"I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin."
In an office on the outskirts of Chicago sits the most clever man in the world. He has the power to move mountains, to fell demons with a stroke of his terrible pen, to create vast networks out of thin air. And despite the fact that he looks and sounds like a cross between Adrian Toomes and Willard Scott, he is in reality the singular man who holds the fate of the college football world in his wrinkly, arthritic hands. Per the Chicago Tribune:
The Big Ten is not only ready to listen to proposals regarding a national four-team football playoff, league and school officials are kicking around an intriguing idea.
Sources told the Tribune that a Big Ten plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS bowl pool and have semifinal games played on the college campus of the higher seed.
This is the weapon that kills the BCS. A four team playoff will be extremely popular, especially with any element of home games, and will likely lead to an expansion of up to 8 teams or more. The dumbest, most ass-backwards system that any sport, even pogs, has for determining a champion will be laid to waste as fans flock to a playoff and visit a terrible vengeance against Harris polls and computers and Bill Hancock's big stupid face.
This shall be done, and through it all, keep in mind that Big Ten were the ones who for years fought against any idea of a playoff or a so-called plus one system. Keep in mind that Mike Slive and the SEC actually introduced the idea of a plus one system in 2008, but was completely ignored. Keep in mind that now, in 2012, 12 universities, led by the cleverest of men, once again finds themselves in a position to benefit from the mistakes of others (and their own). All they need is the will.
Again, what the Big Ten is apparently suggesting here isn't revolutionary at all. Not only was Mike Slive's 2008 plan for a plus one system in college football ignored, no other conference outside of the ACC even was willing to discuss any details of what that might look like whatsoever. And let's be honest, getting only the ACC to listen to your playoff proposal is like getting your mom to put your C- math test on the fridge.
So what happened? Well, four years happened. Not that the BCS has ever been particularly popular, but the last four years have been particularly harsh to the BCS in terms of public perception. The ratings for this years' BCS championship game were the lowest in the 14 seasons that it has hung over college football like a fatuous, slimy blimp of a monster. Though those ratings can probably be attributed to A) the game being on cable, B) a matchup between two very geographically similar teams, C) an awful, awful game, and D) there being maybe 20 total tv sets in the state of Alabama, people like Slive, Hancock, and Delany don't really care about the whys as much as they care about the whats. As in, "what do we need to do to fix this?"
What's really funny about all of this is that in the past five years, Jim Delany has become possibly the single most important man in college football. His creation of the Big Ten Network turned college football broadcasting on its ear, raking in huge profits and becoming a model for at least four more similarly themed college sports channels. The Big Ten's aggressive stance towards expansion in late 2009 kickstarted nationwide conference realignment, which ended in the Big Ten adding only making one perfect addition but the rest of the country reenacting Lord of the Flies with the Mountain West Conference playing the part of Piggy. At this point if Delany is on board with a playoff, things will happen.
With that said, as reported by Teddy Greenstein, there are four (dumb) criteria that the Big Ten will use when internally evaluating any sort of playoff system. First, is the system fair to the student-athlete who already play 12-13 games?
Well no, it wouldn't be. But neither is a 12-13 game season, and adding a 4 team playoff wouldn't be any more distracting or disruptive to athletes that already devote almost every waking hour to football to begin with anyway. If colleges were really so concerned about student-athletes being "students first," they would've never consented to delaying the New Years' Day bowl games for NFL football and have the BCS championship game take place on January 9th. But they did, because they aren't.
Secondly, would the proposed system undermine the regular season, which has to be some kind of weird exercise in rhetoric since this years' national champion was 11-1 and didn't even win its own conference. If the regular season really is so "critical," then why was Ohio State able to lose its final home game in 2007 and then back its way into the championship? Why does one conference get the equivalent of an automatic bid to the NC as long as they finish the season with less than two losses? Undefeated teams haven't been shut out of the NC game because the season is critical, they've been shut out because it's always been about attitude and perception and not objective results.
The third item that concerns Delany and company is the concept of competitive balance, but frankly this is more or less a smokescreen for the real issue at hand: the Rose Bowl. Preserving the sanctity of the Rose Bowl is fourth on the list but more than likely priority number one for the Big Ten, even though it's a bit like trying to preserve the sanctity of a Star Wars movie. Whatever majesty and splendor that's been traditionally associated with the Rose Bowl left when the BCS itself was created, and each year has seen a more and more desperate Big Ten attempting to maintain a status quo that's already gone.
Fact is, a playoff won't hurt the Rose Bowl "tradition" any more than the BCS and conference realignment already has. A Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup isn't guaranteed (and doesn't even really exist considering a Nebraska/Colorado matchup is now among the possibilities), and this is something that the people running the Big Ten need to let go.
There are a few real stumbling blocks, one being the Presidents and Athletic Directors of the Big Ten. E. Gordon Gee has always been a staunch defender of the bowl system and will likely shake his tiny fist in anger everytime a playoff is brought up. But Gee and others like him are still subject to the court of public opinion, and given the internal and external pressure that the NCAA is facing to make a change, something will give once such a proposal is introduced.
And that's why Jim Delany, for now, is the most clever man in the world. Having rejected the sensible and correct proposal from a hated enemy years ago, he now has the opportunity to take that same proposal, submit it as his own, and in doing so deal a mortal blow to the BCS. Millions will rejoice. Wine will flow freely. Homeless men on High Street will rap the praises of Prudent Jim, Wise Old Delany, who saw football fans crying out for change and delivered it to them with a fierce justice. It will work, and Delany would have all the support from the fans and likely the media he would need to see it done.
But only if he chooses do to so. To pick up that sword. To slay the beast.