Big Ten commissioner: League has sacrificed plenty

By Ralph D. Russo
AP College Football Writer / December 8, 2010

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NEW YORK—The Big Ten commissioner insists his conference has already sacrificed much for the good of college sports by giving up some access to the Rose Bowl, and he sees no reason why it should give even more to create a football playoff.

Jim Delany was joined by several other commissioners Wednesday in Manhattan at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletic Forum. The topics ranged from conference alignment to the NCAA to the Bowl Championship Series.

The BCS debate led to a lively defense of the system and the Big Ten's place in it. Delany, a hard-line opponent of a major college football playoff, said many conferences made concessions to form a system that could benefit all the leagues.

"Now some of the people who've received the most have put in the least," he said after the panel discussion. He was referring to the five nonautomatic qualifying conferences.

The BCS was born in 1998 after the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl agreed to join the Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East and the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls in a venture to have a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup for the national title every season.

In the 13 years since, the BCS has expanded access to the big games for teams in the five other major college conferences and increased the amount of money those leagues receive.

"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 is continuing to give and who's continuing to get."

The BCS in general -- and Delany in particular because of his stance against a possible playoff -- also has drawn dissent from fans, media and some in the business of college athletics.

Boise State President Bob Kustra is among the group because his school has been unable to play for a national championship despite its recent success. Boise State has been competing in the Western Athletic Conference, which does not have an automatic bid.

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson, who was part of the panel, said he supports the BCS, but would like to see better access for teams from outside the automatic qualifiers and more revenue sent their way.

Last season the five nonautomatic qualifying conferences divided $24 million, with most going to the WAC ($7.8 million) and Mountain West ($9.8 million). The Big Ten and SEC each received $22.2 million and the other leagues with automatic bids received $17.7 million.

"I think the system does provide access and opportunity for a team like Boise State or TCU to play in the championship game," he 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."

Oregon and Auburn, both unbeaten, will play for the BCS championship this season. TCU from the Mountain West was also unbeaten but finished third in the final standings. Boise State was in the top five and in contention for the national championship for most of the season until the Broncos lost their next-to-last game.

Benson concedes the BCS has opened doors to his conference that would have otherwise remained closed.

"But I don't think you can argue that Boise State has not added to the value of the BCS and has not generated fan support, has not turned on televisions," Benson said in an interview.

The BCS also has become a target for politicians with constituents who feel the system has slighted their team.

That was the case with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after Utah went undefeated in 2008 and did not get a chance to play for the national title. Utah's attorney general is considering an antitrust suit against the BCS and last month met with Justice Department officials to discuss a possible federal investigation.

Meanwhile, the University of Utah is leaving the Mountain West after this school year to join the Pac-10.

"All I'm saying is if you think you can continue to pressure the system and it will just naturally provide more and more and more, I don't think that's an assumption our presidents, our ADs, our football coaches and our commissioners are necessarily going to agree with," Delany said during the discussion. "I'm just saying we've got fatigue of defending a system that's under a lot of pressure."