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Posted on Wed, May 16, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

As Big Ten's playoff model takes shape, conversation shifts from 'what' to 'how'

By Kyle Meinke


How will the 2012 college football national champion be determined? One major sticking point as conferences weigh four-team playoff proposals appears to be whether to include bowl games. The Big Ten favors inclusion, but others do not.

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Big Ten's major power brokers have come to an understanding on the basic infrastructure for their preferred postseason.

Now, the conversation shifts from "what" to "how." And to the league's coaches, that's the more important question anyway.

"I had a conference call with our football coaches about a week ago," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Tuesday at the league's spring meetings in Chicago. "What they said to me was the 'how' is even more important than the 'what.' They were in favor of the Rose Bowl, the bowl system. They felt it was the least slippery slope.

"They understood on-campus events could be competitively favorable to them, but they were very clear that the events ought to occur in the context of the bowl system."

Delany, one of the most powerful men in college football, outlined his ideal model for reporters after Tuesday's deliberations at Hotel Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. It mirrored the system presented earlier in the day by a handful of league athletic directors.

B1G SPRING MEETING sports reporter Kyle Meinke is in Chicago to cover the Big Ten Conference’s spring meeting. His reports:

Michigan players, Dave Brandon back 4-team playoff that includes bowl system

Michigan to spend $250 million to upgrade facilities for non-revenue sports

As Big Ten’s playoff model takes shape, conversation shifts from ‘what’ to ‘how’

Jim Delany favors raising bowl threshold to 7 wins, reworking ticket distribution

Athletic directors favor 4-team football playoff that includes bowls; selection committee popular

Michigan-Michigan State after dark? No trepidation from MSU AD Mark Hollis

They appear to be unified, with a plan looking like this:

  • A four-team playoff. Eight- and 16-team fields are off the table.
  • A model in which two or as many as three teams earn automatic bids into the playoff via winning their league championships. That leaves one or two slots for non-champions and independent teams.
  • A selection committee to help determine any non-championship bids into the field.
  • Inclusion of the existing bowl infrastructure, most notably the Rose Bowl. On-campus semifinals, which had gained some momentum nationally, are no longer being considered by Big Ten officials.

So, the league is reaching a consensus on what it hopes this system will eventually look like. Even Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, who has publicly opposed a playoff as recently as earlier this year, is on board.

But hammering out the details -- the "how" -- will require some finesse. Big Ten presidents and chancellors will determine the conference's official position early next month.

Conference commissioners will meet in late June and attempt to agree on a final version to present to university presidents for approval by July 4.

BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said last month that if no agreement was reached, an overhauled version of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game would be used.

One major sticking point will be whether to include the bowls in the playoff. The Big Ten favors inclusion, but others do not. Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds, perhaps the most influential AD in the country, is firmly in that camp.

He told the Austin Statesman "it needs to be their own bowls, their own TV, their own sponsors. Those four selected would not play in the bowls, and I’d have ‘em bid it out to cities and stadiums for the three games."


Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Associated Press

Delany, conversely, said the Big Ten's interest in including the bowl system is second only to its interest in preserving the regular season.

"Regardless of how we go, it's going to be difficult for coaches and fans and programs and conferences to absorb," he said. "The conversation about the how and the who needs to be really open.

"Let's get coaches in the room and talk it out. Let's get commissioners in the room and talk it out. Let's do it in front of the media. Let's (allow) everyone see the difficulty of these decisions, and then let's make decisions and live with it."

Delany also clarified recent comments he made to The Associated Press, in which he said he did not "have a lot of regard" for a team that doesn't win its conference championship. It was widely reported as a shot at Alabama, which won the national title last year without winning the SEC.

"I wasn't concluding that those teams ought not to be included," Delany said. "I was simply stating a case for some sort of hybrid combination (of league champs, non-champs and independents).

"I know it might not have been taken that way, and I could have been clearer. But I have heard from my in-laws in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Birmingham that they don't like (ex-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer's plan, which calls for a playoff featuring only league champions) and they wanted to clearly understand what I was trying to say."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:49 a.m.

I would say the season would still be just as important even if you allowed 8 teams into the system. The dumbest idea in college football was to create these conference championship games. You rarely get the 2 best teams in the conference playing and usually as was the case last year with LSU, you "award" the top team in the conference by punishing them by forcing them to play an extra game while your opponent sits at home resting and scouting you.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

If Georgia happened to upset LSU, do you think they should have then be allowed to be admitted into the playoff when they werent even a top 10 team ? The best 4 teams, not the conference champions. That would be solely a political decision abnd hence ruin the whole playoff system. Delaney needs to find another job doing something a lot less important.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

They can make it an 8 team tournament if they get rid of the irrelevant conference championship games.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:30 a.m.

"BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said last month that if no agreement was reached, an overhauled version of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game would be used." Overhauled version ? What is that ? They have been overhauling it every year and we are still left with the same problem . If they don't reach an agreement then this guy has to go, because he is not qualified to do his job.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

I do not understand why a team that doesn't win its conference championship would be considered. Otherwise, why limit the playoffs to four teams? I agree that a committee should choose the participants, just like a committee chooses the basketball tournament participants. This will help mitigate the value of playing a weak schedule (sorry, Big Ten, you've been a primary offender in recent years). I don't care where the games are played, but I'm tired of the Big Ten taking a rap for a mediocre bowl record when many of the big bowls are road games (especially the Rose Bowl). The tradition of the Rose Bowl ended when the BCS began. No sense taking extra steps to preserve it.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:18 a.m.

Because Alabama was the best team in the country last year as an example. The top four teams in the country should be the teams that play, not the winner of each conference. That's a joke. If that is what comes out of this then they have managed to make the the system even worse.

Ron Granger

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

Don't be silly. The biggest questions relate to what they'll get paid.


Thu, May 17, 2012 : 4:14 a.m.

Very insightful and shrewd cliche Ron