For Once, Don't Blame Jim Delany for the Big Ten's Dinosaur Tendencies

I give Jim Delany a hard time around here for generally being an opponent of change and thinking about the good of his conference over the good of college football as a whole. The reason we don't see things the same way is because we're in very different places. I, as a fan, care more about the game than any single conference (yes, even the SEC) because I love the sport and want to see it get what I think is best for it. If anyone, Mike Slive included, speaks out against what is best for the game overall, I get upset.

Delany, on the other hand, is employed by a conference and is paid to advance the goals and agendas of the university presidents who decide whether or not to keep him. I think he personally agrees with those presidents more often than not though, which is why I often criticize him as a proxy for those university heads.

For once, though, I can't blame Delany for the Big Ten digging its heels in against a change I think is best for college football as a whole:

"I think if the Big Ten presidents were to vote today, we would vote for the status quo. We think it best serves college football," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said. "I don't think any of us are anxious to ask our student-athletes to play a 15th game. We think, in many respects it is as good as you can do.

"But we're also realistic that that doesn't seem to be something that has gotten a lot of support and that some movement is necessary. Our second strong preference would be for a plus-one."

Even BCS executive director Bill Hancock himself has said the status quo is off the table, and yet here are the Big Ten presidents coming out saying they'd prefer no change over any other outcome. Delany had nothing to do with that vote. That's all the Big Ten presidents just giving a giant middle finger to all the people who have signed off in favor of a playoff, a group that even includes Pac-12 presidents. A plus one would be the mildest form of change possible, though it's not surprising to see them bring it up so soon after Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott began talking about it again recently.

Perlman did go on to acknowledge that we might end up with a playoff, though he notes that the presidents would want one "within the bowls that would preserve our connection to the Rose Bowl". Of course they do.

If that wasn't enough to convince you that Delany's actually not the bad guy here, he actually aligned himself with the SEC and Big 12 over the playoff format. Yes, really. In public, at that:

"I think it should be the four best teams," Delany said. "The question is whether a computerized poll should manage, with what it is today, is an appropriate proxy for the four best teams. I totally agree we should have the four best teams." ...

"I didn't really think that the conference champions-only (model) met the public's demand for elite teams playing each other," Delany said. "I thought the combination of champions and an elite at-large team regardless of status -- it could be a champion, could be an independent, could be a divisional runner-up or championship loser -- was probably the right formulation. But that was just to get the discussion going.

"I think that people understand now that our search right now is to find the best four football teams. However you do that, typically it's going to involve a lot of champions."

Yes, yes it is going to involve a lot of champions. That's why the proposed system to reserve three (or all four) of the playoff spots for conference champions was such a bad idea. When the conference champions are elite, they'll find their way into the top four. When they're not, they'd take a spot from a more deserving team and undermine the whole system.

I am completely at a loss right now seeing Delany say things that line up entirely with my line of thinking. I'd need to sit down for a bit if I wasn't already sitting down. I guess I'll just call a truce on beating up on him for a while. It won't last forever, as he does have a bad track record and doesn't often go too long without saying something provocative and/or dumb. Still though, he even talked about how bad an idea it is to have polls in the championship selection process saying, "I think everybody recognizes that the present poll system is not a good proxy because it's flawed, it's not transparent, it has people who have a stake in the outcome voting and it measures teams before they play a game." Is this real life?

Jim Delany is not a villain in the process of reshaping college football's postseason. It feels weird to say it, but that's the truth.

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