Ohio State, Big Ten AD’s Favors Playoff using Bowls, Not Campus Sites
By Brandon Castel
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was among those in Chicago Tuesday for the annual spring meeting of Big Ten athletic directors.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is due to speak with reporters some time today, but Smith was among the five athletics directors who met with the media following Tuesday’s morning session.
The focus of this off-season has been the new plan for a four-team playoff in college football, which could begin as early as 2014. The Big Ten presidents will meet in Chicago early next month to discuss this, among other things, but the athletic directors seem to have come to an agreement on recommendation for a college football playoff plan.
Above all else, it favors bowl sites instead of on-campus sites for the NCAA semifinals, something Smith has flipped his thinking on in recent weeks.
“The only thing I prefer now is we play in the bowl system,” he said Tuesday after the morning session on the first day of the two-day event.
“I was originally for campus sites, and I still go back there mentally now and then, but the bowls have a really good system set up to host these types of events.”
Having on-campus NCAA playoff games would seem to be a huge selling point for a conference like the Big Ten. Just imagine Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State packing out a 100,000+ seat stadium for one extra game, assuming the conference champion is in the mix for a four-team playoff.
Financially, that would make seem to the most sense for the Big Ten, and especially for a school like Ohio State, but Smith shifted his thinking based on the operational aspects of hosting a game of that magnitude.
“Look at their sites, locations and facilities,” he told ESPN.com.
“There’s a lot to be said about having that organizational structure in place, operationally. The bowls kind of elevate themselves for the semis.”
Under the proposed plan, the four current BCS bowl games—Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar—would be involved, with two of them hosting semifinals each year, based on the standings.
On years in which the Rose didn't host semifinal a game, it would continue host a traditional bowl game between a Big Ten team and a Pac-12 team.
As far as which teams will appear in those semifinal games, if college football does indeed adopt a four-team playoff, Smith and the other Big Ten athletic directors are very much in favor of rewarding conference champions.
“I’m more of a traditionalist,” he said.
“I believe we need to find a way to give some credit to conference champions. In our world, the way we’re set up is to be successful in your conference. When you win your conference, I hope we can find a way to give a quality conference champion some type of reward.”
Smith threw out the 3-1 model, where three spots go to major BCS conference champions, leaving one at-large spot for a highly-ranked team that did not win it’s conference. This past season, that would have gone to Alabama, a team that lost the to LSU during the regular season, but won the rematch in the BCS National Title game.
“I don’t think you can say all four placements should be conference champions,” Smith told ESPN.com.
“You have to leave some room for that high-ranked team that is not a conference champion. But clearly high-ranked conference champions should be in the mix.”
Smith also mentioned the idea of a 2-2 model, with two guaranteed spots for conference champions in the semifinals and two at-large spots. No matter how they break it up, there is always going to be controversy when it comes to deciding which teams belong in a playoff, and which ones get left out.
“This is probably going to be a little bit more controversial than the BCS was when it comes to bowls and how teams are selected,” Smith acknowledged.
“The current bowl structure we have has been solid over the years, particularly at the one and two spot. When you get to three, four, five and six, there is a lot of subjective debate that can occur.”
As of now, that debate will continue to go on throughout the summer. The university presidents will meet in Chicago on June 3, and the conference commissioners will converge in the Windy City later that month.
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