How much say do school presidents actually have in the formation of the new-and-improved college football postseason? We may be about to find out.
Speaking as a member of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman told ESPN.com Thursday that his committee is not on board with the BCS commissioners' recommendation to move forward with a four-team playoff--and doesn't sound ready to be persuaded otherwise.
"I can't figure out a good reason to have a playoff to start with," he said. "We've had some informal meetings, the Big Ten presidents and the Pac-12 presidents, and I think we're largely aligned in thinking a plus-one with a different ranking after the bowl games to select No. 1 and 2 would be acceptable.
"Our second choice would probably be a four-team playoff inside the bowls. Our highest priority is to preserve the status of the Rose Bowl and our connection to it."
OK, Harvey. But that flies directly in the face of what your own Big Ten commissioner -- who's now committed enough to the playoff to have created several intriguing variations on it -- has been saying and working towards these past few weeks. So which one of you has the final say-so in what proposal the Big Ten will suggest the BCS adopt?
"It is clear the presidents will still make the final decision," Perlman said.
Forgive us the outdated meme, but:
All 11 FBS commissioners, probably 90 percent of the athletic directors in those conferences, an equal number of the college football players and an even greater percentage of the fans are behind the four-team playoff ... but Perlman and the rest of the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents are going to come down from the ivory tower, turn this car around, and drive us back to the awkwardness of a post-bowl plus-one?
First of all: we'll believe it when we see it. Perlman can swing the big rhetorical stick here, but it's Delany and Mike Slive and the rest of the commissioners who actually, you know, work in college athletics (rather than college academics) who run the sport--and, for the most part, should.
Second: that's a very kind gesture on the part of Perlman and the other presidents towards the Rose Bowl. But shouldn't the presidents' "highest priority" be what's best for their schools, athletic programs, and fans rather than the Rose Bowl? No one's going to knock the Rose Bowl or the vital place it holds in college football and the sport's tradition, but Perlman and the other presidents don't work for the Rose Bowl, do they?
And make no mistake--when one of the proposals still on the board could see Nebraska host a national semifinal in Memorial Stadium instead of shuffling off to a bowl the Huskers' own fans have precious little emotional or traditional connection to, it seems impossible to argue Perlman is speaking on the behalf of his own institution. As he said himself: the institution which is his "highest priority" in this issue isn't Nebraska at all, it's the Rose Bowl.
The same goes for any of the currently anonymous other presidents who stand with him. Is that fair to their respective schools and supporters or not? Won't it be much better for the academics of all involved to have on-campus December semifinals and one early-January championship game, rather than a week's worth of bowl experience followed by a second trip to a second location for the championship?
We're all Rose Bowl fans here. But when even Jim Delany has come to the conclusion it's going to have to make some concessions to help college football have the best national championship it can have, it's time to admit that some other things really ought to be the "highest priority" when it comes to shaping the playoff.
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