Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and SEC counterpart Mike Slive are the most powerful men in college sports. They are to the world of college football what Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun were to American politics in the 1830s and 1840s. When they walk into the room, everybody listens. And more often than not, they get their own way -- unless they argue with one another.
So when Delany and Slive find agreement, it's rare. It's powerful. It's thought-provoking and change is in the air. The men are on the same page regarding an extended postseason in college football. It's simply historical.
It's not yet called a playoff, or the recent meetings involving Delany, Slive, other conference commissioners, Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick and BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock would end it all. They'd leave the room, close their eyes and pretend it was all a rumor. But change is coming to college football's postseason, and it's inevitable.
"The status quo is off the table," Hancock told reporters Wednesday after meetings in Hollywood, Fla.
Even more telling was Delany's remark. "I would say there is an expectation that there will be significant change," Delany said.
Delany previously was the staunchest defender of college football's status quo. He prolonged the current bowl system and stood in the way of modifying the postseason in order to protect the Rose Bowl. In Big Ten (and Pac-12) country, the Rose Bowl is the ultimate destination, even more than the BCS title game. The Rose Bowl's history and tradition are unparalleled. Bowl games are fun, national championships are important but the Rose Bowl is majestic.
But Delany knows the critical mass is for a playoff or four-team event. He openly has discussed seeding four teams in a mini-tournament where the top two teams host semifinals. The rich thought of Ohio State or Wisconsin hosting Alabama or Florida in a semifinal brings a smile to many a Big Ten fan, especially if it's 20 degrees and snowy. Delany also has floated the idea of using the Rose Bowl as a pseudo semifinal, which has not been well-received.
Why the sudden change? That's for Delany to say. But a few facts regarding Big Ten bowldom indicate the schools are getting played by their hosts. Eight different Big Ten schools submitted 2011-12 bowl reports to the NCAA, which were acquired by The Gazette via the Freedom of Information Act. Those eight schools were required to sell 102,898 tickets. More than 35 percent -- 36,409 -- went unsold. Many of the tickets were in upper decks and stadium end zones.
Breaking it down even more, if you remove Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin (which sold 24,750 tickets) from the mix, the other six schools were given 78,001 tickets. About 47 percent -- 36,262 -- were unsold. The costs of unsold tickets syndicate to every Big Ten school and is subtracted from everyone's bottom line. The number likely is worse considering the Big Ten's two schools that have yet to submit numbers to The Gazette were Penn State and Northwestern, which were dispersed 18,000 tickets for low-level bowls.
But the bowl tickets aren't the reason for Delany's change, just another factor in the aggravation of bowl politics. Delany wants a better postseason, not a complete overhaul.
"I just want to make sure that the changes that we make are evolutionary," Delany told reporters. "That they support the regular season. That they're from a Rose Bowl perspective, that they sustain that tradition. That we're also able to produce something that the public appreciates and supports.
"You want to control change. You want to have evolution, not revolution because you don't know that the unintended consequences will be."
Delany will keep the changes modest, and Slive will steer the course so his top-shelf football conference can have more than one qualifier on a regular basis (which, based on recent history, the SEC deserves). The changes are undecided and won't take effect until 2014. But in the context of college athletics, this week provides a watershed moment as the postseason takes a historical turn. We can thank the college athletics' top two power brokers for building a college football bridge from the days of Webster and Calhoun to the 21st century.
-- Scott Dochterman
-- The Orlando Sentinel is doing a daily college football countdown, ranking FBS teams from No. 120 to No. 1. The countdown began last week. It got to No. 110 on Wednesday, and it marked two straight days a 2012 Iowa opponent was listed.
First came Indiana at No. 111. Which was fitting because the Hoosiers were 1-11 last year in Kevin Wilson's first season as head coach. Iowa is at Indiana on Nov. 3.
Then followed Central Michigan at No. 110. The Chippewas were 12-2 in 2009, but have had two successive 3-9 seasons since. They play at Iowa on Sept. 22.
On Thursday night, Aug. 30, Minnesota plays at No. 118, UNLV. If you happen to be in Las Vegas that night ... gamble responsibly.
-- The University of Minnesota doesn't have a specific basketball facility.
Sound familiar, Iowa fans? While the Hawkeyes have had that problem rectified to their satisfaction, Gophers Coach Tubby Smith said "We shouldn't be the last school in the Big Ten with a practice facility. If anything we should have been the first.''
But we all know how this goes. The clarion call wasn't heard as loudly at Iowa when Todd Lickliter was on the trumpet because Lickliter didn't win. Ancient history, that. Well, it's history, anyhow.
Smith is 38-52 in the Big Ten over five years at Minnesota. But he says he is "fired up."
"I'm very secure with who I am, and I am very secure with where I am in my career,'' he said. "I like where I am."
-- We realize part of your motivation to get lost in a post like this is to escape ugliness like, well, politics. But sports doesn't exist in a bubble, and we refuse to hide you from reality altogether as hard as we may sometimes try. So, we start with President Obama telling a University of Iowa crowd ...
Which he followed shortly afterward with ...
"There is some good hospitality here, and I should know. I spent a little time here in Iowa, spent a little time here in Iowa City. Iím glad that my hometown of Chicago will get to return the hospitality when your football team kicks off its season at Soldier Field (against Northern Illinois on Sept. 1)."
The president neglected to mention North Carolina was his pick to win the men's NCAA basketball tournament this year or that he had Missouri (a second-round loser to Norfolk State) among his Final Four picks.
-- But in a more serious vein ...
Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown attended an Omaha City Council hearing and testified against an anti-discrimination ordinance that extended protections to gay and transgender people. Associated Press' story on Brown included this:
Brown is adamant he won't change his Bible-inspired message or quit delivering it. As a Christian, he said, he's called to evangelize.
You people must have something to say about that in our comments box, no?
--- Compiled by Mike Hlas