Big Ten: Michael McRobbie

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the league's presidents and chancellors left their sand bags, stone tablets and megaphones at home Sunday.

Unlike the SEC, the Big Ten likely won't emerge from its presidents' meeting drawing lines and making bold, rigid statements about a college football playoff. All indications are there will be no official position when Delany, University of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and Indiana University president Michael McRobbie address reporters Monday morning. The Big Ten brass will narrow down its ideas and desires, but it welcomes more dialogue during the rest of June, when three key meetings take place -- June 13 (BCS) and June 19-20 (all NCAA Division I commissioners) in Chicago, and June 26 (BCS presidential oversight committee) in Washington -- that should shape the postseason model.

Big Ten officials are well aware that making bold statements during an ongoing negotiation can end up backfiring, and unlike the SEC, they don't want to go there. University of Florida president Bernie Machen, a member of the presidential oversight committee alongside Perlman, said last week that the SEC "won't compromise" on the best four teams model, and that the Big Ten has "got to get real."

The Big Ten has taken a measured approach since May 17, 2011, when it first discussed a new postseason model with its football coaches at the spring meetings in Chicago. The league went into the process with two objectives: be open to outcome and protect the Rose Bowl as much as possible. That's it.

Since that initial discussion, the Big Ten has had more than 50 playoff meetings and conference calls, both internally and externally with other leagues, bowl officials and the like. Aside from needing to protect the Rose Bowl partnership, the Big Ten hasn't taken a firm position, which has created mixed messages and confusion outside the conference. But no doors have been closed.

There's support in the Big Ten for a playoff model that includes the top three rated conference champions -- as long as they're rated in the top 6 -- and a wild card spot for a worthy non-champion or independent like No. 2 Alabama last season. The league views this model as the closest to the playoff models used in professional sports.

As SI.com's Stewart Mandel pointed out last week:
In the 14-year BCS era, 42 of the 56 teams that finished in the top four of the BCS standings won their conference championship. That's 75 percent, which is the same exact number a three-and-one system would guarantee. Only five times in 14 years would a top four team have been left out for failing to win its conference, and all five occasions involved flipping the No. 4 and 5 teams. There would never have been a No. 3 left out or a No. 6 let in.

Still, the Big Ten isn't completely wedded to the "three-and-one" concept.

This much is known: the Big Ten strongly favors a selection committee to determine the playoff participants. Eliminate bogus polls. Eliminate most if not all the computer rankings. Assemble a group of senior officials with strong representation throughout college football who meet and decide the four teams.

Bottom line: the human element should be paramount.

The league wants the committee to enter its deliberations with some instructions, much like a jury has during a trial. The Big Ten wants the committee to value league championships, head-to-head results and strength of schedule, much like the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee does. The committee wouldn't write off non-champions or non-division winners, but those shortcomings would impact a team's résumé or potential tiebreakers between two teams.

One big question: Would the committee enter the room with a clear directive (i.e. pick the top three league champions and one wild card) or suggested guidelines?

While some Big Ten teams have been criticized for soft nonconference scheduling in years past, the league, like others, is adamant that schedule strength be a huge factor in determining playoff participants. The "best four teams" model, which sounds great in principle, could allow teams to live on their league's past reputation and avoid scheduling tough nonconference foes. That is, unless a selection committee could penalize a team for having a soft slate. Locking in some conference champions would encourage teams to challenge themselves outside their conference and not be penalized for it.

In other words, last year's Oregon squad wouldn't pay the price for opening its season with a loss to LSU, winning the Pac-12, crushing Stanford at Stanford Stadium but slipping behind Stanford in the final BCS standings because of a late-season loss to USC. Oregon's league championship would take precedence in the final evaluation.

No league should want its champion left out of a playoff in favor of a team it outclassed between the lines. Again, this isn't about No. 2 vs. No. 6, where the separation is clear. It's about No. 4 vs. No. 5.

Other items you should know:
  • While the initial model could be decided by the end of June, some important elements might not be determined until the fall, when the BCS begins television negotiations.
  • Although there's some support for a "plus-one" model among Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents, it still seems likelier they adopt a true four-team playoff.
  • TV likely will have less influence on the playoff model than many believe. The TV folks want great games, and none of the models being discussed would impede this.

We'll have more on the playoff topic and more after Delany, Perlman and McRobbie talk with reporters, so stay tuned.

Big Ten part of NCAA reform summit

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
12:53
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rules violations and reform have been the key buzz words in the college football offseason. Now it's time to see if more talk can produce any substantial change.

A group of more than 50 university presidents, plus a handful of athletic directors, conference commissioners and other officials convene this afternoon in Indianapolis for a two-day retreat to discuss how to reform college sports. The issues that are officially on the agenda are fiscal sustainability, academic performance of student-athletes and integrity.

"I don't want to be melodramatic, but this meeting is very important," NCAA president Mark Emmert told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil. "We do have serious challenges, and we do need to make some serious reforms. I don't think there is any debate about that. I want us to be able to build a consensus around those things that are most important for the NCAA to pay attention to and then address those things quickly."

Here are the Big Ten representatives at this week's retreat:
  • Gordon Gee, Ohio State president
  • Michael McRobbie, Indiana president
  • Harvey Perlman, Nebraska chancellor
  • Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State president
  • Graham Spanier, Penn State president
  • Jo Potuto, Nebraska faculty athletic representative, Nebraska

Gee will be spending a lot of time in Indy this week; Ohio State's case before the infractions committee will be held here on Friday.

The key question from this whole retreat will be whether the group comes up with specific recommendations and changes, or if like many university and NCAA endeavors, it simply leads to more reports and committees. The Big Ten, led by commissioner Jim Delany, has been out front in the call for changes to NCAA rules and practices, including cost-of-attendance increases to athletic scholarships. The league has some powerful people at the retreat to push forward those ideas.

I'll be here for both days and reporting on the developments. Stay tuned.
Most Big Ten fans had little reason to pay attention to the league's Council of Presidents/Chancellors before December 2009.

But once the expansion process began, the COP/C entered the spotlight and has made several historic decisions in the past year and a half.

The Big Ten on Thursday announced its COP/C executive committee for the 2011-12 academic year.
  • Indiana president Michael McRobbie will serve as chair for the second year of his term.
  • Iowa president Sally Mason will serve as vice chair.
  • Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon and Penn State president Graham Spanier will serve on the executive committee. Simon was COP/C chair when the Big Ten approved Nebraska for admission last June.

The COP/C, which meets twice a year -- usually in June and December -- has the "ultimate authority and responsibility in Big Ten Conference governance," according to a news release. Each chair serves a two-year term.
The latest chapter of Big Ten expansion is over.

The Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors announced Sunday that the league's expansion study, originally set for 12-18 months, has ended after 12.
"We have been thoroughly engaged in the process since last December," Indiana University president Michael McRobbie, the chair of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents/Chancellors, said in a statement. "Following detailed discussions at today's meeting, my colleagues and I can report that we believe that this process has reached its natural conclusion. We are pleased with the addition of Nebraska and look forward to working with our colleagues there in the years ahead."

According to the league's release, the Big Ten will continue to monitor the landscape in college sports but "will not be actively engaged in conference expansion for the foreseeable future and does not expect to be proactively seeking new members."

This is certainly a big announcement, but not a surprising one. From talking to key folks around the Big Ten the past few months, I got the sense that the presidents and chancellors are thrilled with the addition of Nebraska in June and didn't see a need to actively push forward for other members. While I think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would go forward with a push to expand to 16 teams, the presidents needed to be on board for that to happen, and they weren't.

The Big Ten made a big splash with Nebraska. No need to spend time in the kiddie pool.

Is this the last we hear about Big Ten expansion? No way. TCU just joined the Big East, and other moves could be coming.

But unless a major player decides to change its position -- looking at you, Notre Dame, or maybe you, Texas -- the Big Ten will stay put at 12 members. The Big East schools don't bring much to the table aside from location, and even potential ACC additions like Maryland don't move the needle enough. You should never expand for the sake of expansion, or merely to keep up with other leagues. There's no obvious move, so why make one?

It's interesting how the Big Ten, after setting off alarm bells last December by announcing its expansion study, ended things rather quietly Sunday, the same day bowl selections come out. This story will be forgotten in a few hours, just as the league wants.

The Big Ten was a strong league at 11, and it's about to get stronger at 12. There's no need for overkill, although there's no need to close the door on expansion, either.

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