B1G aims 'to not be the barrier' any more

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
2:00
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CHICAGO -- Here's one possible reason the Big Ten decided not to push harder for playoff games at campus sites.

"We're trying to not be the barrier," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told ESPN.com. "We have strong values and strong opinions. We've said that throughout. You go back to 2008, and we wanted the BCS to remain intact. And we've have a 60-plus-year relationship with the Rose Bowl. We've never hid that fact.

"But it's pretty clear that some level of compromise is necessary. So instead of putting stakes in the ground and making it hard for the various constituencies around the country to get ideas up on the table, we're trying to be part of the process."

It's an important shift from the past, when the Big Ten, and specifically longtime league commissioner Jim Delany, have been portrayed as the primary barrier to a playoff in college football. Although the Big Ten/Delany wasn't the only party to oppose the four-team playoff proposed by SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford four years ago, the other opponents weren't placed in the obstructionist role nearly as much.

These days, the Big Ten couldn't stop a playoff even if it wanted to, but the league could live up to its reputation by refusing to budge on the campus-sites issue. See, there's little to no support for campus sites elsewhere in college football. It almost certainly would be a losing battle for the Big Ten.

Is it worth fighting? Many folks think it is. But the Big Ten/Delany would be viewed mostly in a negative -- and familiar -- light.

The league's push for playoff games at bowl sites, which keeps the Rose Bowl as relevant as possible, isn't nearly as confrontational nationally as a campus-sites push would be. Why would leagues like the SEC and Pac-12 oppose bowl sites, which are located so close to their campuses?

"I'd like to be able to play more on my campus," Burke said. "But I recognize the chances of that occurring given the climate are probably [low]. ... You listen to the national debate, and it's not there. So that's where, to me, it leads you back and you try to figure out how the bowls can be integrated."

Asked if the Big Ten fought hard enough for campus sites, Burke replied, "We have, but there's also got to be give and take. Jim has tried to step back. He has been around the longest of all the commissioners. So you've got to be a little bit careful now. You've got to let others get into the debate at the table, so that they feel like you're not just trying to shove something down their throat.

"He has put some stakes in the ground on the field that are important. If it's an issue that is not absolutely core to our values, the values of our ADs and our presidents, we're going to try to help create a consensus."

Jim Delany, consensus builder? The label might never catch on, but there's definitely a push from the Big Ten to no longer stand in the way any more.

"There's a lot here that's happening that doesn't necessarily favor a conference," Delany said. "Basically, you try and do what's right for college football. That's part of our task."

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