Big Ten knows it can't win fight in football playoff format, and is fine with that

Today, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman were on a teleconference, and said what should have already been clear.

Perlman said the league presidents' No. 1 preference for a major-college football playoff starting 2014 is the status quo. Delany said the current system has served college athletics well, despite protests to the contrary.

Perlman said the No. 2 preference was to keep the bowl format as it is, but with a plus-one matching the teams deemed the two best after the bowls.

But ... but ... but the league said it isn't drawing a line in the sand, and recognizes a four-team playoff is something it could live with, or at least said so in so many words.

Which isn't any sort of change of attitude. The league wanted to get its preferences out and take what it probably considers the high road. But it will play nice in a few weeks when conference commissioners meet to try to get this hammered out.

There have been many misinterpretations about Delany's stances.

Delany thinks conference-champions should be a significant part of a 4-team playoff. He never said it should be all conference-champs. I was with him a month ago when he suggested - suggested - putting three conference-champs in the playoff as long as they were among the top six teams. But he never said he was insistent about it.

Because the Big Ten knows it can't win these little skirmishes. The playoff will be the top four teams, conference-champs or not. The playoff will feature four teams. It will not be a plus-one on top of the bowls.

But you say your piece, state your preference for wanting to do what's best for the student-athletes, and you cede to the powerful flow of public opinion. Delany called the BCS a "pinata" that no one was coming forth to defend. It had to go. The playoff had to come.

None of it is life-changing. The Big Ten will still be the Big Ten as it sees itself. And it will remain immensely profitable. Delany said the conference will distribute $284 million to its members this year. And when the playoff takes effect in 2014, that number will only grow.

Perlman said the league will do fine under any playoff system. Truer words were never spoken.I'm more interested in seeing if the conferences get from underneath the feet of the bowls, which have their insanely high ticket-sales guarantees with bowl-participants that make profits from bowl trips hard to come by. Delany said "We haven't quite gotten there, but it's on everybody's mind. I think significant changes (will come in) the next bowl cycle."