Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Is the Big 10 seriously going to propose a Rose Bowl killing Plus One?

image If anyone thinks the Big 10 will propose or even support a plus one playoff that endangers the Rose Bowl and its relationship with that conference, they haven’t been paying attention.

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein reported that the league was kicking around an idea that would have a four team playoff with semifinals played on college campuses.

Citing “sources,”Greenstein says the plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS pool, have semifinal games played on the campus of the highest seed and have cities bid on hosting the championship match.

The idea sounded so good on the surface that all of the usual playoff zealots felt something move.

Unfortunately for them, they’re drawing to an inside straight and their outs are all in the muck pile.

Just two months ago, Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany told the same reporter that he had no interest in furthering a plus-one proposal and gave his grounds for opposition:

Delany remains opposed to a Plus-One because he believes it would lead to an eight- or 16-team playoff that would harm college football’s regular season and bowl system.

“Our view is we’d like to stay where we are,” Delany told the Tribune in a telephone interview. “We do believe in the slippery-slope theory.”

Later, ESPN reported that he remained steadfastly opposed to the plus one model and made an even more blunt statement of the league’s position: “As long as I can go to the Rose Bowl, I don’t really care,” he said, addressing what tweaks might be made to the BCS.

The Rose Bowl hosts the champions of the Big 10 and PAC-12. If one or both are in a four-team elimination round down in Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa or Athens, they get stuck with Boise State vs. Oklahoma State, or something? Right.

Delany and others in the league value their relationship with the Rose Bowl much more highly than they do their role in the BCS. So much so, that they wouldn’t support a model that lets the above scenario take place outside of a BCS rotation that eventually lets the Rose recoup the losses in a year or three.

If a playoff system comes along that does not further the two leagues’ relationship with each other and the Rose Bowl, expect the Big 10 and PAC-12 to abandon ship. They’ll let the other guys duke it out in a plus one format and they’ll go play grandaddy in Pasadena.

Don’t believe me? Perhaps you’ll listen to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon:

"This whole notion of a playoff is ridiculous because I don't care what you come up with, it's not going to be a fair playoff. You've got a bunch of teams that don't play one another and play different competition and in different time zones in different conferences in different stadiums in front of different crowds and different weather and suddenly at some point in the year you are trying to arbitrarily decide which one is better and which one deserves to be in a four-team playoff or a six-team playoff.

"No matter where you draw that line, you're going to have controversy and people who are honked off because their team got cut off."

"… put that Alabama defense [from the national title game] out there against the winner of some small, Division I conference, and someone is going to get hurt. I think some judgment around how you create matchups that are fair and challenging and interesting is an important part of the bowl system. If you take that away and start to create seeding of a bunch of conferences that aren't anywhere near equal in terms of their talent level, I don't think that's going to be good for college football or create excitement in the postseason."

I strongly disagree with the notion that a playoff would be ridiculous and hopelessly unfair. A Final Four type of model is my preference because it balances the interests of the schools against the demands of the marketplace. It’s a good tradeoff.

I also recognize that there is passionate objection to the plan in the Big 10, and likely in the PAC-12, too.

It’s curious that Greenstein would have sources in the Big 10 tell him that the league is kicking around a playoff model when the most vocal sources in that group are its staunchest opponents.

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