Big Ten Gives Up Without a Fight

Me, if I were covering the B1G spring meetings in Chicago this week.
If you were to ask me why Jim Delany and the Big Ten brass have, essentially, given up without a fight to be able to host semi-final playoff games on college campuses – I would not have a coherent answer for you.

As it stands right now, B1G commissioner Jim Delany and his 12-pack of ADs have all offered their full support of a 4-team playoff in college football – essentially a plus-1 system. And while I could certainly argue about how the merits of choosing 4 schools from a field of 65 or so for a playoff is not exactly ideal, it's a step in the right direction. I personally feel like an 8-team playoff is better for so many reasons, but that's not why we're here.

We're here because of this quote by OSU AD Gene Smith...
"We've shifted, I was originally for campus sites, and I still go back there mentally every now and then as discussions occur, but the bowls have a really good system set up to host." 
While I do agree, bowls are well set up for hosting football games. But is that really the reason? Are bowl sites better suited for hosting a football game than a B1G venue?
"There are certain schools that would put it on and host it extremely well," he said. "Others might be challenged with that. Bowls have done this a long time. They have great local organizing committees. ... And it's good for the game." 
Yes, bowls have done this for a long time. But so has the B1G. Actually, the B1G has done it for much longer and much more frequently. And! Here's the kicker – B1G venues are situated conveniently close to where the fans of said B1G teams play. But clearly, this decision has little to do with the fans. Smith claims is has to do with the players, but I'd be willing to wager that a college senior would kill for one last home game instead of flying to Tempe.
"Let's say Ohio State is hosting and it's January or December, and let's say it is 5 degrees," Smith said. "Is that right for the game? We're not pro. We need to figure out what's best for the game, and I think a fast surface, good weather is important for the game. It's important for the kids." 
Is that right for the game??? What the hell is going on here? Did I just wake up in B1G bizzaro world? Does Gene Smith not know that B1G teams have been playing home games in cold weather since, ya know, the 1870's? Did I just ask five questions in a row?

Okay, look. I'm not just picking on Gene Smith here, all of the B1G athletic directors have echoed the same sentiments. Let's pick another. Nebraska's AD Tom Osborn...
"It would be a competitive advantage to have semifinal games at home fields," Osborne said. "... but the bowls have been good to us." 
Um..what? Bowls have been good to the B1G? Is this still bizzaro world?

AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke:
The Big Ten is 34-52 in bowl games since 2000, and 3-8 in the Rose Bowl since the start of the BCS era.

The bowls also have gouged conferences through rampant profiteering, including ticket guarantees and other ridiculous contractual stipulations. And let's not forget about corruption.

Yep, they've been great to you -- and, hey, who's ready for some more? 
Exactly.

Yes, Osborn is right, it's a competitive advantage for the B1G...a huge one. One that SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 teams have enjoyed since the dawn of bowl games...especially the BCS era. And we're just willing to concede it back to them for the proposed playoff system, too?

Why is the B1G laying down so easily?

Enter Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel:
"For us it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told reporters Tuesday after Big Ten meetings hashed out the conference's likely preferred plan.

How critical? Well, so critical that they're willing to make business decisions based on emotion, willing to give up on competitive advantages, logistical ease and monetary benefits.

Possible home-field advantage for Big Ten teams? We love the Rose Bowl.

Making the elements, which Big Ten teams are presumably better equipped to handle, a factor in the playoffs? We love the Rose Bowl.

Showcasing the incredible game-day environment of Camp Randall, Happy Valley or the Big House? We love the Rose Bowl.

Not requiring fans, students and players' families to continue to make lengthy postseason trips? We love the Rose Bowl.

Creating economic impact in the league's hometowns? We love the Rose Bowl.

Not taking discretionary spending out of the region and into California or Florida? We love the Rose Bowl.

Not playing games in opponents' home regions, states, cities or even stadiums? We love the Rose Bowl.

If you hate campus so much, how about compromising and staging neutral-site semifinal games in Indianapolis or Detroit, where the money would be so welcome? Sorry, we love the Rose Bowl.
Yes, we do love the Rose Bowl. No question about it. We love it so much we're willing to cash in all our chips just to keep what's left of the B1G's firm grasp on it. And in doing so, we've just surrendered ANY possibility of home-field advantage for as long as the playoff system is in place in college football.

So B1G fans, if you want to see your team play in a playoff game, get those suitcases out. Get your wallets ready. Because, as the B1G ADs say a lot of things, the one thing you won't hear them say is that YOU are the losers in all of this. Better for the players? Better for the game? I don't know. But better for the fans? Absolutely...if you're an SEC, Big 12 or Pac-12 fan.

They should all send some roses to Jim Delany.

And B1G players, when you've played well enough to earn yourself a B1G championship and a spot in the playoff, you've also earned a road game at "neutral" venue instead of being able to play in front of a home crowd...even if you've earned it. So enjoy that.

The B1G has always struggled in bowl games. And I have to think a part of it is because of the opponent's perceived home-field advantage. This was our big chance to at least level the playing field slightly in our favor.

Not only did we strike out, we didn't even swing.

2 comments :

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  2. I totally agree with this article, and I’m and SEC fan. I don’t think de facto home field advantage enjoyed by the SEC over the BigTen* in bowl games is the only factor that has led to their recent success in those games, but it is a factor. Like you, I don’t understand why the BigTen would willingly cede that advantage to the SEC, Big 12, Pac 12, and ACC. Even if the BigTen only got the higher seed in 1/3 of its semi-final games, the advantage of making Alabama, Oklahoma, or USC come to Ann Arbor, Columbus, or Madison would be more than twice as meaningful as the disadvantages of playing in Tuscaloosa, Norman, or L.A. instead of New Orleans, Dallas, or … L.A.

    As for protecting the Rose Bowl, or any of the BCS bowls for that matter, the creation of a semi-final round with on campus games does absolutely nothing to harm them. The National Championship Game can still rotate among the same four sites, and the semi-final losers can still play in their traditional bowl games. The semi-finals would be a pre-bowl season effort to sort out the top 4. The Rose Bowl would be no less relevant than it is now, and it would be no less likely to pit the BigTen Champ vs. the Pac 12 Champ (except to the extent that having games on campus helps more BigTen Champs make it to the National Championship Game which would be very good for the BigTen, and by association, not the worst thing for the Rose Bowl.)

    *I know it’s “B1G” now, but I just can’t take that seriously. For me it feels like using the term “graphic novel”.

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