Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I will give up since the Big Ten apparently has

What came out of the Big Ten meetings yesterday was a depressing update on playoff negotiations from Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, who apparently is capable of using proper English when called upon:
"I think the 'what' is kind of already there," Hollis continued about the four-team (playoff) format. "It's now kind of 'who' and 'how.'"

The "how" won't include campus site semifinal BCS games, as the Big Ten had once hoped, allowing for the possibility of a cold-weather matchup with a SEC or Pac-12 foe.

"For me, it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Hollis said after acknowledging the league is conceding the idea of home playoff games is dead. "There's a lot of historical value and there's a lot of future value to having the Rose Bowl connected with Michigan State, with Michigan, with the Big Ten Conference, and the home (game idea) takes that out."
Sigh. I'd like it noted for the record that whatever "historical value" Michigan State has accumulated due to its connection with the Rose Bowl is pretty limited based on four appearances, none of which was in the last 25 years. But OK.

There are various other quotes from Hollis and Gene Smith that make it obvious that the Big Ten either (a) never really had any intention of pushing for home playoff games, which makes zero sense, or (b) realized it was fighting a losing battle against the bowls and is now selling said losing battle with a ridiculous public-relations stance. Example:
"Let’s say Ohio State is hosting, and it’s whatever the date may be  — January or December — let’s say it’s 5 degrees. Is that right for the game? We’re not pro," Smith said.

"I think we need to figure out what’s better for the game. I think a fast surface, good weather is important for the game. It’s important for the kids."
Of course it is. Also, the Michigan-Ohio State game will heretofore be played at Ford Field in order to ensure a fast surface and good weather since everything else is unimportant. Sanctity, fairness, etc.

This is aggravating for obvious reasons, most notably the Big Ten's willingness to give in on the best idea anybody had come up with yet for the soon-to-be-implemented playoff and instead focus on maintaining a relationship that nobody other than Jim Delany and a couple other old guys really care about. The only thing stopping me from driving to Chicago and punching Delany in the face is the aforementioned losing-battle aspect: I was pretty skeptical all along that the Big Ten had any chance of getting that approved considering that every other conference with a prominent voice had as much reason to support bowl sites as to support on-campus sites. A one-on-five fight isn't much of a fight, hence the "conceding" that's now taking place.

That said, if there was any chance of persuading a couple relevant people that on-campus playoff games would be the awesomest thing in the history of awesomeness and the Big Ten gave that up to continue pretending that it's 1948, Delany and the complicit athletic directors are all freakin' idiots.

This is from Dan Wetzel's Pretzels hilariously snarky piece today:
The Rose Bowl's power over the Big Ten is something to behold. It makes normally intelligent men say ridiculous things.

"It would be a competitive advantage to have semifinal games at home fields … but the bowls have been good to us," Nebraska AD Tom Osborne said.

If rampant profiteering, indictments charging corruption and millions in unnecessary expenses passed onto the schools counts as "been good to us," then the Big Ten may be the battered spouse here. Even so, exactly how good would a bowl have to have been to be better than a Nebraska playoff game in Memorial Stadium?

"If you took them out of the playoff, it would pretty much destroy the bowl system," Osborne said.

Ah, no, it wouldn't pretty much destroy the bowl system. In fact, it wouldn't destroy it at all.
The quotes: They make no sense. I honestly can't believe the things I'm reading ...
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon understands the advantage a Big Ten team would gain from a playoff game on its campus but also realizes it’s not fair for schools across the country to play in the cold weather.
AAAARRGHGH. To summarize, hosting a non-Midwest  team in cold weather is unfair but going to L.A. to play USC or New Orleans to play LSU is just fine and dandy. This (among other reasons, obviously) is why the Big Ten hasn't won a national title in a decade. Who needs national titles when there are trips to Disneyland to be had?

In the bigger picture, I have yet to see a logical reason to continue giving the bowls all the power and most of the money when a playoff could cut them out via semifinals on campus, which would be an improvement even if money were no issue at all (lol yeah). Tradition blah blah blah; the bowls would be more than welcome to exist in their current format and would see literally no change other than a slight drop in interest among casual fans, who would largely be focused on the playoff-type thing rather than the BCS bowls going on at about the same time. Tom Osborne's comment about the bowl system is either unbelievably stupid or a toeing-the-company-line lie; I'm not sure which is worse given that the company line requires a lobotomy and some Rose Bowl-sponsored lube to accept.

So the question is whether the athletic directors are stupid or if Jim Delany is this guy (except with a Trapper Keeper covered with hearts and Rose Bowl logos):

I do not know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that the Big Ten (or at least the most important person associated with it) is insistent on old-timey box socials in January to the point that it negatively affects the conference's teams both financially and competitively. So that's nice.

What I also know (or can assume based on the above comments) is that the "where" part of the playoff discussion has been more or less decided. It only makes sense to publicly sell the Rose Bowl as the most important thing EVER after a relationship with the Rose Bowl has been maintained, most likely via the sort of plan Stewart Mandel reported about a couple weeks ago:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week's discussions in South Florida have confirmed to that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams' conferences. For example, No. 1 Alabama of the SEC would host the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 USC of the Pac-12 would host the No. 3 team in the Rose Bowl.
There's no sense in bidding out three games (both semifinals and the title game) on an annual basis, so if on-campus sites are officially out (which they are), the above-referenced proposal is about all that's left. The only not-yet-totally-eliminated alternative would be rotating the semifinals among the current BCS sites on a predetermined basis, which would be closer to the current system but apparently doesn't have a lot of support (beware self-promoting blockquote):
Mandel's source says the rotation thing is "not as likely" to be implemented because of the less-than-ideal scenarios that feature USC playing LSU at a hypothetically neutral-site game in the Sugar Bowl while the Rose Bowl hosts a Virginia Tech-Oklahoma game nobody really wants to go to.
Insert witty remark here about the unfairness of USC playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl and what that says about the Big Ten desperately pleading for the chance to play USC in the Rose Bowl.

Anyway, the silver-lining aspect of the Big Ten's stupidity is an apparent consensus on the location issue. That wasn't expected to be one of the more problematic issues but is still basically done and out of the way, which is swell since there's now one fewer thing that could potentially blow up the plan for a June 20 recommendation. All that's left now is figuring out who goes (which should be simple but instead will be laughably complicated because of Jim Delany) and how the "who goes" part gets determined, most likely via a selection committee that will in turn require an unnecessarily complicated discussion about how said committee will be assembled.

The good news: The countdown I've been lapsing on is now at 35 days. BTW, this would be an ideal time for Jim Delany to win a 35-day vacation to some remote Pacific island with zero cell service if anybody has a hut available.


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