Big Ten title game not a guarantee

June, 28, 2010
6/28/10
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If Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke were a betting man, he'd put his money on the Big Ten adding a championship game in 2011.

He certainly wouldn't object to having the event at Lucas Oil Stadium, located in his hometown of Indianapolis and about an hour’s drive from the Purdue campus.

But Burke also has done his research on football championship games, talking to colleagues in other leagues that already have them. While the events look like win-wins from the outside, there are potential drawbacks that create some concern.

"Your problem when you go to the championship game," Burke said, "in talking to the leagues that have it, it’s a great event, people will really enjoy it, but the losing team is probably still a pretty good team, and their fan base may or may not find the desire to travel to a bowl game. If you can get the championship game in a central location that people can drive to, maybe you don't hurt your bowl chances.

"But I’ve talked to enough people who said, '[Fans have] got to fly and then two weeks later they've got to turn around fly again? There’s a limit to how much money people have.'"

Bowl attendance already has taken a hit with the economic downturn, and despite the Big Ten's strong reputation for traveling, schools face pressure to fill their seat allotments. A probable downside of a championship game is fewer BCS at-large berths -- the Big Ten's absence from the first Saturday of December, while hurting the league in the national spotlight, has unquestionably helped its at-large chances -- and some fan bases might be less excited to travel to non-BCS bowls.

Coaches also have had mixed feelings on football championship games, primarily because they add losses to their ledgers. While most Big Ten big wigs understand the need to play games later to remain relevant, a championship game isn’t the only option.

"There’s still some who would argue, 'Take another bye week and end the season later and end it on your traditional [rivalry] game,'" Burke said. "You become relevant in December, but you do it without adding the conference championship."

In the end, Burke thinks the Big Ten will agree to add a title game. But nothing is set in stone.

"The tendency would be to go with a championship game," he said, "but I'm leaving a place marker out there."

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