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Posted on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 1:58 p.m.

Birk's Eye View: Jim Delany admits SEC is kicking Big Ten's butt, promises better days are ahead

By Dave Birkett

Former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr wasn’t the only notable name at the annual Motor City Bowl golf outing Thursday at Lochmoor Country Club.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also stuck around for the post-dinner question-and-answer session with fans, and Delany was fairly candid when asked about the Big Ten’s poor showing against other BCS conference teams in national games.

First, the spin:

“Over the last decade we’re .500 against the SEC,” Delany said. “Those games aren’t played in Detroit and they’re not played in Columbus and they’re not played in Madison. They’re played in Orlando and they’re played in Tampa and they’re played in New Orleans, OK? So I don’t have a problem with that. We don’t play the Pac-10 in Detroit, in Wisconsin. We play them in Pasadena, a lot of times UCLA and Southern Cal. We win half of those games over time.”

Then, the truth:

“In any particular time frame, could be three years, could be five years, could be two years, you could get your ass kicked, OK?” Delany continued. “It can happen. We’re not playing Little Sisters of the Poor. We’re playing the best football teams in their region.

“So were we 1-6 (in bowl games) last year? Yeah. Were we 0-6 in the BCS in the last (three years)? We were. Those are the facts. But take me from 2000 or 1997 to 2005; I remember when Michigan played Ohio State. We were the toast of the town, one versus two, game of the century.”

Finally, the promise:

“This is a little cyclical,” Delany said. “It stands out like a sore thumb because we’re not playing Little Sisters of the Poor, we’re playing the best of the best in their backyard. And I’m convinced that our programs, with the coaching we have, the resources we have, the population base we have and the networks that we have, that we’ll be there.

“Now, are we going to dominate every year? We’re not going to dominate every year. Don’t kid yourself. This is a competitive environment that’s national in scope. We have our strengths, we have our limitations. They have their strengths and they have their limitations. So I’m itching to go. I think we’ve got great coaches, great quarterbacks and I want to play them. Would we be .500 if these games were played in our backyard? I don’t think we would be .500 at all. I think we would be a different number. It’d probably start with a six.”

I can’t quibble with everything Delany said, though I find the playing-in-their-backyard argument a bit ingenuous coming from someone who supports the bowl system. (You want Florida to come to Detroit in December, endorse a 16-team playoff with games at local bowl sites.)

That said, following Big Ten football from a distance the last few years, I think this is more than your normal cycle. The SEC is the “it” league right now, and with an abundance of premier programs (Florida, Alabama, LSU and Georgia), powerful coaches (Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin), a fertile talent base and the unwavering support of ESPN (the new 15-year agreement), I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

The Big Ten, with its large alumni bases and Midwestern roots, will never be too far from the top. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State can equal their SEC brethren (and USC, Texas, Oklahoma and a few others) in terms of prestige. But Michigan is down right now for who knows how long, and Ohio State and Penn State have been exposed athletically in recent BCS games.

Until that changes, until the Big Ten’s big boys begin to hold their own on the national stage, Delany will face the same searing questions and offer up the same unfulfilling answers.


Macabre Sunset

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 5:51 p.m.

Well, Appalachian State was probably among the top 40 teams in college football in 2007. And all the players saw was Div I-AA, so they didn't take the game seriously. Then, the Wolverines scored so easily on their first possession that everyone went into relaxation mode. They still could have pulled it out, but a top player flat-out forgot his blocking assignment on the final field-goal attempt. Not to excuse the loss, it was a terrible one. But the 2007 team was talented enough to play with anyone in the country.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:11 a.m.

lemans, I wasnt speaking of Carrs overall record against the SEC, just the last one. How do you go from losing to App St to beating #9 Florida in the same season? Somethings wrong with that picture.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 12:24 a.m.

I think you got it right, Mr. Birk. There's nothing we can do about it, either. Doesn't that grind a bit? I will say this: Watching OSU being beaten in the Rose Bowl by the much faster, much fitter USC team made me realize that Coach Rodriguez's program may be just what's needed to bring Michigan back and put them head to head with any Pac 10 team. And wouldn't it be nice to see the likes of USC and Oregon visiting the Big House when the Wolverines are ready at or above their historic level? Coach RR may have his day yet.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 8:59 p.m.

Willie, You are so wrong about coach Carr against the SEC he dominated them. What the Big ten has tried against the sec is to match their style...Coach Carr had it right he would pound them all game and wear them down...His record against the sec speaks for it's self.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 4:17 p.m.

Delaney is blowing smoke. Recruiting is the key to conference superiority. Speed thrills and speed kills. Speed guys by and large go south and west. As long as the Big Ten is basically a power football conference they will lag behind. Three yards and a cloud of dust doesnt cut it anymore. Everybodys running some version of the Spread. The Big Ten has some catching up to do. Personally, I think a hybrid of the Spread and Power I would be successful in keeping defenses honest and off balance. Michigans last victory over Florida was an anomaly and not par for the course. Those guys banded together to win in spite of Carr and not because of him. They were playing for pride. Right now, Ohio State and Penn State are the class of the Big Ten (while UM rebuilds) and they get owned by the USCs, Floridas and LSUs. Even MSU with Dantonio got handled by Georgia from the SEC this year. The Big Ten needs to become competitive with those schools first and then worry about being the better conference.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 1:35 p.m.

I was disappointed to see the Big Ten gradually move from one of the highest schedule strengths in Div I-A 3-5 years ago to the lightest last year. It's as if Delany has asked the ADs for a high dose of cupcakes to inflate records. I think the Big Ten needs to move to 9 in-conference games, like the Pac Ten does. And no more Delaware States.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 1:51 a.m.

michigan dominates the sec point blank. i grew up in ann arbor but have lived in the south for ten years. sec fans are worse than spartan and suckeye fans put together. while the sec plays good football, you have people down here who think that sec teams could compete with nfl teams. these people are so ignorant i was forced to root for the suckeyes when they played in the national championship games.


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 7:38 p.m.

It is cyclical, and lets face it the Big Ten has been the Big Two with a usurper now and then for quite a while. And yes Michigan is down now, but hopefully not for long while we confront head on the athletic competitive issues. The good news is Penn State has finally got their swagger back, and are responding to the increased tempo with their Spread HD. Rich is recruiter speedsters left right and center. Ohio State has Terrell Pryor coming along, and Tressel can't just be sitting still for the hard knocks they've taken. And then there's Dantanio / MSU, and Zook / Illinios, etc. Oh and also the chatter about adding a bye or two and playing into December to keep our edge. Point, we're not dead -- we're just mid-western conservatively slow at responding to change. (Just like we were when the west coast pass offense was repeatedly kicking our butts.) But the change is in progress. Go Big Ten!


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 7:27 p.m.

MSU could beat Vanderbilt if Vanderbilt only used 2 or 3 players against MSU's 11. Maybe.


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 6:40 p.m.

"I cant quibble with everything Delany said, though I find the playing-in-their-backyard argument a bit ingenuous coming from someone who supports the bowl system. (You want Florida to come to Detroit in December, endorse a 16-team playoff with games at local bowl sites.)" Great work. You should mention to Delaney that he is a walking oxymoron, just to see if he is sharp enough to thank you for the three extra letters.