoff, or the so-called plus-one approach, that would create two national semifinals and a championship game played one week later. The original proposal, made in 2008 by the commissioners of the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, was emphatically shot down by the leaders of the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big East, Big 12 and Notre Dame.
The BCS title game pits the nation's top two teams based on poll and computer rankings.
But momentum is clearly growing for a larger playoff system.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany acknowledged this week that he would now consider the prospect of a four-team field.
"Four years ago, five of us didn't want to have the conversation," Delany told reporters earlier this week. "Now we all want to have the conversation."
Then on Thursday, the BCS picked up another major endorsement for a potential playoff.
Emmert has long said he expected changes to the BCS system and has repeatedly offered to help the BCS debate if they want it. The NCAA licenses bowl games, but does not run them. It also has no direct authority over the BCS system.
But a small, four-team tournament could be the perfect remedy for what many still consider a flawed system.
"I see a lot of ways that a Final Four model could be successful," Emmert said.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.