- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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I had a chance to catch up with Big East interim commissioner Joe Bailey on Wednesday to get his thoughts on the future four-team playoff and where the Big East fits into the picture. Here is what he said.
How does the future four-team playoff impact a league like the Big East?
JB: I would say to you that certainly the new four-team playoff gives every team from every conference an equal opportunity to compete for the national championship, and the new group of Big East schools has frequently been in contention for those top four final rankings. Six different schools have been ranked in the top 10 in the country a total of 10 different times in the second half of the season. You have Boise State in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2011; Cincinnati in 2009; Louisville in 2006; Houston in 2011; Rutgers in 2006; and USF in 2007.
In terms of other bowl games, while there's plenty of things to be decided upon, we’re pretty confident based on the recent performance of our programs, we'll be participants in a number of high-level bowl games. The bottom line is the Big East will be well represented in a lot of the bowl games, and certainly in the top 4.
The Big East wanted conference champions to be given preference and was not in favor of a selection committee initially. How do these two pieces impact the league?
JB: The underlying verbiage is still being worked on, but there's no question that everybody recognizes the importance of the regular season, no matter what conference you’re in. The sense in the room was in the best interest of college football, that conference champions should really get a high degree of deference when it comes to that selection. That's in recognition of three, four, five months of achievement. So while the specifics haven't been worked out, we're clearly going to express our opinion to the degree they can to place an emphasis on conference champions.
As far as the committee is concerned, initially the feeling from our coaches was that the rankings would be a little bit better. I don’t think there's any question in anybody’s mind based on all that discussion, the committee takes the human consideration of this thing. That was really important. There wasn't a heck of a lot of discussion beyond the fact that the committee was the way to go.
Do you have any fears that a selection committee would pass over an undefeated Big East team over a one-loss team from one of the conferences with a better national perception, like the Big Ten, for example?
JB: No, I don't because at the end, the group is generally always smarter than the smartest person in the group. So normally speaking, a group ends up making the right decision. There's literally textbooks and everything based on that so consequently our feeling may be you might have a dissenter or two, but in the end the group has the best chance of making the right decision. I should also tell you the perception versus reality piece -- it is what it is. When I say that, I started my career as a player personnel scout, and I used to go around and evaluate players. But in the end, the people that actually are the most accurate graders of player performance were coaches that did nothing but look at film or tape, where all they did was concerned on exactly what happened during the course of a game. Sometimes they didn't even know what school the kid played for. At the end of the day, while they'll take into consideration strength of schedule, they'll look at performance on the field, and take all the noise out of the evaluation of a team's performance. That, I suspect, will ultimately be the way they operate. The other good thing about a committee -- they're concentrating on the teams and they're doing it over a long period of time over the course of a season. It's not as if there's some sort of randomness about it. They will see all the teams. So we think for a variety of reasons such as those, it will be a much more focused, concerted effort on the evaluation of teams and team performance. That's very good.
How do you respond to all the public comments from other commissioners that there is now a “Big 5” and the Big East is not a part of it?
JB: We see ourselves virtually the same as the ACC, and I would say to you that we haven't verbally expressed that perhaps as much as we should. But at the end, it's really about performance. The proof is in your ability to execute, and the notion of what other people say, that's the expectation market. The reality is how well you do, how well your teams perform, how well your coaches coach, how well your players play. That ultimately is the way the Big East is going to be judged going forward, and that's the way all conferences are going to be judged moving forward.
But how about the revenue sharing part? It already has been stated the Big East won’t get as big a cut as the “Big 5.”
JB: There's been an enormous amount of discussion about a lot of these things, the least of which has been the revenue piece. It's the last one to be tackled, and clearly the reason it was is you had to figure out what the formats were going to be first. You didn't have a basis to talk about that until the end. That's to be determined, and there's part of this that you'll review it every couple of years to make certain that you got it right.
If I can go back to the “Big 5” talk for just one moment, how does the Big East defend itself when there is the notion out there the league is a notch below the others?
JB: You may have heard that from pockets of people, but no one has said that to me. And nobody has ever said that in the room. What they talk about is the contributions of conferences to the overall collegiate landscape. At the end, everybody's in this one community of institutions that play collegiate football, and they all have to be considered as contributors to the overall sport. So the answer is I've never thought of it in terms of Big 5, Big 4, Big 10. I've always thought of it as: supporters of college football, and they'll do the best they can for the whole.