Big Ten: 'We have tried to be flexible' on playoff
PARK RIDGE — In a perfect world for Big Ten presidents and administrators, big-time college football would remain the same.
But it isn't a perfect world.
After 15 years of BCS bashing, college football is ready to move on. And the Big Ten plans to go along.
"While it would not be our top two preferences, we would certainly be in a position to consider a four-team playoff within the bowls, that would preserve our connection to the Rose Bowl and would move things forward," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said.
"We are trying to be open to the conversations that ought to take place between the conference presidents. We've tried not to put a stake in the ground over which we're going to (say) 'Over our dead bodies.' And we're trying to find a way to do what is ultimately best for college football."
The league held its annual meeting of the Council of Presidents/Chancellors during the weekend. The pending college football playoff was a hot topic.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Perlman talked about their discussions during a Monday teleconference.
The Big Ten has a set of principles it hopes to maintain moving forward. First on the list is preserving the bowls and the bowl experience for the players. The league also wants to limit the expansion of games and protect the importance of the regular season.
"We also recognize that we needed to be realistic, that we were not the only conference that had a say in this matter," Perlman said. "We have tried to be flexible."
Later in the month, conference commissioners will meet in Chicago to discuss the potential playoff formats. They will pass on ideas and recommendations to the Presidential Oversight Committee, which meets late in the month to decide on a plan.
Delany said he expects movement toward a playoff this month. But the format and details don't really need to be finalized until the fall, when college football leaders will begin their discussion with the television networks.
"We have TV consultants and they really can't test the market until they know what they're selling," Delany said.
"There's a general consensus in the industry that it's a good marketplace for college football."
The playoff won't begin until after the 2014 season.
At league meetings across the country, commissioners and athletic directors have been stating their playoff preferences.
Some have pointed fingers at other leagues, including the Big Ten, questioning their rigidness when it comes to a playoff format.
But Delany said he hasn't heard any of the criticism in meetings and conversations with the other leagues.
"Everybody is taking the high road," Delany said. "Everybody has been acting in good faith, exploring options, looking at strengths and weaknesses of each model. Most of the comments have been by people who have not been in those meetings."
In a four-team playoff format, Delany said he favors the best four teams be picked, regardless of conference affiliation. There have been suggestions that the Big Ten favored allowing only conference champions in the playoff.
"I didn't really think conference champions only met the public's demand for elite teams playing each other," Delany said.
"I think people understand now that our search was to find the four best football teams, however you do that. Typically, it's going to involve a lot of champions."
How to pick the teams will be a major question. The present poll system doesn't work for Delany.
"It's flawed," Delany said. "It's not transparent. It has people who have a stake in the outcome voting. It measures team before they play a game. The computer doesn't have an eye, so the eye test is missing."
Who will pick the teams? During the Big Ten meetings, Perlman said, the discussions favored a selection committee.
"Even if you move to a selection committee, I think there are issues about what instructions they are under with regard to how they determine who the best four teams are," Perlman said. "We didn't resolve that at this point."