- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany caused a bit of a stir this week when, during a panel discussion with other league commissioners in New York, he addressed the hot-button topic of BCS access and where the Big Ten fits in.
A series of comments made by Delany and WAC commissioner Karl Benson made its way around the Web:
Benson: "The BCS has provided greater access. Look at 120 schools, 11 conferences and to establish opportunities for those student-athletes. To play on the big stage, we've been to the big stage. ...
Delany: "The problem is your big stage takes away opportunities for my teams, to play on the stage they created in 1902."
Benson: "I think the group of five [non-automatic qualifying BCS conferences] has established value in the last five years."
Delany: "The notion that over time by putting political pressure on, it's just going to get greater access, more financial reward and more access to the Rose Bowl, I think you're really testing. I think people who have contributed a lot have, what I call, 'BCS defense fatigue.' If you think you can continue to push for more money, more access to the Rose Bowl, or Sugar Bowl. I have tremendous respect for Boise and TCU. ... I think they are tremendous teams that can beat any team in the country on a given day. I think the only question is, 'Does one team's 12-0 and another team's 12-0 equate?' And that's where the discussion plays out, not whether or not they're elite teams or deserving access to the bowl system. I'm not sure how much more give there is in the system."
To most folks, Delany came out looking like the bad guy, telling Benson to be grateful for what you have as far as BCS access. Many in the media paint Delany as the evil BCS czar, when in some cases he's just advocating for the Big Ten's best interests. Which is, you know, his job.
Big Ten fans should want a commissioner who doesn't just lie down in the face of political pressure and cower to teams from non-BCS leagues at the expense of the Big Ten. If you're a Big Ten fan who loves the Rose Bowl and the tradition of that game, you shouldn't want any other commissioner representing your league.
I caught up with Delany earlier Friday and asked him about what happened in New York.
"It was a reactive statement," he said. "My only point was when commissioner Benson was suggesting in the next cycle there might be more access, there might be more revenue and there’s a hierarchy of conferences, I was just trying to say back to him that different conferences have put in different assets. The Big Ten has put in the Rose Bowl, which has benefited anyone who’s gotten a chance to play in it that otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance.
"I simply said in response to the future, we had put in a lot, we had gotten a lot, there was an imperfect system for us because our access to the Rose Bowl has been diluted."
The Big Ten still benefits from the BCS more than any other league, sending two teams to BCS bowls in each of the past six seasons. But if you don't think it stings Delany or his constituents every time they lose the traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup in Pasadena, you're dead wrong.
Asked about the chances for further access loosening with the Rose Bowl, Delany was crystal clear.
"I don't think there would be any support in our group, any support to doing anything more than what’s been done," he said. "Any support. That's not a negotiating point. That's simply a fact. ... Everybody has something that’s really important to them and they protect it.
"If you are defending what you're doing, it doesn’t resonate in the same way as somebody who might be attacking it. That doesn’t mean it's not true."
Delany brought up an interesting point: What if in 1995, a Northwestern program that ended decades of futility by winning the Big Ten, couldn't go to the Rose Bowl because of a BCS access change? He also used a more recent example of a team denied access.
"I know that Stanford will push hard not to see this happen to their team again," Delany said. "Under normal circumstances, the Stanford Cardinal could replace Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Can you imagine how it feels at Stanford? They love the Orange Bowl, but [the Rose Bowl] is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for those kids."
Delany also made it clear that his comments weren't intended to disparage the accomplishments of elite teams from non-AQ leagues.
"I have tremendous respect for TCU, Utah and Boise for what they’ve accomplished," he said. "Those are elite programs. And they’re capable, on any particular week, of beating anybody in the country. It’s how I feel, and it’s honest. But that doesn’t mean that in creating the situation, the Big Ten and the Pac-10 didn’t make a sizable contribution to the system.
"Maybe it’s not P.C. to say that, but it’s true."
Some interesting stuff from the commish. Interested to get your reaction.