B1G Uglies: Big Ten Offseason Questions
Three Big Ten offseason questions that keep you up at night
3 BIG TEN OFFSEASON QUESTIONS THAT KEEP YOU UP AT NIGHT
(i) What Should be Made of the Renege on the Big Ten/Pac-Twelve Scheduling Agreement?
It all felt a little too much like posturing on the Rose Bowl Trinity’s part (Big Ten-Pac Twelve, Rose Bowl). In fact, it had the stink of an arms race. You had the SEC and Big Twelve forming their alliance and readying their missiles, and the Big Ten and Pac-Twelve--elbows locked with the Rose Bowl--putting its troops at battle stations as well. Jim Delany would spin his web to the media, and Mike Silve would counter with his “sensibility”. The Big Ten and Pac-Twelve announced their scheduling agreement, and the SEC and Big Twelve countered with the “Champions Bowl.” Tit for tat.
Neither side wanted to blink and each move was a calculated, yet decisive one-up over the other power conference teams, all done to try and guide the playoff model in a certain direction. At the end of it all, there was a great compromise with the four team playoff that included the Rose Bowl. Missile crisis averted. So then, after the smoke clears, a treaty is signed and the scheduling is said to be too difficult to work out.
Okay? Something tells me it wouldn’t have been too difficult to work out if a plus-one model ended up being the last habitable bunker left after BCS armageddon. Nice try guys.
This can go one of two ways, both of which are a gravel road in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m. when your battery suddenly dies. The first is courtesy of “conspiracy theory guy,” who would opine that it’s a grand scheme that forced the SEC and Big 12 to align, thus drawing a line in the sand for the future that says if there is a four team playoff, it will be the B1G vs Pac 12 against the SEC vs Big 12 winner. It’d be genius if it works that way, almost assuring the dissolution of the 5th BCS conference and ostensibly give each conference a likely free pass for its champion to play for the national title in that four team rat’s nest they call a playoff.
The other way I prefer to go. Less sinister, still somewhat depressing. More than anything it props up our greatest fears that college football is simply becoming a sport where marquee out of conference games vs other BCS conference teams go the way of Chocolate Cherry Diet Dr. Pepper. Although at some point, we actually all liked the games. The dissolution of this agreement seems to admit that it isn’t feasible or a good idea for teams to get “beat up” out of conference by playing other good teams. It makes more sense to maybe have a rivalry game or two in there and Notre Dame to kick around, but otherwise pad it with FCS cannon fodder and MAC teams. It’s a disgrace that college football is going this way, but when you let more teams in a championship fight, you’ve got more politicking on how to get to the top without doing as much as the next guy. Occupy College Football, I guess? Still, the B1G has intriguing games coming up. Michigan has ND and dates with multiple Pac 12 teams. Ohio State recently broke off plans with Georgia, but has Virginia Tech and Texas A&M on the horizon, and Wisconsin also will face the Hokies.
Let me be the oddball of the group and defend the Pac 12’s position.
This scheduling agreement was a great idea in theory. Given the rise of glorified scrimmages in the non-conference season, the Big Ten – Pac 12 challenge would capture the attention of the entire nation, providing both leagues with a unique opportunity to showcase itself for prospective recruits.
Even though this accord would have benefited both parties, it was a logistical nightmare for the Pac 12. Let’s be honest, every school from a major conference needs to play at least seven home games per year to remain viable. Thanks to the 9-game league schedule, half of the teams in the Pac 12 will have to play five road games in conference play alone. The new scheduling agreement could potentially add another road game, and an expensive road trip to the Midwest.
Playing only five or six homes games might be acceptable to a team from the Mountain West or MAC, but not for two of college football’s most powerful conferences.
In other words, it’s all about the money.
(ii) Should the Big Ten Go to a Nine Game League Schedule?
May as well, but only if it becomes the norm. The Pac 12 has played a round robin conference schedule up until last year, but still plays 9, which often hurts them nationally because instead of playing Delaware School of the Mimes midseason, they’re mired in one extra game against a BCS conference team. So, with the B1G powers having a slew of intriguing upcoming games over the next 9 years out of conference, it won’t make sense to hamstring themselves with another tough game. It’d be much better for the sport, however, to see all conferences go to 9 games. It might be the only way to save the recent run on fattening up on FCS schools with that 12th game.
If, as mentioned above though, it is aligned to look as though there are four conferences basically holding all the cards, it won’t hurt. I’m arguing with myself here, which means I inevitably win. Go to 9 conference games, please. I prefer more good, competitive college football.
I’m not a proponent of nine conference games unless the league only has ten members.
Yes, adding an extra conference game will provide more excitement for the fans, especially in a conference rich in tradition like the Big Ten. The added game will prevent any series from going on hiatus for four seasons.
However, the cost clearly outweighs the benefits.
With an additional tilt in league play, teams have even less flexibility when it comes to scheduling. The extra conference game means that schools will play five road games every other year. Since most athletic directors prefer to play seven home games (see $$$), it makes scheduling a home-and-home series much more difficult – if not impossible.
This could potentially kill traditional rivalry games with opponents like Notre Dame, and prevent the conference from scheduling the marquee matchups it needs in order to play for the national championship.
More importantly, the additional conference game would lead to more early season “hang half a hundred on them, and enjoy the second half”-type contests with FCS and MAC opponents, who are much more likely to agree to a one-game series.
To summarize, the ninth conference game means a loss of traditional non-conference rivalries, fewer quality opponents, and a lower strength of schedule.
No one in the Big Ten wins in that scenario.
No. I like it where it is because it allows for more marquee non-conference games (see Pac-Twelve scheduling issues in question 1). Let’s take an example. Ohio State looks to schedule one cross-sectional, non-conference game a year against a formidable team in a “power” conference to excite the fan base. It’s a home and home series so the there’s an extra away game every other year. Then, they fill in the other games to make the most of the home dates remaining for revenue sake. It’s a good mix of home games and games to whet the palate of the nation. And Ohio State’s not the only team in the conference working this model.
Now, fire up the flux capacitor and ride the Delorean into the future of nine home conference games. Do you see it? Yes, not only do cars fly, and colonies appear on the moon, but the non-conference “made for TV” games are almost extinct. Without that extra open date, Big Ten teams will likely stray from scheduling an extra away game against a tough opponent. In exchange--they’ll likely go for the tried and true home game every year against a directional school with more initials than a doctor’s convention. After all, who’d want to forfeit the extra gate revenue?
I say keep it at eight and enjoy the non-conference heavyweights games. it all works just fine with the Big Ten Championship Game now a staple of the Midwest--right along with bratwurst, beer, and parkas in the winter.
(iii) Should the Conference Continue to Throw Around the Idea of Giving the Commissioner More Power to Act against Universities and Coaches?
Giving any conference commissioner, even one as well-respected as Jim Delany, the authority to eject a team from a conference or fine/fire university employees for embarrassing the conference is a terrible idea.
Implementing this system would place the sole decision-making power with a single arbiter, whose rulings are not subject to review. Once a commissioner deems that you have done something to damage the reputation of the conference, you’re finished, and there’s nothing that anyone can do change it.
Sounds like due process to me.
Even if the conference commissioner could always ensure a fair hearing, delineating power to one person is recklessly dangerous. Unless the Big Ten officials place strict limits on what constitutes “embarrassing the conference”, a conference commissioner would become the de-facto thought police.
That ought to scare everyone.
For example, what if Commissioner Delany decided that the feud between Bret Bielema and Tim Brewster tarnished the Big Ten brand? Should Bielema really be subject to discipline from the league for scoring TDs in the fourth quarter?
Of course not!
I realize that the entire reason for this discussion is because the Big Ten officials want to work diligently to make sure that the debacle at Penn State never happens again. While their hearts are in the right place, they need to let the member institutions handle this, rather than placing virtually unlimited power in the hands of one person.
Everybody calm down and let cooler heads prevail. I have to agree with Terry on this one. We’ve seen the example of this with Roger Goodell in the NFL--and while you could make a strong case that he’s cleaning up parts of the game that need it, the guy has too much power. In the bounty scandal alone, Goodell has been the judge, arbitrator, and jury. And that’s not right.
As Terry point out, it’s evident that Delany wants to make sure that something like the Penn State tragedy doesn’t happen again, but putting absolute power in place would be merely a knee-jerk reaction.
Corporations have boards, the government has its three branches, and the same should apply here. The reason? One guy, and one guy alone--despite how wise he is, or what his best intentions may be, is still only one guy. A group will generally come to a better consensus than one man, and that has been proven throughout history.
So as an alternative--rather than making the judge the police, why not have a board of college presidents or trustees that govern the overall process?
Heck, if Delany had a group of councilmen throughout the playoff discussions, maybe that little “status quo” presser earlier this summer wouldn’t have gone off as bad.
Allow me to put on my contrarian underwear for this debate. If we’re going to keep inching college football toward the NFL...that’s what you all want, right? Playoffs. “Everyone” getting a shot. 9-7 teams making title runs? Then the next logical step is to just format it like the NFL and give someone the Roger Goodell powers. I’m not saying the move to look like pro sports is right. Heck, if I whine any more about the injustice of the way the sport is going, I’ll get my own spot on the Lillith Fair.
But if that truly is the abhorrent way it’s going, the one way to deal with one of the great criticisms of college sports...inconsistent punishment...is to appoint a Goodell figure. If there’s anything about the NFL, it’s that it’s harsh and rigid in its power structure, and consistent.
As Phil coyly points out that corporations have boards, government has branches, but let’s be honest...is that second one a really solvent example of getting the right things accomplished? As for corporations, look no further than any of them to see that you can have boards til you’re blue in the face, if the man in charge wants Action A or B, it’s going down.
Now, Delany (or anyone) has to be someone of trusted integrity to not wield a dishonest stick. But I will say this: After sitting live 15 feet from Mark Emmert yesterday as he talked about Penn State, one thing became abundantly clear, and that was that this PSU situation totally caught them off guard in its perversion.
The NCAA knows schools are constantly trying to skirt the rules, but the level of depravity is often unknown until it is known. It’s not unreasonable to suggest Delany would have put a more swift end to the Ohio State-Tressel, PSU-Paterno sagas. I don’t mind power if the right people have it. Good, honest people with the intentions of others at mind. Finding that individual? That’s anyone’s guess.
Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN, Bart @Bart_CFN, and Terry @TPJCollFootball