Commissioners disagree on postseason

Updated: December 8, 2010, 3:49 PM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Looking forward to a "plus-one" college football national championship game in 2014? Want more BCS access for the non-automatic qualifiers? Can't wait for Santa Claus?

The jolly fat man may or may not arrive in a couple of weeks, depending upon your behavior. The other two will not happen anytime soon, according to a wide-ranging panel discussion by conference commissioners conducted Wednesday at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

Two years ago, Mike Slive of the Southeastern Conference led the charge for the BCS to adopt a plus-one model, playing one game after the BCS bowls with the winner being crowned the national champion. The other commissioners did not charge with him.

Mike Slive If my colleagues wanted to put it back on the table. I would be very happy to talk about it. But my guess is that this coming April, if we did that, it would be just as lonely as the April was two years ago."

-- SEC commissioner Mike Slive, a proponent of a "plus-one" title game

Among the commissioners on the panel -- Slive, Jim Delany of the Big Ten, Larry Scott of the Pac-10, John Marinatto of the Big East, Karl Benson of the WAC and Dan Beebe of the Big 12 -- Slive and Benson spoke out in favor of a plus-one. "If my colleagues wanted to put it back on the table," Slive said, "I would be very happy to talk about it. But my guess is that this coming April [at the annual BCS meeting], if we did that, it would be just as lonely as the April was two years ago."

The other commissioners didn't share Slive's belief that the BCS would be impervious to bracket creep.

"Inside the NCAA, every small, incremental step has led to another small, incremental step," Delany said. "Not only inside the NCAA, inside the NFL, inside the NBA, inside Major League Baseball ... If I felt we could have a plus-one, and it would not lead to a plus-six, or -eight, or -12, or -16..."

Benson praised the increased access that led No. 3 TCU of the Mountain West Conference to get a Rose Bowl bid. But, including last season, when TCU and Boise State fell short of the BCS Championship Game and played in the Fiesta Bowl, Benson added, "We've also proven it's a lot easier to get to No. 4 than to No. 2."

Jim Delany Two leads to four. Four leads to eight. I don't think there's any way to stop it. So you get to 16, which includes every conference. I think that would be a tremendous disservice to college football.

-- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany on having a "plus-one" title game

Delany shot back, "Likewise, Michigan State [11-1 and unchosen by the BCS, which limits participation to two teams per conference] feels left out, because in order to accommodate you, we've capped them ... Two leads to four. Four leads to eight. I don't think there's any way to stop it. So you get to 16, which includes every conference. I think that would be a tremendous disservice to college football."

After the panel concluded, Delany said he's not trying to lead the parade for the BCS as is. But he made a more compelling case for the 13-year-old method than anyone in the college football landscape has made in recent years.

He said the Big Ten and Pac-10 surrendered automatic access to the Rose Bowl. To expand to a playoff, he said, could compel the SEC to give up its championship game, which it's not about to do. And to ask the automatic-bid conferences to provide more access is to beg credulity.

"I understand the American public in many ways is conditioned to playoffs," Delany said. "We've got a different system, a regular season. We support it. We believe in it. It's not perfect. People have a right to agree or disagree about it. But I think the notion that by continuing pressure that we can get more access, more money, more Rose Bowl for them, less Rose Bowl for us, eventually, you get fatigued ...

"You think Jim Delany is going to stand up for his people by giving up the Rose Bowl and playing in it every other year? That ain't happening. All I'm saying is, we've all put in something. Some of the people who have received the most have put in the least. They're arguing the philosophy of the greater good and the community."

The commissioners also discussed the year's realignment drama at length. Beebe said the Big 12 has hired a firm to look into adopting a new name for a league that will have 10 members. He said the smaller number will allow the league to create the relationships and the rivalries that the older leagues such as the ACC and Big Ten developed before they expanded to 12 members.

As for surrendering a football championship game, Beebe said, good riddance. A conference needs 12 members to hold a championship game.

"A championship game in our conference has been controversial and has really been an impediment in at least three of our years," Beebe said, "where a No. 1 or a No. 2 team in the country has been upset in our game and kept us from having a representative in the national championship game. That's been the experience. Now, we may get there and think, 'Boy, what did we just get rid of?' But right now, 10 is the great number for us."

NCAA president Mark Emmert discussed his organization's ruling last week that reinstated Auburn quarterback Cam Newton without penalty, even though the NCAA said his father had solicited money from Mississippi State in exchange for his son signing a letter of intent. Emmert argued the facts, or the lack of them, compelled the NCAA's decision, even as that decision "stretches credibility."

"The burden of proof that we have to rely on before we make a decision that affects a university, a young man, a program, or a young woman in a program, is obviously greater than someone who writes in a blog or somebody who has heard a rumor or has a story," said Dr. Emmert, speaking speaking before the commissioners.

"That decision understandably causes people some angst and stretches credibility when you say, 'Gee, there wasn't any knowledge at the institution or with the individual. It's all been in the media.' But those, in fact, are the facts as we know them. We have to deal with those facts. And I'm actually pleased with the way our people handled it and pleased with the process."

Delany, a former NCAA investigator, said, "Nobody likes the facts of this case." He suggested that the rule be changed to put the burden of proof on the future Auburns and future Newtons. That's what the NCAA does in infractions cases. It has not been as demanding in eligibility cases.

"In the eligibility area, there's a tendency to look at the welfare of the athlete," Delany said. "I agree with that. But then it comes to a point where certain circumstances, certain facts emerge, then the reversal of that presumption is appropriate."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com