Big Ten President May Be Backing Down On BCS?

Couple weeks back I published a piece about ESPN forcing the NCAA into a football playoff when the TV net wrests the BCS bowl games away from Fox in 2011. Coincidentally, today Tuffy had a piece on SbB that featured ESPN VP of Programming Dave Brown exclaiming that the BCS bowl system is here to stay.

Big 10 President Jim Delany As Pontius Pilate

(Legacy-minded Jim Delany as Pontius Pilate: “I am not the face of the BCS”)

Brown:

“The next four-year cycle is done, so a playoff is not a consideration at this point,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t want to see the bowls changed because I don’t want to create meaningless games during the regular season. I don’t think that would be good for college football.”

Besides, Brown said, this bowl season has been one of the most successful ever, even if some people complain that 34 games is a few more than necessary.

“This season’s bowl results have been great for us,” Brown said. “Our ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 have been up, so business continues to be very good.”

So ESPN corporate now has its talking points when it comes to defending the indefensible:

I wouldn’t want to see the bowls changed because I don’t want to create meaningless games during the regular season.”

Now there’s a newsbreaker, there are no meaningless games during the regular season! Hear that, Baylor fans? The ratings might be up for the minor bowls televised by ESPN, but it’s painfully obvious that interest in the non-BCS Championship Game bowls is in decline. Significant decline. TV ratings for the games continue to recede, and even attendance, in some cases, is becoming an issue.

After I scored tickets to the Rose Bowl game and I asked four people to go. All of them, who live in Los Angeles and support USC, balked. They cited lack of interest in the game, parking hassles and New Year’s Eve hangover. I also spied some empty seats at the OSU-UT Fiesta Bowl and it goes without saying there were some at the Orange Bowl.

But if those same bowls were part of a playoff, do you think apathy would be an issue? Of course not. And it appears that one of the BCS’ most staunch proponents, Big 10 President Jim Delany, may be starting to realize that as well. 

Delany did a sitdown with Mike Lopresti of USA TODAY recently, and for the first time, he sounded a little perplexed and defensive about the problems the BCS bowls are enduring.

Delany portrayed Pontius Pilate from the outset of the convo, making clear that he “is not the face” of the BCS. And he sounded more like someone administering the desires all interested parties with this comment (yeahright):

“The majority of the presidents and faculty and athletic directors and coaches in the Big Ten believe in the Rose Bowl and believe in the bowl system.”

Funny, I haven’t heard a single coach come out in favor of the BCS. Zero. None. Also note that Delany doesn’t mention the people who pay all the bills (and his salary): The FANS.

Though he toes the party line throughout, Delany clearly is hedging in some of his comments, knowing full well that the BCS will likely not last forever, and that he doesn’t want to be judged as one of the primary figures who oversaw the Dark Ages of college football.

At least Delany doesn’t push the lie anymore that resisting a playoff is about academic concerns. He ends with this on the BCS, “It’s been incredibly successful … controversial, and successful.

I believe if Delany did this interview five years ago, it’d be a very, very different tone. But there are now cracks in the dam. Namely TV ratings, attendance and media protest that is growing louder by the day.

I still believe, despite Brown’s assertation, that we will see a college football playoff after ESPN takes over the BCS broadcasts in 2011. By then, the barbarians will be at the gate.

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