Others not so vocal but Big Ten commish says few support BCS change

Updated: April 29, 2008, 7:38 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- With little or no change expected to occur in the way college football determines its national champion, fans and media have been quick to blame the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, which seem to be most opposed to a proposed plus-one format.

Not so fast, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Tuesday.

"The perception that the Big Ten and Pac-10 are holding this back is not right," Delany said, after exiting a Tuesday morning meeting of conference commissioners and bowl and television representatives at an oceanfront hotel here. "We're seen as obstructionists when we did what we did to evolve the system. The calls for change are external. Ask others here how strongly they feel for a call for change. I don't see it."

On Wednesday morning, SEC commissioner Mike Slive will present a proposal for a plus-one format, which would change the current BCS system to two semifinal games in advance of a national championship game. The changes couldn't take place until after the 2009 season, when the current BCS contracts with bowl games and TV networks expire.

Still, Slive's proposal is expected to fall on mostly deaf ears here.

"I think there are a lot of other people who like where they are, but they should say it," Delany said. "There are others in the room who like where we're at. There are no raised voices here. Everybody's mind is open for discussion."

Even ACC commissioner John Swofford, the BCS chairman, said he likes the current BCS format, which pits the top two teams in the final BCS standings in a national championship game.

"I feel good about where the BCS is at this point in time," Swofford said. "But I think it's important to look at models like this that might improve where we're at. I think there are a lot of people in the room who are happy with the way things are right now. I think the question is: Is there a better way? I think it's all about looking at opportunities to improve the BCS."

The Big Ten and Pac-10 have separate contracts with the Rose Bowl, which traditionally has paired the champions of the two leagues in a New Year's Day bowl game. The Rose Bowl's contract with ABC expires after the 2013 season. The Bowl Coalition was created in 1992 to help determine the sport's national champion. The Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl weren't integrated until 1997.

"We think the burden for changing is on the proponents of change," Delany said. "Not on the group that brought a bowl and two conferences from one place of tradition to a place that is 10 years old."

Swofford said the league commissioners and Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White would spend much of Wednesday's scheduled five-hour meeting discussing the plus-one model, among other topics. Swofford said the plus-one model might be eliminated from consideration altogether, or the commissioners could decide to take the proposal to their member schools' athletics directors and presidents for further discussion. Swofford said the commissioners must vote unanimously on whether to move ahead with the plus-one model or kill it entirely.

"It could reach an end point on the negative side, but couldn't reach an end point on the positive side," Swofford said. "We'll have to see how the discussions go."

Swofford admitted swaying Delany and Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen to a plus-one model will be difficult.

"They've been very consistent [in their beliefs]," Swofford said.

Swofford said league commissioners and athletic directors attending the BCS meetings have raised specific concerns about the plus-one model. The logistical difficulties of getting a team from a potential semifinal game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami to a championship game in Glendale, Ariz., seven days later, is among the concerns. Swofford said having a two-week period between the semifinals and BCS title game, like the NFL does with the conference championship games and Super Bowl, probably isn't plausible because university presidents have adamantly opposed extending college football's postseason beyond the first week of January.

"You run into the problem of taking it too deeply into second semester, which the presidential level says is unacceptable," Swofford said.

The BCS system has been highly controversial since its inception. Last season, LSU beat Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS Championship Game. Georgia and Southern California both felt they were deserving of a spot in the BCS title game. In 2007, Florida jumped Michigan in the final BCS standings to earn a chance to play Ohio State for the national title. The Gators beat the Buckeyes 41-14. In 2005, Auburn finished 13-0 during the regular season but was left out of the BCS title game. USC beat Oklahoma 55-19 in the FedEx Orange Bowl to win the 2005 BCS title.

"The BCS has had controversy, but it's done some things well," Delany said. "I think everybody would have to concede it has done some things well. Even when the coaches and sportswriters were determining the national champion, there was controversy."

Delany said college football's rising popularity is proof the current BCS format works.

"I don't think there's any doom or gloom about the regular season or postseason," Delany said.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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