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Last week the college football universe was abuzz with news that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany floated the idea for a four-team playoff with two semifinal games on campus.
With those public comments — in conjunction with past SEC and ACC support for a four team playoff and recent Big 12 endorsement of the idea — we’re guaranteed a four team playoff by the 2014 season.
The BCS as we know it is finished. Indeed, one day explaining the BCS era to your kids will be as complicated as explaining using bloodletting to treat the sick.
We should have seen this coming since SEC commisioner Mike Slive speaks very carefully in public. His pronouncements run behind the news; Slive only speaks publicly when consensus has arisen. By the time Slive publicly acknowledged support for a plus one at the BCS title game, I think private talk was already past that point.
Could Slive’s talk of a plus-one consensus have served as a preliminary way to set the table for something greater that comes from another conference commissioner?
I think so.
What was Slive’s public reaction to Jim Delany’s comments? This didn’t get much public attention, but it was interesting — a subtle shot that also hints of something more.
“I am pleased to hear there is renewed interest in the plus-one format, the same format we introduced for consideration in 2008,” Commissioner Slive said. “There are many details that need to be considered and it is premature to be campaigning for any particular plus-one model. I look forward to the upcoming meetings with my colleagues.”
Go parse his language.
“Any particular plus-one model.”
Could it be there is actually a debate coming on something greater than a plus-one, an eight team playoff, perhaps?
I started to wonder this more and more after I looked back at the BCS era to give y’all a picture of what a four-team playoff would have looked like, I spent the weekend trying to think about why Jim Delany, a calculating and shrewd politician who doesn’t issue public comments by accident, would have made these statements at this point in time. In other words, why did he decide to step into the fray now and put the Big Ten firmly behind a four team playoff? Once these comments were made, backtracking became almost impossible. The Big Ten can’t combat a playoff now.
What did Delany gain by his comments? Why were they made?
Stop it, I’m not buying that hosting semi-final games on campus is the reason why he made these comments. Big deal. As you can see from this data, 23 of the 28 on campus games would have been below the Mason-Dixon line or in California. It’s not like the Big Ten would gain a great deal of competitive advantage from a plus-one model as advocated by Delany. In fact, Ohio State, the only Big Ten team that would have hosted any games in the BCS era, might have lost at home and never played for the title at all in the three years it did compete for the title.
In other words, on campus plus-one games actually make it tougher for Big Ten teams to win titles.
So the more I thought about it the more I came back to one irrefutable fact that has not yet been publicly ackowledged — new Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott is a firm proponent of a college football playoff. Given the choice between aligning himself with Mike Slive’s plus one — and potentially more — or Jim Delany’s existing bowl structure, Scott has lined up behind Slive.
So the biggest takeaway from Jim Delany’s comments is that Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott isn’t wedded to the Rose Bowl like Delany and the Big Ten. (If you look at the data the Pac 12 would have benefited the most of all by a four-team playoff in the BCS era.)
But we don’t know this yet.
So far Scott, usually loquacious, has tempered his comments on any college football playoff. Telling the Arizona Republic on Thursday:
Which brings us back to our previous question, if the Big Ten has been previously opposed to the idea of a four-team playoff, what would compel Delany to suddenly break with his past position?
I think the answer is simple — an eight team playoff has substantial support. Support that heretofore hasn’t been discussed much publicly. That’s the only reason why Delany would make his comments now, he’s fighting a rearguard defense, trying to draw a line in the college football sand, he’s lost the playoff battle, now the debate is over how large that playoff will be.
Could it be an eight team playoff by 2014?
That would fit with Larry Scott’s bold vision for college sports.
And the resulting television deal would make it rain on college coffers.
Make no mistake, once a four team playoff begins, an eight team playoff is a foregone conclusion. In this, the BCS is correct, playoff creep is real. Do you know what another phrase for playoff creep would be? Capitalism.
Once a “plus one” is here you know what that means, right? In the slippery slope of the Big Ten, the answer is simple.
More playoff games!
Only college football would react to the public demand for more of its product by attempting to ration the supply thereby ensuring itself less money in the process.
Welcome to North Korea on the banks of the Chicago River.
Long time allies, the Pac 12 and the Big Ten are divorcing on the playoff issue.
We’re going to get a four-team playoff for sure in 2014, but we could end up with an eight team playoff.
I’m betting Larry Scott is about to drop another bombshell on the college football world.
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