Senior College Football Columnist

Rose Bowl gives in, paving way for eventual change to postseason

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DeLoss Dodds, a playoff advocate, gets in some digs at Big Ten counterpart Jim Delany. (Getty Images)  
DeLoss Dodds, a playoff advocate, gets in some digs at Big Ten counterpart Jim Delany. (Getty Images)  

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- DeLoss Dodds had just called out Jim Delany -- the equivalent in college athletics' of Iron Man taunting the Hulk. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

You take your news any way you can get it at these annual BCS meetings, all-day hall waits for administrators to say next to nothing. Let's just say Dodds this time helped frame the news of the day.

The Texas AD, a longtime playoff advocate, conveniently blasted the Rose Bowl -– and by association Delany, the Big Ten commissioner -- perceived as the biggest impediment toward a college football playoff.

"The only way it's going to get fixed," Dodds told USA Today, "is for the rest of the country to have a playoff of some kind and let them [Rose] do their own deal. And then after five years, their coaches would go berserk because they're not in the mix for a national championship. And they'd have to join it."

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Turns out, Dodds is a little behind the times. Tuesday will be known as the day the Rose Bowl gave in. Maybe just as little. And not officially. But it was the day when Delany, the biggest public defender of the Rose, sounded a lot like the stuffy ol' Granddaddy was joining the party.

"I would say there is an expectation there will be significant change," Delany said of the postseason in general.

What he's saying without saying it is that the Rose/Pac-12/Big Ten won't bust that playoff party. At least that's the way it looks. They're in. All the way. Get used to it. That's what the last 10 years have been about. Five times since January 2002 "foreign" teams have played in Pasadena. In the previous 55 years it was only the Big Ten and Pac-8/10.

Do their own deal? That was never going to happen. The relationship between the Rose, Pac-12, Big Ten and the rest of college football is symbiotic. There can't be playoff without one-fifth of FBS and the Rose would be diminished if it somehow wasn't in the championship rotation.

In that sense, Dodds was right. The Pac-12/Big Ten coaches would lose their minds if they weren't in the playoff mix.

"Figuratively, we do have a championship game every year," said Rose CAO Kevin Ash. But we seem to be over the assertion that the Granddaddy is the end-all, be-all. Lloyd Carr once said he preferred a trip to Pasadena over playing for a national championship. That kind of summed up the Rose partnership. Now, it is actually considering becoming a "pass-through" game, a semifinal, a part of the process toward a national championship instead of a stand-alone game.

When a playoff is actually finalized -- which may not be until early July -- it's going to be great. It looks like four teams for sure now. The commissioners spent four hours Tuesday just discussing how to select those teams. There is no going back, it seems.

"The BCS as we know it with the exact policies will not continue," said BCS executive director Bill Hancock.

It's possible we could come out of the conclusion of the meetings on Thursday with only two or three models left to ponder. It looks like the bowls are going to be involved at least in the semifinals. Brett McMurphy is reporting an interesting "flex" option that could automatically put a bowl into the semifinals if its anchor team(s) ranked in the top four.

"I'm sure the Rose Bowl isn't the end-all for everybody," Delany said. "[But] it's really important to us. It's one of the top-10 most important single-day television properties in the world and it performs. It's part of the fabric.

"I want to make sure any change we have, it's manageable and is a little bit predictable."

Considering the sweeping change, Delany made a passing reference to "Egyptian Spring" which was Twitter fodder before he left the Westin Diplomat. The term is actually "Arab Spring", which refers to the protests that led to the toppling of governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

"Not all change," he warned, "is manageable. It just doesn't flower into this beautiful environment without some consequences."

There is still the issue of what kind of special access -- if any -- to give to Notre Dame and the WACs and MACs of the world. There is a coming windfall of rights fees that have to be distributed fairly. That was not discussed on Tuesday, which shows how far we still have to go.

"What that has injected into the game dwarfs anything that will come out of this," Delany said of TVs' interest.

The commissioner, posturing nicely in favor of his anchor bowl, could end up telling his constituents: This is the best we can do. The Rose Bowl as a national semifinal. The Rose Bowl as a national championship game. The Rose Bowl without a Big Ten and/or Pac-12 team. The Rose Bowl not even called the Rose Bowl in those scenarios.

As they read the morning paper, Dodds' blast drew some chuckles in the commissioners' meeting room but nothing more. Texas' Iron Man had flexed. The Big Ten's Hulk posed.

"DeLoss and I have always disagreed on this going back 15-20 years," Delany said. "I'm a First Amendment guy. I'm a friend of DeLoss. I respect the differences in disagreement."

College football moved on Tuesday in better shape.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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