The Delany Party Like It’s 1997 BCS Bowl Proposal: Why It’s a Brilliant Chess Move (Unless You Want a Playoff)

Posted by    |    November 29th, 2011 at 5:30 am

As I was sitting in a post-Thanksgiving coma simultaneously enjoying fireronzook.com: The Sequel (let me pour one out in honor of the multiple first half 2-point conversion attempts over the years) and being mortified of the start of the Caleb Hanie Era in Chicago (*pounding head against the wall*), I started thinking about the last post that I wrote regarding the potential of a new BCS system that would only run the #1 vs. #2 national title game with all other bowls going back to their traditional tie-ins.  Effectively, it would be a reversion to the old Bowl Alliance system with the exception that the Big Ten and Pac-12 would send #1 or #2 ranked teams to the national championship game.  (Note that even though the Rose Bowl/Big Ten/Pac-12 triumvirate was technically not a part of the Bowl Alliance, the Big Ten still benefited by sending teams to Bowl Alliance bowls in 2 of the 3 years of the system’s existence.) It was subsequently reported that the genesis of such proposal was from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.  This is not surprising when you recall these quotes from last year about defending the BCS system:

“The notion,” Delany said, “that over time by putting political pressure on, it’s just going to get greater access, more financial reward and more access to the Rose Bowl, I think you’re really testing. I think people who have contributed a lot have, what I call, ‘BCS defense fatigue.’

“If you think you (WAC Commissioner Karl Benson) can continue to push for more money, more access to the Rose Bowl, or Sugar Bowl. I have tremendous respect for Boise and TCU. … I think they are tremendous teams that can beat any team in the country on a given day. I think the only question is, ‘Does one team’s 12-0 and another team’s 12-0 equate?’ And that’s where the discussion plays out, not whether or not they’re elite teams or deserving access to the bowl system.

“I’m not sure how much more give there is in the system.”

* * * * * *

“I think the system does provide access and opportunity for a team like Boise State or TCU to play in the championship game,” Benson said. “But we’ve also proven that it’s a lot easier to get to No. 4 than it is to get to No. 2.”

Benson said he supports the BCS, but wants even more access and more revenue. This is not a popular subject with Delany.

“We gave up the Rose Bowl, the SEC gave up access to the Sugar Bowl, others were included but they never had access to any of this before,” Delany said. “You have to understand who brought what to the table. Who’s continuing to give and who’s continuing to get.”

Delany, then, not so subtly drew a line in the sand.

“The only thing I would say, if you think you (the non-automatic qualifying leagues) can continue to pressure the system and we’ll just naturally provide more and more and more,” Delany said. “I don’t think that’s an assumption that our presidents, athletic directors, football coaches and commissioners necessarily agree with.

“Karl (Benson) says we like this contract and we want more. Well, we’ve got fatigue for defending a system that’s under a lot of pressure. The pressure is for more. It’s never enough.”

As you can see, the last thing that Jim Delany and the Big Ten want to do is provide more access to the non-automatic qualifier programs.  Ever since the formation of the BCS, the non-AQ conferences have been relentless in seeking more access, trying to drum up political opposition and pushing for a playoff.  While plenty of AQ fans want to see a playoff, it’s the non-AQ crowd that have always garnered the most hatred toward the BCS.

So, here’s what’s brilliant about Delany proposing to revert to an old school bowl format: the non-AQ conferences are now defending the current BCS system.  The debate has been completely changed from providing more spots to non-AQ schools or a playoff to whether the current access to top bowls for non-AQ programs will be maintained.  Delany and the Big Ten presidents may or may not be truly pushing this proposal, but in either event it’s an incredible tactical maneuver to deflect the constant pressure on changes to the BCS overall.  What’s scary to the non-AQ schools is that this is pretty legitimate threat since the bowls, TV networks and AQ conferences (except for maybe the Big East) would all certainly prefer the Delany Proposal.  Therefore, the non-AQs are now having to fight for the status quo as opposed to trying to get anything more.  Delany completed turned the BCS access issue on its head.

Whether you hate the BCS or not (and I’ve certainly had many proposals to change it over the years here, here, here and here), the fact of the matter is that the Boise States and TCUs (pre-joining-the-Big-East-then-the-Big 12) of the world would’ve never had access to the top bowl games without the BCS system in place.  The irony is that the AQ conferences may be the ones that ultimately dismantle the BCS and it would be the worst thing that could ever happen to the non-AQ leagues.  The Delany Proposal would result in multiple direct tie-ins for the power conferences without any slots for any non-marquee names.  As they say, be careful for what you wish for if you want to see the BCS get killed off.  You might just end up getting it and won’t like the results.

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(Image from Orlando Sentinel)