Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I don’t trust Jim Delany, and neither should you

image For a conference commissioner, Jim Delany makes one hell of a politician. Like all shrewd politicians, he knows how to read public opinion and reverse course when his original position has become untenable. It other words, Delany was against a college football playoff before he was for it, and somewhere John Kerry smiles.

If anyone thinks Delany’s apparent change of heart is being made in the interests of the sport of college football, they probably think the former Democrat nominee for President opposed the Iraq war during the 2004 campaign out of dedication to principle.

The only person you should trust less than a politician who reverses positions is a politician whose change of heart is offering you something that sounds too good to be true. The Big 10 balloon-float of a plus one playoff model for major college football, as described in the Chicago Tribune report on Monday, is just such a proposal.

It has all the goodies that make BCS anarchists like Dan Wetzel positively giddy over the possibilities:

  • Seeding a four-team, three game playoff with the semifinals held on the college campus(es) of the higher seed(s).
  • Competitive bidding from cities seeking to host the final game.
  • College football’s national champion settled on the field.
  • Wresting control of the college football postseason from greedy, corrupt bowl executives.
  • Promising prospects of higher attendance and larger TV audiences for compelling matchups.

What’s not to like about a proposal fleshed out around these bones? Not much. It sounds too good to be true and therefore, it probably is.

Call me a curmudgeon, but anyone gleefully embracing a politician’s offer of shiny objects has failed to learn the lessons of life. And if you came of age during Watergate and still think there’s no hook, no gotcha, no catch… Well, some people are just hopeless.

Yesterday, I touched on the relationship between the Big 10, the PAC 12 and the Rose Bowl. That relationship has existed since the end of World War II. While some of the younger set dismiss the pact as a relic of a bygone era, few such critics sit in positions of authority and most of those who do exercise control are steeped in that tradition.

Accordingly, I don’t believe the commissioner of the Big 10 will propose or support a plan that would likely end the matchup between his conference champion and the champion of the PAC-12 in the Granddaddy of Them All. There’s a catch here somewhere.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic and optimistic supporter of a limited playoff model and many times I’ve expressed support for a plus one. The game of college football is nothing like the NFL, so its postseason should look nothing like the pro’s. A multi-round, seeded playoff model that matches Alabama or LSU against the Conference USA champ is a recipe for disaster, and at least one Big 10 official agrees with me.

The plus one model is the best tradeoff between fan demand for a legitimate championship and university presidents’ legitimate concerns over academics, logistics and finance. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good compromise and the campus semifinals angle makes it even better.

I just don’t believe that college sports’ shrewdest politician will be its principled proponent. Against it before you for for it; for it  before you were against it? I believe Delany has had a heart-changing epiphany about as much as I believe John Kerry did eight years ago.

I don’t trust either one of them. And neither should you.

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