Wednesday, December 28, 2011
More notes on Pac-12/Big Ten partnership
By Brian Bennett
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott just finished a conference call with reporters. Here are some notes and nuggets from that call:
Both commissioners acknowledged that adding a difficult nonconference game against BCS opponents could create an impediment to their teams reaching the BCS title game. That's especially a concern in the Pac-12, which is pledging for now to keep its nine-game league schedule. But both say the benefits outweigh the risks.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said his league won't be seeking any scheduling partnerships outside the one with the Pac-12.
"It seems counter-intuitive to make it tougher to make a bowl game, to make it tougher in the current BCS construct to go undefeated and get to the national championship game," Scott said. "In a time where there's an intrinsic pressure to kind of dumb down interconference schedules, here we are kind of reinvesting in regular-season college football and getting higher-caliber, tougher competition.
"But I think in our conference -- and the Big Ten feels the same way -- it's a broader, more holistic view about the benefits of a high-quality regular-season schedule. It's not just about how easy can you make it to qualify for a bowl and make the BCS championship game."
I asked Delany if this would make it harder for Big Ten teams to get to the national title game.
"I think it probably does," he said. "[But] in an overall, holistic way, I think it helps our football programs. I think it will engage fans, help our recruiting, help in the presentation of television. If fans follow it, our partners will be rewarded and we will ultimately be rewarded.
"We all agreed that the 12th game was kind of a 'buy game' too often for our conference and a game that was not as compelling maybe as we would like. This is a step that's for the fan, for the player and for recruitment. Clearly, for coaches used to having four [nonconference] home games, it makes it more challenging. But that's just one aspect."
Much remains to be ironed out on which teams will play whom. But Delany said he'd like "to have competitive equity play a significant part" in determining the matchups. Which raises the possibility, if two strong teams meet in the regular season, that they could have a rematch in the Rose Bowl. Would that water down the Rose Bowl?
"It's obviously a possibility," Scott said. "We do have to set these schedules somewhat in advance, and I don't think you can perfectly calibrate or choreograph matchups. I would underscore, however, that these games would be taking place early in the season. In the unlikely but possible scenario where a rematch would occur, it would be a rematch from right at the beginning of the season, not at the end of the season."
Of course, the Big Ten already does an interconference dance with the ACC in basketball. Would the Pac-12/Big Ten football games get treated like the Big Ten/ACC challenge? Delany said they would be different in that the matchups would likely occur over three-to-four weeks, not in a couple of days like the basketball challenge.
"Whether or not it's branded that way, I think people will measure and count," Delany said. "That's the nature of competition."
Delany said the Rose Bowl is the only thing that's really sacrosanct between the two leagues, and everything else right now is "a blank canvass." The two conferences can come up with all kinds of creative events, mini-tournaments, whatever. Delany called it "not a five-year or 10-year deal, but an indefinite collaboration."
Some of the creative events could take place at NFL stadiums or at the Rose Bowl, in and out of the leagues' footprints. Delany mentioned Yankee Stadium, Atlanta and Texas as possibilities for some neutral-site games. But he said the majority of the football contests would likely be held on campuses.
Both Scott and Delany said this was not the first step toward any kind of real merger between the leagues. And Delany said don't look for similar collaborations between the Big Ten and other conferences.
"We have a common DNA but a tremendous recognition that 90 percent, 80 percent of what we do is in our region," he said. "Those who think regional rivalries and local rivalries don't mean anything any more, I think that's erroneous. It's wonderful if you can have that and this. Our goal is to build something new here on a very strong foundation of history."