Big Ten Discusses Merits of a Plus-One
By Paul Myerberg // Feb 7, 2012
It’s a start. As first reported by Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, Big Ten leaders — and legends, I assume — have discussed the basic parameters surrounding a plus-one playoff model, one that would theoretically be adopted once the B.C.S. system is overhauled following the 2013 season. In short, the Big Ten’s model takes the top four teams in the final B.C.S. poll and creates a national semifinal, with the round of four played at the home field of the higher-ranked seed and the national final played at a rotating, Super Bowl-like neutral site. The Big Ten is not the first conference to offer up such a plan, but the conference is the first to discuss one publicly since the outcry against the B.C.S. reached its current fever pitch. Sometimes, being first can yield significant dividends.
Up next will be the requisite proposals from the SEC, A.C.C., Pac-12, Big 12 and Big East, with few paying attention to the latter and all paying very close attention to whatever plan Mike Slive and the SEC offer to the masses. The SEC, as we well know, is the one league that can go eyeball-to-eyeball with Jim Delany and the Big Ten.
And not blink first, more often than not. What would happen if the SEC opted for an eight-team model played at a neutral site with all the generated revenue — television, advertising and the like — going towards an around-the-world cruise for university presidents and administrators? Well, watching Delany and the Big Ten go to the mat against Slive and the SEC would be… something. It would certainly be worth the price of admission.
But by being first, even if Delany did not sign off on any public discussion of the topic, the Big Ten gets in on the ground floor of any future postseason alterations. And those alterations are coming, with Greenstein suggesting as soon as the end of this coming season. Having this plan in place, one that seems somewhat logical for all B.C.S. conference parties, might put the Big Ten in the position of dictating the conversation when all groups come to the table.
Better yet, the Big Ten’s initial foray into a post-B.C.S. existence has merit. There are pieces of the puzzle that would be fine-tuned — and fine-tuned again, and again and again — but there’s little argument to be had with the plan’s basic premise: four teams, two semifinals at a home field and a national title game played with all the pomp and circumstance befitting such a nationally-relevant sporting event.
The main issue, without delving too far into the nuts and bolts, is also what might make the plan so appealing to the B.C.S. conferences. According to Greenstein’s story, the final four — lowercase, for now — would pit the top four teams in the final B.C.S. rankings. What this would do is virtually ensure that four B.C.S. conference programs advance to the national semifinals; only two non-B.C.S. conference teams, T.C.U. in 2009 and 2010, have finished in top four in the final B.C.S. rankings.
That’s the plan’s lone drawback if you’re someone who views the F.B.S. as a 12-league organization, not someone who views the F.B.S. as an organization built on supporting the six B.C.S. conferences and Notre Dame. The push for the top four would trump the politicking done in recent years to earn one of the top two spots; under the Big Ten’s proposal, being fifth would be the current-day equivalent of finishing third in the B.C.S. rankings.
How many teams could have made a case for being among the top four at the end of the 2011 season? And what about the fact that Stanford was fourth while Oregon, the Pac-12 champs, were fifth?
But it’s a start, and a solid one at that. Where the Big Ten would need to make concessions is in its home field proposal, which would leave warm-weather conferences at a disadvantage. In terms of the weather, Ohio State would have no problem with heading down to Gainesville in December; Florida, used to fun in the sun, would have qualms with a plan that might send it to frigid Ann Arbor in December.
Two flaws that need to be addressed before this plan goes forth to a to-be-named N.C.A.A. committee: the ranking system — whether it retains a computer-based, B.C.S.-like system — and the idea of a home field advantage for the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final rankings. For now, the next move belongs to the rest of the B.C.S. conference landscape, with the SEC front and center.
And as Greenstein noted in his story, the SEC put forth the idea of a plus-one playoff model four years ago, only to have every other power broker in college football, minus the A.C.C., voice their displeasure. Among the batch not in favor of the plus-one model was, surprisingly enough, the Big Ten. Perhaps Delany knows that now, and not 2008, is the time for such discussions to begin. One thing is for sure: Delany is fully aware that getting in on the bottom floor can only be good for the future of the Big Ten.
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Tags: B.C.S., Big Ten, College football playoff, Jim Delany, Mike Slive, SEC
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