Want BCS support? Ask Big Ten's Delany
By Mike Lopresti, Gannett News Service
DETROIT — The commissioner of the Big Ten wanted to make one thing clear from the start.
"I am not the face of the BCS," Jim Delany said, sounding something like an innocent plea from traffic court.
But the Big Ten is one of the pillars of the system, and Delany one of its most articulate proponents. He is a reminder that the BCS is not a private and tone deaf business consortium, but an agreement among leagues to produce a national championship game to go with the bowls.
Now that we're near the end of another stormy BCS hurricane season, it seemed a good time to toss the man a few basic questions. If not the face of the BCS, for a moment he can be the voice.
"Everybody wants him to succeed. He's probably got unprecedented support, so it's very hard to be disagreeable with him on a subject. Having said that, the majority of the presidents and faculty and athletic directors and coaches in the Big Ten believe in the Rose Bowl and believe in the bowl system."
Surprised by the heated debate each November?
"We never conceived it would come to what it became as quickly as it did. All of a sudden you're a BCS president, a BCS commissioner. It was unbelievable. All it was, was a bunch of people saying, 'Hey, we like the bowl system. Let's see if we can come up with a 1 vs. 2 game, because only nine times in the previous 45 years did we have a 1-2 game.'
"We never imagined this amount of interest and controversy around it."
How do you answer the charge the BCS is only doing this for the money?
"Six or so years ago, there was a presentation ... that a billion or two billion dollars would be available in a playoff. So if we were interested in money, there is no doubt more money would be available in a playoff than there is in the bowl system, because of the way it is sold."
So why keep it?
"There is nothing more powerful than the regular season in college football. All the games that were local are now regional. The regional games are now national. The level of interest of young people 12-17 was measured recently. I think NASCAR and the NFL gained 1%. College football gained 9%.
"I understand the paradigm of the American sports fan is to play it out. I know we're swimming upstream on it. But we've grown the fan base, we've grown the regular season and we've maintained the postseason."
The regular season is that important?
"Every other sport has devalued the regular season. You look at college basketball, and I would say there's probably one must-see game during the regular season. Duke-North Carolina. What else? We don't have that in college football. We have a lot of must-see games. CBS is covering it. NBC is covering it. ABC is covering it. ESPN is covering it. Fox is covering it. All regular-season games.
"I don't want to see the regular season turned into a seeding process.
"The price (of a playoff) I think for a lot of us, is too high. The price of that buzz is the possibility of undermining 13 weeks of buzz."
How about a playoff that also includes the bowls?
"There is no four-team playoff that won't become an eight-team playoff. No eight-team playoff that won't become 12. The political structure of college football is, if you have a playoff, be honest about it. Go to 16. There is no system that can also accommodate a bowl season. The bowl season is dead. Dead."
At the end of the day, what would you most want people to understand about the BCS?
"That it is making an effort to do three things — preserve the bowl system, create a winner on the field based on a season's work, and maintain college football as the most important regular season in all of sport."
How's it doing?
"It's been incredibly successful. Controversial, and successful."
Contact Mike Lopresti at firstname.lastname@example.org