Big Ten Favors "Status Quo"

By Kyle Lamb on June 5, 2012 at 10:05a
UNL's Harvey Perlman participated in the teleconference

If Jim Delany and his Big Ten constituents have proven two things time and time again, it's that they're both adaptable and yet amazingly set in their ways at the same time. Consistency, thereby, has not been a strong suit. Monday's teleconference to discuss the B1G's stance on a prospective football playoff did nothing to quell these stereotypes.

Two months ago, they stirred the hornets nest when Delany said they favored a four-team playoff that included semifinals played on campus sites. Monday, Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman doused the nest with pesticide by saying the first preference was to keep "the status quo," which meant the BCS and the same sleezy modus operandi it entails. 

"If we were to vote today, we would vote for the status quo," Perlman noted.

The Big Ten position has evolved in two months from a four-team playoff on campus sites with conference champions to involving the Rose Bowl and existing bowls to suddenly favoring the status quo. This sudden evolution is perplexing, but it's more fascinating given Perlman's acknowledgment that despite these concerns, the Big Ten will acquiesce to an eventual playoff. 

"We have tried to not put a stake in the ground and say, 'Over our dead bodies."

According to Perlman, if the BCS is changed, the second preference is for a plus-one model involving a championship after the bowls are played. If, reluctantly, a playoff is implemented, the preference is to include the bowls and use a selection committee to decide the four teams.

This is even more amazing, as it's yet another about-face by the Big Ten who has been staunchly in favor of conference champions being included. 

"I totally agree we should have the four best teams," Delany added.

Delany, apparently, vehemently despises the method of selection to the BCS due to lack of transparency and subjectivity. That is yet another oddity considering the BCS -- the B1G's preference -- is built almost entirely on such principles.

Nonetheless, Delany expressed sheer bitterness toward the selection process.

“Everybody recognizes that the present poll system is not a good proxy,” he said. “It’s flawed, it’s not transparent, it has people who have a stake in the outcome voting, it measures teams before they play a game.”

These points are all ones that have been uttered by proponents of a playoff. Yet, instead of implementing a subjective system of selection, such as a human committee, the BCS formula could conceivably be tweaked to remove such bias. Nevermind the fact it should be easy to require transparency by simply forcing the computer models and voting results to be accountable. 

The poll system is flawed for three reasons: selection bias, human bias and a simple lack of access. The coaches' poll comprises only 31 of 120 FBS coaches, which in itself means only a quarter of all coaches are able to impact the voting. To make matters worse, many of these coaches aren't even voting but rather having a staff member do it for them. Since most coaches are playing games on the same day as their peers, no coaches are qualified to vote on other teams to begin with. 

To the extent coaches are able to cast a credible vote, however, it's strange that bias is removed from computers by tossing out the highest and lowest rankings for each team, yet the highest and lowest percentage of voters in the coaches and Harris polls are not adjusted for possible bias. Basically, the BCS in its infinite wisdom, has determined that algorithms are biased but humans are not. 

All of these issues are merely cosmetic. They don't explain away why the Big Ten has completely changed its public stance. Many of these issues could be alleviated. The computer algorithms should be transparent. Even if the providers of computer polls don't want their proprietary formulas released to the public, they should be open weekly for inspection by BCS officials. The coaches should be dropped in favor of a large media panel from all over the country, or at least either all coaches or no coaches should vote. 

Delany doesn't do well to explain how he's gone from conference champions to status quo or, at most, the 'four best teams.'

"I thought the combination of champions and an elite at-large team regardless of status—it could be a champion, could be an independent, could be a divisional runner-up or championship loser—was probably the right formulation. But that was just to get the discussion going."

Just another in a long line of inconsistency from the Big Ten. It's predictable as the day is long. 

By virtue of the Big Ten meetings last week, Delany and other conference commissioners will meet beginning next week to hash out a single proposal. Once the commissioners find a middle ground, a plan will be presented for university presidents to vote on late this month or early next month. Perhaps Monday's public comments by the league is just posturing or perhaps it's their true pecking order. But unless they've truly done a 180 in the past two months, everything they say going forward has been mitigated because of the stark inconsistency.

But hey, at least they're adaptable.


Comments Show All Comments

Ohio1St81's picture

First of all, it seems like we are hearing an awful lot from Nebraska and Harvey Perlman on this matter. Is there a reason that a university that has only been a member of the conference for a year has become our spokesman? 
Secondly, I'll always be proud to be a Buckeye fan but the Big Ten's stubbornness is embarrassing and frankly getting a little old. 

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sharkvsghost's picture

this is amazing. unfortunately delany forfeited his chance to lead on this one by caving on home site semifinals, and clinging to the Rose Bowl. now the conference's only recourse is to basically say "we'll be a part of whatever happens next, but we kinda like the old (and terribly flawed) way better, even though that's not what we thought initially." awesome.

swing hard in case you hit it.

NYC Buckeye's picture

I agree with you 100%
I know many people would like to think this is all part of Delany's big secret plan, and he is "strategically posturing" the conference to get what it wants, however I am starting to feel that is not the case at all...
Yesterdays news was embarassing for the conference, we come across as alienating our counterparts (Pac-12) out west,  looking like we are not even in alignment with ourselves, and just as you said "we'll be a part of whatever happens next"... 
Meanwhile it appears that the SEC and Big 12 alliance helped those conferences take the lead roles on determinging how we move forward from this point on...

hodge's picture

I really think this is posturing for the inevitable 4-team playoff.  Keep in mind, the Big Ten also mentioned that their preferable playoff scenario mentioned home-site semifinals again...personally I think that ship's sailed, but they're just trying to show the SEC that they're not the only ones who can throw their weight around.

Kyle Lamb's picture

While there is likely a lot of truth to what you're saying, Hodge, I think in their zeal to prove they're adaptable, they're actually coming across as wishy-washy and their motives are transparent. I don't think anyone takes them seriously now that they've been all over the map.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

What are their motives?

Kyle Lamb's picture

That they're posturing. What they're trying to gain by doing so, I don't know. But not sure how helpful it is to posture when people know that's all it is. 


Pam's picture

To continue printing money for the BIG

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Pam, I'll respond to Kyle, because presumably your answer is subsumed by his - if their bigger motive is to make more money for the Big Ten, in this case, Kyle is saying that it's in their best interest (which presumably would include making more money) to posture concerning the playoffs.
Yet, neither Kyle nor I can figure out, for sure, "What they're trying to gain by doing so" or whether it will be helpful to do so. We suspect that they're trying to look like the more flexible party, as compared to the SEC, all the while organizing behind-the-scenes a bloc that will support key bargaining positions that favor the Big Ten's perceived interests - who knows which ones - but they could just as easily be acting this way because the powers-that-be are a diverse group - smart, stupid, calculated, old-fashioned, sentimental, forward-looking, backward-looking, etc., with a variety of different viewpoints. In short, it's simply an executive-level clusterfuck.
Heck, I can only hope that they have clear motives, but I have much more confidence in describing their pattern of behavior (or lack thereof) than in figuring out their secret (strategic) motives. But if they're transparent to Kyle, I would like to hire Kyle as my consiglieri.

Kyle Lamb's picture

Didn't you say in another post that Delany himself implied not to pay attention to what they're saying? Wouldn't that, by your own admission, show his motives for posturing are transparent?


Run_Fido_Run's picture

Not necessarily - I'm confused about the whole mess and have been (mostly) kidding about Delany.
You could read what Delany said different ways: either he was implying that they Big Ten powers-that-be were saying some things publicly, which appeared to convey different and changing stances, all the while making relatively steady, consistent progress toward clear goals; or that the SEC was talking tough in public, but was willing to compromise behind closed doors; or both. Or some other possibility?
I agree that your assessment of the motives are quite possible, maybe even likely - but it would require a decent amount of orchestration, maybe even cynicism. Don't you think it's also quite possible that we're seeing the outward flashes of an inward clusterfuck?
I'm pretty confident that Delany is a serious and careful thinker, on his own, and would only move from one position to the next in response to new compelling information, the weight of new arguments, and so forth - but he's not thinking, acting on his own. How many parties are involved in this process and how can we be confident that their various and/or collective motives are easy to deduce?

BuckeyeNation's picture

Pam nailed it on the head... It's ALL about the money. It always has and always will be!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Yeah, but Delany basically implied, "don't pay attention to what we're saying in public":

"What I read is not always what I hear at the meetings," Delany said. "At the meetings, we're making progress."

I'm totally confused by this whole mess, but maybe it's all part of Niccolo Delany's grand plan: make the enemy believe that you're attacking from 18 different directions.

spqr2008's picture

And then Delany will take over Tennessee and Kentucky, then in 2014 he will march to Atlanta and burn the SEC headquarters to the ground to mark the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea, once done with Atlanta he will march to the sea, with detours to burn down all the SEC stadiums, before he sacks Savannah.  Cause he's just that SMART! B1G B1G B1G!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

If Delany is Lincoln, who will play the part of Sherman?
Also, after all the rubble has subsided, I volunteer to be the Lord Protector in charge of SEC Reconstruction. My occupation forces will ensure that 1-star fball recruits are no longer discriminated against in the Deep South and will put an end to the illiteracy requirement to play fball down there.      

hodge's picture

Beware the poll taxes and grandfather clauses they utilize to keep underperforming recruits off the roster.

spqr2008's picture

Urban F. Meyer, because he is a high ranking general from the grand state of Ohio.

Seabass1974's picture

I'm pushing for an 8 team playoff with the Big 6 conference champs only and 2 non-AQ conference champs. Also with the playoff games at the higher seeded teams stadium. Until then I wont really care about the end of the season.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Bucksfan's picture

This is a passive-aggressive attempt at a power play by the B1G.  They want 4 conference champions in the playoff, and the SEC doesn't.  The SEC, in its infinite wisdom, trusts the BCS model so well that they want to use it to select the 4 best teams in the country, despite the fact that the rest of the country saw last year's national title game rematch as unacceptable.
The B1G is frustrated.  I think they could have re-emphasized their call for the top-4 conference champions without hardballing a threat to keep everything the way it is.  They do come off as having no idea what they stand for.

nickma71's picture

I am amused at BCS haters using the BCS as the model for the 4 team playoff.

Worth repeating: Only twice in the 14-year history of the BCS would a four-team champs-only playoff field have included a team outside the final top six in the BCS standings. That would've been the case in 2001 and last season. Six times, conference champs have finished 1-2-3-4; twice, the final top five has encompassed four conference champs, and four times four conference champs were in the final top six. 

Riggins's picture

This is just Delany and the B1G taking an unpopular stance so that when they "compromise" from this "preferred" system, they'll get more of what they actually want.  The SEC has already laid out their preferences and they will have to compromise from that position. 
Politic'n B1G is Politic'n.

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

^This. I've been saying the same thing from the get-go.
I've learned many things over the years: You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull on the mask of the ol' Lone Ranger.... and you don't play poker with Jim Delany.