Big Ten still backs BCS system, prefers plus-one over four-team playoff
College football is moving toward a playoff of some variety, and the Big Ten is along for the ride ... against its wishes.
Commissioner Jim Delany said during a conference call Monday the league prefers to maintain "the status quo" -- that is, the BCS. But he also conceded the system has become wildly unpopular with fans, and is tired of employing a system that has "become a pinata."
If it must be scrapped, Delany said the league would prefer a "plus-one," a system in which two teams are selected to play in a title game after the bowls are finished.
That means a four-team playoff, which at one point seemed inevitable -- and likely still is -- is the Big Ten's third choice.
"If the Big Ten presidents 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.
"We think that, in many respects, it is as good as you could do."
Perlman and Delany -- who gathered with the rest of the league's presidents Sunday in Chicago -- said they understand that approach isn't supported nationally, and spent most of the call detailing their stance on how best to execute a playoff.
Delany said he continues to back a three-and-one model, in which three spots are reserved for league champions. He's been criticized for that approach, with SEC commissioner Mike Slive referring to it last week as "gerrymandering" the field.
However, Delany said he's been misunderstood. He says he agrees with the SEC that the best-four teams should qualify for the playoff.
But what's the best way to determine the best four teams? That's the rub, and what needs to be sorted out before a final system can be reached.
"Our search was to find the best four football teams," Delany said. "However you do that, typically it’s going to involve a lot of champions. And I don’t care whether that occurs in a committee or how exactly it occurs.
"We think champions in on-the-field performance should matter. That’s the way we’ve been structured for 100 years, and I presume that’s likely to be the case in the foreseeable future. The three-plus-one is just an overlay way to think about who’s in the event, and could be handled in a variety of ways."
Delany also backed the Big Ten's preference of a plus-one over a playoff, even though the plus-one is less popular nationally. In his explanation, he scorched the current system (which he and Perlman prefer over any other).
"The question is what’s the best selection process?" he said. "Is it non-transparent polls, non-transparent computer programs, allowing people to vote who have a stake in the outcome, ranking teams before they play? Isn’t that a larger problem than plus-one, or four inside or outside (a playoff)?
"It seems to me you have to be more transparent, you have to be more open, you have to avoid the conflicts of interest, and once you get that done, then to me the less-challenging situation is do you have four or do you have two?"
Those are questions that have to be answered this month when leaders gather three times to hash out a postseason model. BCS officials meet June 13 in Chicago, and Division I commissioners follow June 19-20. The BCS presidential oversight committee wraps things up June 26 in Washington.
Although, because there are so many competing interests -- not to mention TV contracts to consider -- Delany said negotiations could persist for months.
"When you’re working with groups of people, sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too," he said. "That’s what compromise is about, and you try to avoid demands. ... Not everybody is trying to have their cake and eat it too, and not everyone is making demands. It’s a matter of balancing interests.
"We’re working with a group trying to come to a place that creates a system that is good for college football and serves all of us over time, and not one that creates extraordinary rancor, either among our fans bases, or our coaches, or our conferences."
Delany also continued to maintain his league prefers to include the bowls in any postseason format, and wants schedule strength to be given added weight. He also wants a selection committee to help determine the playoff field.