Big Ten championship game inevitable if expansion happens
CHICAGO - If and when the Big Ten expands, conference football coaches and athletic directors expect the league to add a championship game.
“I think that’d be the next step,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said Wednesday from the league’s spring meetings.
Three of the six BCS conferences currently have league championship games, to varying degrees of fanfare. The SEC’s game is huge source of revenue, the Big 12’s is well received but not quite as profitable, while the ACC’s has drawn a somewhat tepid response.
The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East don’t have the requisite 12 schools to host a conference title game.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Tuesday the conference did not undergo its expansion exploration in order to play a championship game.
“That’s not the motivation,” he said. “If it was, we could have done that at many times over the last 20 years.”
Alvarez said he has “mixed feelings” on title games in general.
“Sometimes it can blow up in your face,” he said. “I think back at Kansas State having a chance to play in the national championship game, get upset in their conference championship game and end up in the Alamo Bowl. That’s not much incentive. An Alamo Bowl’s a great bowl, but two weeks earlier you’re ready to go play for the national championship.
“I think it takes a lot of wear and tear on you. I think the exposure (is good) and I think that’s what people want. I think that’s what kids want. So I see both sides of it.”
Illinois coach Ron Zook, who coached in the first SEC championship game when he was an assistant at Florida in 1992, said he’s for a Big Ten title game if it’s done for the right reason - to determine a true conference champ if the league splits into two or more divisions.
“Now I think probably it would become important who is really the Big Ten champion, so that would probably be a necessary thing,” he said.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.