B1G Playoff Commets

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Last updated: 06/05/2012 2:28 AM
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Big Ten Prefers Postseason Status Quo, Knows It Can't Have It
By Tony Gerdeman

Following a weekend meeting of the Big Ten presidents and chancellors, speaking during a teleconference on Monday, the conference stated that their postseason preference beginning in 2014 would be for the status quo.

"If we were to vote today, we would vote for the status quo," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said. "We think it best serves college football. We think it best protects our student-athletes. I don’t think any of us are anxious for our student-athletes to play a fifteenth game."

However, Perlman admitted that there is absolutely zero traction for the status quo elsewhere.

"But we are also realistic. That doesn’t seem to be one that has gotten a lot of support. We know some movement is necessary."

The Big Ten's second preference would be for a "plus one" situation where two teams would be chosen following the bowl games.

A plus one "would provide maybe three or four games—maybe more—in the bowl system that could be exciting games and could implicate the national champion," Perlman said.

"It would provide access to any team—regardless of conference or independence—that played well during the regular season and played a nationally significant bowl game. And it would honor the conference champions, which we think is important."

In essence, a plus one would be an eight-team playoff, but an eight-team playoff where only two teams advance.

Even though the talk for the last month or two has been about a four-team playoff, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has said that a plus one is still a very real possibility, even though it may not be as popular as a four-team playoff.

"I would say it is still on the table," Delany said. "I met with our coaches in February and they asked, ‘Why are we doing this?’ I said one of the reasons we are is because nobody has come to the defense of the BCS for the last 15 years. It’s been a piñata. You can’t maintain a system without some support."

However, Delany came to the defense of the BCS today saying that it has been good for the Big Ten, but admitted that it was impossible to make everybody happy.

"We don’t find the fault with the system that others do," he said. "We think it has served us well, although obviously over time it’s been battered and criticized.

"My hope is whatever we do and whatever we decide to go with, that we support it and understand it’s not perfect and that we do what’s in the best interest of college football."

Right now, it is looking like administrators will eventually decide to go with a four-team playoff, which is the Big Ten's third choice. That doesn't mean they're against it, though.

"We would be in a position to consider a four-team playoff within the bowls," Perlman said. "That would preserve our connection to the Rose Bowl and move things forward. We are trying to be open to conversations that need to occur among the conference presidents."

While some might think the Big Ten's desire for the status quo is evidence of them trying to put their foot down when it comes to change, that is not the case per Perlman.

"We have tried not to put a stake in the ground where we’re going to say, ‘Over our dead bodies.’ We want to find a way to do what’s best for college football."

Deciding what the playoff is going to look like is just the first step. The second step, and one that is likely to bring a good dose of bullheadedness with it, is how the playoff participants will be determined.

The SEC and Big XII have come out in support of simply choosing the top four teams via whatever rating system is used to determine such things. The Big Ten and Pac 12 have both voiced concern that conference champions should be given first dibs.

Florida president Bernie Machen said last week that "we won't compromise" on their desire to simply have the top four teams make the playoffs. However, Delany today said that he was in favor of the same.

"I think it should be the four best teams," he said. "The question is whether a computerized poll, as we have today, is the best way to find the four best teams."

So yes, he thinks the four best teams should play, but his definition of the four best teams will likely differ with the SEC and the Big XII.

"I didn't really think that the conference champions-only (model) met the public's demand for elite teams playing each other," Delany said. "I thought the combination of champions and an elite at-large team regardless of status—it could be a champion, could be an independent, could be a divisional runner-up or championship loser—was probably the right formulation. But that was just to get the discussion going.

"I do think the two key issues are honoring champions, honoring strength of schedule, honoring teams and coaches that try to play good schedules and recognizing teams that play an additional championship game versus one that doesn't."

If Delany wanted to get the discussion going, he certainly succeeded. But even once the "who" is decided, there is still the matter of "how". The "how" seems to be a much easier fight, as most administrators seem to be in favor of a selection committee, and certainly the Big Ten is.

"We would feel comfortable with a selection committee," Perlman said. "But even if you move to a selection committee, I think there are issues with what instructions they are under with regards to how they determine who the best four teams are. We haven't resolved that at this point."

Delany said that he doesn't care if a selection committee is used, meaning that he's in favor of it provided it meets the Big Ten's specs.

The "where" is essentially already decided, as the bowls will remain a part of any playoff, though Delany is fully in favor of bidding out the championship game.

"(The championship game) doesn’t have to be in the bowl system," he said. "That fifteenth game should be a national game. It should be one that is available to different regions in the country and should be bid out. I have no problem with that. I think that would be good for college football and all of its constituencies to descend on a place and celebrate it.

"That isn’t to say that a bowl community couldn’t have an organizing committee and bid on the game. But I don’t think as a matter of right it ought to go to a bowl. But a bowl should not be precluded from bidding on it."\

Other Notables

— Delany said that the conference will distribute $284 million to their member institutions, which is a Big Ten record. That number includes television revenue, postseason revenue, NCAA revenues, etc. That means that each Big Ten team will receive over $24 million, though Nebraska's share will be less because they do not yet receive a full share. Asked when that full share would kick in, Perlman declined to give an actual answer.

— Delany doesn't foresee four 16-team super-conferences any time soon, or likely ever. "We had one 16-team conference, the WAC, and it didn’t stay at 16 teams for very long. We’ve seen the Big East morph in a variety of ways. One of the most underrated qualities about any conference is its stability and the glue that holds it together. Whenever you go beyond a certain level, you run into dilution issues. The larger you are, the less you play each other. The less you play each other, the less tradition you have."

— The Big Ten Network was also a part of the teleconference and they passed along some statistics from the remarkably successful network. They currently have 50 million subscribers and actually have more subscribers outside of the Big Ten footprint than inside of it. The network is also available in 20 countries worldwide, and their mobile presence "BTN2Go", which has 30 million subscribers, will be available internationally this season. Ratings for the network were up 15% from the previous year and ad revenue was up 20%. Their football inventory was sold out for the second consecutive year.

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