- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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With yet another controversy surrounding who is playing in this year's BCS title game, support for a "plus-one" model in college football appears to be growing.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive floated the idea of a four-team tournament back in 2008 to no avail. The Big 12, still smarting from Oklahoma State's exclusion from the title game, has reportedly thrown its support behind a plus-one. Boise State coach Chris Petersen called for a plus-one system as well, saying that "everybody is just very tired of the BCS."
One of the biggest obstacles to any change to the BCS system will always be the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, each of which have steadfastly refused to do anything that would jeopardize their Rose Bowl relationship. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein on Tuesday that he opposes the "plus-one" idea. Delany said he fears that a plus-one is just the first step toward a full-fledged eight- or 16-team playoff.
“Our view is we’d like to stay where we are,” Delany told the Tribune. “We do believe in the slippery slope theory.”
Delany did say the BCS could be improved, and changes almost certainly are coming when the BCS commissioners decide on the next cycle in April. One idea that Delany supports is the elimination of automatic bids. Such a system would have prevented No. 23 West Virginia and No. 14 Clemson to play in BCS bowls instead of No. 6 Arkansas and No. 7 Boise State. It could also mean more than two BCS bids for a conference, a key point for the Big Ten since Delany's teams are often very attractive to bowl partners. Michigan got an at-large bid to the Allstate Sugar Bowl despite ranking No. 13 in the BCS.
Delany also said it's important to move the BCS title game closer to New Year's Day. This year's game will be played on Jan. 9.
“I think we need to do everything we can to explore that,” Delany told the Tribune. “It’s a pretty high priority for the presidents and commissioners. Whether we can get the (BCS title game) up to Jan. 2 or Jan. 3, I don’t know. But right now it’s not good for anyone – student-athletes because of the academic calendar, fans who work and want to travel to the game.”
While I agree with his calendar argument, I'd much rather see the first round of a four-team tournament on New Year's Day, followed by the title game a week later. Delany needs to see that a plus-one would be good for the Big Ten because it increases access to the national championship game. Right now, the SEC basically is guaranteed one spot, leaving everybody else to jostle for one opening (or, in this year's case, no openings).
Will there still be controversy when the No. 5 team is left out? Sure. But not nearly as much. This year's No. 5, Oregon, really has no claim to the title with two losses. Wisconsin finished fifth in the 2010 final BCS standings but lost in the Rose Bowl to No. 3 TCU, anyway. The Big Ten has a much better shot of finishing in the top four than the top two, especially with how difficult the league is now with the addition of Nebraska and a conference championship game.
Just for fun, here's how a plus-one would look this year:
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State.
Yeah, who'd want to watch those games?
The Rose Bowl tradition is a concern but one that can be figured out. Sentiment is building toward a plus-one model. According to a Seattle Times report this summer, Big Ten and Pac-12 athletic directors were mostly in favor of a plus-one. And with a progressive thinker in Larry Scott leading the Pac-12, Delany does not want to be seen as the last guy holding up a plan that everyone else wants.
As for the slippery slope argument, that's a bogeyman. You can use that to support your objection to anything (I'll prove it: "If I eat this piece of pizza, it's a slippery slope toward eating all the pizza in the world and needing to go on 'The Biggest Loser' in six months."). The conference commissioners still control the game, and if they don't want a full-fledged, larger playoff system, then it won't happen.
Realistically, the plus-one model is about the best we can hope for in the near future, and there's very little reason to stop it. It would be nice if Delany and the Big Ten got on board.
What are your thoughts about this issue?
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