B1G: Delany didn't target Bama with remark

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
9:01
AM ET
When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany meets reporters Tuesday at the league's spring meetings in Chicago, he won't be wearing a houndstooth hat and singing "Sweet Home Alabama."

Delany likely will, however, point out that he didn't target the Alabama Crimson Tide with his now infamous "that team" remark in discussing scenarios for college football's future postseason structure. In case you missed it, Delany last week told the Associated Press that the postseason format shouldn't include teams that failed to win their division.
"I don't have a lot of regard for that team. I certainly wouldn’t have as much regard for that team as I would for someone who played nine conference games in a tough conference and played a couple out-of-conference games on the road against really good opponents. If a poll doesn't honor those teams and they're conference champions, I do."

Many interpreted Delany's comments as a direct and obvious shot at Alabama, which won the national championship in January despite failing to win the SEC West division during the regular season. The Big Ten commissioner drew heavy criticism in SEC country, and came off looking like a guy bitter at the SEC's recent dominance of college football and trying to find any way to prevent the possibility of another all-SEC national title game. The fact that Alabama has dominated Big Ten teams in recent matchups -- Penn State in 2011 and 2010, Michigan State in the 2011 Capital One Bowl -- didn't make Delany look any better.

[+] EnlargeDelany
Jerry Lai/US PresswireJim Delany's recent comments drew the ire of those in SEC country.
I appeared on a Birmingham radio show Friday, and I can report that they're none too pleased with Mr. Delany in Tide Country.

Wasn't "that team" an obvious dig at the reigning national champs? According to the Big Ten, it wasn't.

The Big Ten recently sent ESPN.com an explanation of Delany's remarks, which includes a list of teams that finished in the final four of the BCS standings despite not winning their conference or, in some cases their division. The league also provided a list of league champions that finished No. 5 or No. 6 in the standings, and would presumably be left out of a playoff if selections were based entirely on the top 4 rather than other factors. Delany has turned down recent ESPN.com interview requests to discuss the postseason models.

Delany recently floated the idea of having the top four conference champions earn automatic berths in the postseason if they're all in the top 6 of the final rankings. If four league champs don't appear in the top six, the remaining spots would be filled by the highest ranked nonconference champions or independents. If this model had been applied during the BCS era, seven teams that finished in the top four of the BCS standings but didn't win their leagues would have been left out, including No. 3 Michigan in 2006. Alabama would have qualified last year as an at-large team thanks in part to the Big Ten champion (Wisconsin) finishing so far down the standings (No. 10).

Delany's league champions/division champions postseason model would have looked like this during the BCS era:

1998

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Ohio State did not win their conferences
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champions No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Texas

1999

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: None
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None

2000

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: None
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None

2001

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 2 Nebraska did not win its conference or division.
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None (Conference champion No. 3 Colorado would have been in playoff)

2002

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 4 USC did not win its conference
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champion No. 6 Washington State

2003

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 1 Oklahoma did not win its conference
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None (Conference champion No. 10 Kansas State, which defeated Oklahoma in Big 12 championship Game, would not have been in playoff)

2004

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 4 Texas did not win its conference or division
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champion No. 6 Utah (Conference champion No. 2 Oklahoma would have been in playoff)

2005

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 4 Ohio State did not win its conference
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None (Conference champion No. 3 Penn State would have been in playoff; also, No. 5 Notre Dame would not have been in playoff)

2006

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 LSU did not win their conferences
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champions No. 5 USC and No. 6 Louisville (Conference champions No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida would have been in playoff)

2007

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: None
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: None

2008


NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 3 Texas did not win its conference or division and No. 4 Alabama did not win its conference
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champions No. 5 USC and No. 6 Utah (Conference champions No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Florida would have been in playoff)

2009

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: None
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champion No. 6 Boise State

2010

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 4 Stanford did not win its conference
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champion No. 5 Wisconsin (Conference champion No. 2 Oregon would have been in playoff)

2011

NON-CHAMPIONS IN TOP FOUR: No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Stanford did not win their conferences or divisions
CHAMPIONS RANKED NO. 5 OR 6: Conference champion No. 5 Oregon (Conference champion No. 1 LSU would have been in playoff)

The list shows that quite a few squads fit Delany's "that team" label, including some from the Big Ten. Most of the non-champions that finished in the top 4 only failed to win their leagues. The five exceptions were: No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Stanford from 2011, No. 3 Texas in 2008, No. 4 Texas in 2004 and No. 2 Nebraska in 2001.

(It's important to note that the Big Ten and Pac-12 didn't adopt division play until 2011, so there likely would have been more teams in the group -- and there will be more in future seasons.)

Here's what would have happened to those teams in those years if the top 6 model was in place:

2001 Nebraska: Still would have qualified for playoff
2004 Texas: Would have been replaced by No. 6 Utah
2008 Texas: Would have been replaced by No. 5 USC
2011 Alabama: Still would have qualified for playoff
2011 Stanford: Would have been replaced by No. 5 Oregon

Does this make you feel any differently about Delany's comments? The top non-division winners, Nebraska 2001 and Alabama 2011, both of whom played for a national championship, still would have qualified for a playoff. It'd be very hard to see a playoff in 2008 without Texas, although many regarded No. 5 USC as the best team in college football that season. I could live with seeing Utah over Texas in 2004, and I certainly could live with seeing Oregon over Stanford in 2011 after the Ducks trounced the Cardinal at Stanford Stadium before stumbling later against USC.

The tricky part here, in my view, is including the division champion requirement. Not all divisions are created equal -- despite the best efforts of leagues -- and we've seen some lopsided conferences in recent years, most notably the SEC in 2011. The power in that league clearly rested in the West Division. No one would argue that.

Delany would be better off sticking with the league champions argument than adding division winners to it. How many people would have been upset if Oregon had made the playoff over Stanford in 2011? Oregon won the Pac-12 and had beaten Stanford on its home field.

Again, it would have been great to see No. 5 USC in a playoff in 2008.

The hard part is what happens if a team like No. 2 Alabama in 2011 is leapfrogged by, say, a No. 6 champion from the Big Ten or ACC. It would get very ugly.

There's also the matter of how these teams are selected. I hate preseason polls and the influence they have on the BCS title race. It's why I'm strongly in favor of a selection committee being at least part of the decision process with the postseason model.

Winning your league should mean something. Winning your division? Meh.

But in the end, the four best teams should make a playoff, despite the selection headaches that surely will occur.

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