Big Ten athletic directors support Rose Bowl, on-campus semifinals not happening

It wasn't even two weeks ago that Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said that the "highest priority" for Big Ten presidents was to "preserve the status of the Rose Bowl and our connection to it." And judging by the comments from multiple Big Ten athletic directors Tuesday, that now goes for the men in the conferences' A.D. offices as well.

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told the Lansing State-Journal that a plan to hold the coming four-team playoff semifinals on campus sites -- one most prominently supported by none other than Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany -- was no longer on the BCS negotiating table. He said that maintaining the value of the Rose Bowl, however, was "critical."

Those sentiments were echoed by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who said that his opinion had "shifted" on the idea of playing the semifinals at bowl venues rather than on-campus sites, with the Rose Bowl presumably one of those two semifinal hosts. He added that the rest of the league's A.D.'s had been similarly convinced. 

Likewise, Nebraska's Tom Osborne left no doubt as to where his opinions stood.

"There was a pretty strong consensus among the A.D.s that we'd like to have the playoff within the bowl system," he said. "It would be a competitive advantage to have semifinal games at home fields ... But the bowls have been good to us.

"If you took them out of the playoff, it would pretty much destroy the bowl system."

With all three Big Ten A.D.'s saying much the same thing within a matter of minutes of each other, it couldn't really be much more obvious: despite Delany's backing, the on-campus semifinal proposal has failed within the Big Ten. And it's certainly not going to get any traction elsewhere, with the number of other conferences willing to risk playing a national semifinal in a Midwestern midwinter numbering somewhere between zero and zero. The idea is dead.

Which means we're forced to ask, as we did after Perlman's comments: Why? Yes, the Big Ten and Rose Bowl have been partners since time immemorial, and yes, maintaining some semblance of the Rose Bowl's grand tradition in this historic new era of college football's postseason is a pivotal, noble goal.

But that should be the Rose Bowl's goal, not the Big Ten's and not the schools of the Big Ten. A home semifinal at the Big House or the Horseshoe or Camp Randall (rare as such an event would have been in the BCS era) would be a massive advantage and a massive point of pride for any Big Ten team lucky enough to host one. Aren't the Big Ten's administrators supposed to be working for that kind of scenario rather than against it?

Hollis made fair point that the players involved might prefer the trip to Pasadena over the home semifinals, regardless.

"From kids' perspective, the bowl experience is the one thing they want to keep," he said. "Semifinals at bowl sites provide that, it's where fans can gather. With campus sites, it becomes (more) like a regular-season game." 

But again, we're skeptical--when it comes down to it, wouldn't the players also like to have the best chance possible of advancing to a national championship game?

If the proposal was going to die a quick death in the BCS meetings anyway, it's true that it might be better for the Big Ten to collectively abandon it and put its influence towards gaining concessions elsewhere. But it's still odd to hear the Rose Bowl -- fantastic as it may be -- treated as more important by the Big Ten's officials than their own schools' best interests.

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