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The axis of obstruction
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The axis of obstruction
Jim Delany will arrive in Miami for the BCS meetings without devil horns. He also will leave the Grim Reaper costume back at Big Ten headquarters.

Delany, frankly, is annoyed the pro-playoff college football crowd has labeled him and Pac-10 counterpart Tom Hansen "the axis of obstruction."

The Big Ten commissioner doesn't see it that way, and that's a point he's likely to express Monday and Tuesday when he meets with his fellow power brokers.

He says he's simply trying to "protect and enhance" the sport while also protecting the interests of his beloved Big Ten.

And besides, the vast majority of university presidents also oppose a playoff, by all accounts.

"Our position has been crystal clear for the last 13 years," he said. "We're interested in helping the bowl system, helping our regular season and creating a 1 versus 2 game without going further. If someone has a new idea, they have to carry the burden."

The principle new idea—fairly new, anyway—is to adopt a Plus-One system.

An unseeded Plus-One would create a championship game the week after the BCS bowl games are played.

A seeded Plus-One would pit 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 in semifinal bowl games, followed by a winner-take-all extravaganza.

Delany opposes both formats. A seeded Plus-One—a "misleading" euphemism for a four-team playoff, he said—would minimize the other three BCS bowl games and force a Big Ten team seeking a national title to win two de-facto road games played in warm-weather sites.

Delany is also certain it would lead to an eight- or 12-team playoff that would devalue the "every game counts" quality of college football's regular season.

And what would it solve? Last year's final-season top four included Oklahoma and Virginia Tech—but not USC or Georgia.

"I think you would double the number of unhappy teams," Delany said.

An unseeded Plus-One has legitimate pluses. It could preserve the Big Ten vs. Pac-10 Rose Bowl and potentially give meaning to all five BCS bowl games, with winners getting a possible shot at the title game.

But, again, fairness issues would abound. How would college football determine which of the five teams would advance? By vote? By a combination of vote and computer?

Kevin O'Malley, a sports television consultant who helped invent the current BCS formula, suggested this objective method: The highest-ranked teams that win their bowl games would advance. It might be the best idea out there.

"The BCS would like to reduce controversy," O'Malley said. "Would it?"

Potentially. Plus the extra game, officials assume, would bring a richer offer from Fox, which has the rights to the non-Rose BCS bowls for two more seasons. If Fox passed, ABC/ESPN could jump in.

"It would never eliminate the controversy," said Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who has some affection for a non-seeded Plus-One. "But it would make more money and add value [to the BCS bowls]."

But any change to the current system still would have to clear some serious hurdles.

Delany and Hansen appear philosophically opposed to extending the season to 14 games. And their deal with the Rose Bowl and ABC/ESPN lasts six more years, although some say it could be amended for a new format.

When people heckle Delany about his refusal to give up the Rose Bowl, he has been known to reply: "OK, then how about asking the ACC to give up its conference basketball tournament?"

"It's easy enough to blame us," he said. "I could put forward a revolutionary 16-team playoff idea that they couldn't support. Eliminate conference title games and go back to an 11-game schedule.
04-26-2008 09:07 PM
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