Okay, so I want to take some time to talk about two seemingly unrelated topics: the idea of a playoff in college football, and expansion of the Pac-10. They may seem to be unrelated, but they are connected in that they are largely controlled by one man. Unfortunately, that man is Tom Hansen, whom I wouldn't trust to run a conference any more than I would trust Bill Bavasi to run a baseball franchise.
See, a week or so ago, we were close to having a plus-one playoff in place by the year 2011, which is when the current BCS contract expires. Say what you want about a plus-one playoff (and I think that it is a rather half-assed solution to the problem), but it would be progress. Much as, whether we like to admit it or not, the BCS has been progress over the old system, even if it does have its flaws. However, one BCS wouldn't sign off on the idea. And who was that but, our wonderful Commissioner, Tom Hansen. According to the Commish "Pac-10 university presidents are more concerned about protecting the sanctity of Rose Bowl than further tweaking the current system." He added that the Pac-10 would walk away from the BCS if they tried to institute a plus-one playoff.
Now, its interesting that the Pac-10 would have that argument given two factors. The first factor is that the BCS has already destroyed the Rose Bowl. Having teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, and Nebraska in the Rose Bowl is a smack in the face to tradition. If it were really about preserving the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 would walk away from the BCS as it is now, and end this nonsense. But, apparently the Pac-10 is straddling the fence on this one. If this was really about preserving the Rose Bowl, the BCS would be destroyed already. This leads me to believe that Hansen has some other reason. Either that, or the conference presidents are too stupid to realize that they have been destroying the Rose Bowl for the past ten years. Come to think of it, that wouldn't surprise me.
However, I think that the more interesting point is that, arguably, no conference has been screwed by the current system more than the Pac-10. Think Washington '00, Oregon '01, USC '03, California '04, Oregon '05, etc. If we have the plus one system in place, we get Oregon-Miami for the NC in '01, and USC-LSU for the NC in '03, which is the way it should have been in the first place. Pac-10 presidents, thanks for nothing.
The other issue at hand is expansion. As you've probably heard, The Big Ten is looking to expand to twelve teams. What this really has to do with is that the Big Ten is trying to launch its own network. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who's a real piece of work himself, doesn't seem to realize why cable providers outside of the Big Ten area wouldn't want to pay to put this thing on basic cable. After all, why wouldn't people in Portland, Oregon or Anchorage, Alaska want to be forced to pay an extra dollar a month to watch Michigan play Wisconsin in lacrosse? Not seeming to understand that the Big Ten Network is by nature largely a regional network, Delany got this idea:
If we have twelve teams, then put the conference championship game on our network, they'll be forced to carry our network.
Fine, so add a 12th member, it seems to be the style these days. I'd even like to watch the game (though not for twelve dollars). And there are some teams in the Big Ten area that would make a lot of sense: Notre Dame (though ND is still too good to join a conference), Pitt, Cincinnati, and maybe West Virginia seem to be logical choices. But, no, Delany apparently has his sights set on two targets: Rutgers or Syracuse.
Wait a second, did I say Rutgers or Syracuse? That's not in Big Ten country. What the hell is that all about?
One of the great things about college sports is that they are so regional. The Pac-10 is the west coast league, the Big-10 is the midwest league, the SEC is the southern league, etc. Things have been this way for 100 years. However, TV is rearing its ugly head and doing bad things for the sport yet again. You see, Rutgers or Syracuse would add the New York City market to the Big Ten area (as if anyone in NYC ever gave a fuck about college football). Having a big area team would basically force NYC cable providers to add the Big Ten network. The Big Ten rakes in all that dough. Bad plan for the sport. Great plan if you want to line the pockets of Big Ten schools.
Wait a second, how does this relate to the Pac-10?
In spite of the horrendous TV contract, the playoff gaffe, the Pac-10 tournament perennially being in LA, and other boneheaded Pac-10 decisions, the one they have consistently gotten right is fighting the urge to expand. We have the perfect system to determine a true conference champion in both football and basketball. Every team plays every other team the same number of times. Its a relatively easy concept, yet one that the other leagues fail to understand. But if the Big Ten goes to 12 teams and has a championship game, that leaves the Pac-10 as the only BCS holdout (well, the Big East, but they don't really count). Lets be honest with ourselves. The conference championship game is completely unnecessary in the Pac-10, because every team plays every other team. However, if we expanded to 12 teams......
Who are our real options. I've heard "pick two out of Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State. I see three problems with those schools. They aren't on par with the rest of the conference academically, they do not work well at all with the conference's perfect travel schedule for basketball, and, this is what the conference's main concern would be, they add no new TV markets. The only schools that would work are UNLV and Nevada (not up to snuff academically), and Utah and BYU (a better choice if we absolutely had to). Utah and BYU are relatively in the same region, but add a new state to the TV market, would be good travel partners, and are decent enough academically. (In the mid '90s, they were talking about Texas and Colorado, but that's just absurd).
There is some hope. Even if it was the wrong decision, the Pac-10 showed something by standing up against the plus-one playoff. When the Big 10 makes the laughable decision to add Rutgers, and the pressure to add two more teams becomes immense, can we count on the conference to again be the lone wolf, this time to make the right decision?