You keep wondering what keeps B1G commissioner, Jim Delany, arguably the most powerful man in college sports going. If he were to hang it up today he would have his place reserved in the revered hall of collegiate administrators. He’s been an innovator and creative force for a brand that is well over a century old and he’s made his member institutions much better in the process. Every move that Delany makes seems to always have the welfare of each B1G school at the heart of it. He was in to conference expansion (see early 90s Penn State) before it became all the rage in the recent years. He redefined the TV rights game by getting an increase from ESPN while retaining rights to launch one of the most successful sports TV networks in memory. Now, Delany finds himself, begrudgingly, at the center of the seismic shift in the college football postseason so many of us have been waiting for – a, wait, here I go “playoff”. There, I said it.
Yesterday the B1G held a teleconference to share the outcome of the schools’ sentiments on reforming the BCS. The well-crafted approach to the media positioned the first choice to be status quo. By this, they meant, the current system. And why not? With bowl affiliations and TV contract tie-ins for up to nine member schools, the B1G is in pole position to benefit from the current system. The Rose Bowl, a cherished partnership that seems to be an olive branch to the “innocence” of college football past, would be protected and let’s face it, the brand of that bowl takes some of the sting out of the SEC’s dominance of the national title game this century. However, the B1G folks – Delany, his staff and the member institutions are wise men and women. They saw the tidal wave of momentum swinging thanks in part to the land grab of conference expansion. The inevitability of a playoff was coming. Of course, increased dollars are at the heart of it from an administrator’s perspective while fans still naively cling to the “we want to see the title game on the field”. For the record, I’m all for a move towards a playoff.
The four team playoff model is the “third” choice for the B1G with some members, like Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini being a pretty vocal opponent over any playoff model. Fitz has been pretty persuasive with intimate NU crowds at events sharing his feeling on the bowl experience and how important it is for him and his players. He talks about things like the rodeo, children’s hospital visits, community service, friendship building and bonding that occurs on said non-BCS bowl games and he wants to protect a system that maximizes the opportunity to do that. Meanwhile, AD Jim Phillips was part of the B1G AD-set that voted to have bowl eligibility be a minimum of seven wins which increases the bar for NU, which has been touting its current bowl appearance streak.
The tone emerging from the B1G meetings was one of quasi acquiesence to the inevitablity of a four team playoff model. However, the B1G stake in the ground was for a panel to judge the four teams and dilute the power of the computer rankings and poll systems. I agree with Delany strongly on this point. The historical brand influence always tends to give a boost to “name” teams in preseason polls and you see less of a falloff from teams that start high than teams that emerge from the legions of the unranked. Call this my Northwestern bias, but it’s very real. A ‘Cats team that would start out 5-0 this season with wins over three BCS teams, an FCS team and a B1G team (granted, average teams at best and one cellar dwellar) would likely net us a just-outside-the-Top 25 slot. Meanwhile, a “name” team that plays no one, squeaks out a win over Akron and goes 5-0 would be top ten material. I digress. Shocker.
My big reason for echoing the need for a committee includes things like the “x-factor” of an injury to a star player(s) for perhaps a game in question. It moreso derives from the fact that those that vote in many cases (beat writers who spend a full day at a venue watching nothing but highlights of other games) including coaches have less experience watching the games than bloggers do. I put as much stock in Brian Cook’s Blogpoll as I do the Coach’s poll, no check that, MORE. I watch about 8-12 games on a given Saturday, sad, I know, but when I know unit deficiencies in cellar dwellar Pac-12 teams vs a non-conference opponent I feel qualified to make a good “vote”. Conference titles and strength of schedule are two variables that B1G members are pretty vocal about supporting. The unspoken internal fan fear we have in this conversation as NU fans is “when will this affect us?”. Even yours truly, the most purple colored of fans is having a hard time seeing us get to the Final Four anytime soon. Some of you will point to the future schedules like 2015, but until we can prove on the field that our defense can be a top 40 product, it will be a tough road ahead.
The B1G’s second vote was for semifinal rounds to be hosted on home team’s campuses. The B1G administrators and coaches realized they weren’t the only conference that had a voice in this matter and not surprisingly this Civil War (give the North some love!) strategy got struck down pretty hard by the competition. As Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett of B1G ESPN.com fame have blanketed this story, you can read here how the B1G members were hardly pushing for a playoff at all. Ultimately Delany acknowledged that they are responding to fans and one of the interesting things in all of this is that the “reluctance” by the B1G members to move down this path will actually result in more money. The bid process for the title game is estimated to bring in at least another $50 million which again will be shared in a TBD portion by the B1G and its members. Which leads us to more money talk and the value of being Northwestern and its B1G membership.
The other news that emerged yesterday was the payout to each of the members of the B1G. The conference dished out $284 million with Nebraska getting less than an equal share (which reportedly will continue until 2017 when the new TV contracts are negotiated). Northwestern’s take was therefore expected to be in the $24M-$25M range which relative to the other teams in the conference has a tremendous impact as our gross revenues tend to be significantly lower from other revenue streams like ticket sales and sponsorships for the breadwinning sports of football and men’s hoops. For those who like to get in on the B1G-SEC rivalry, this is about $4m-$5m more per team than the SEC which doled out about $20M per team this year.
Take your sense of humor and your time over to rival Iowa blog BlackHeartGoldPants who is doing a team by team satire on each B1G’s Nike Pro Combat potential uniform design. A bit on the cliche side as it relates to painting the purple in nerdly outfits, but you’ve got to give them an “A” for creativity. Northwestern just launched its official relationship with Under Armour on June 1 and an unveiling of the actual new football uniforms will occur sometime this summer.
Star Power Ties To NU Offer
WildcatReport.com reported yesterday that NU was the first to offer James Crawford, a DB from Florida powerhouse HS St. Thomas Aquinas. Crawford is the nephew of Green Bay Packer CB and Michigan legend Charles Woodson. Crawford gushed about Northwestern and how he’ll hold a special place for NU as they were the first. Let’s hope that comes back to help us as many other major BCS programs are swooping in on Crawford.
WR also has NU closing in on the fifth best center in the nation, Brad North, of Allen, Texas who rated his NU visit “at least a 9” according to Louie Vaccher. North has NU right up there and it looks like a potential two dog race between NU and Boise State.
Ticket Window…Now Open
No movement for the fourth straight day on NEW season tickets. Let’s get the party restarted as we are 8 season tix shy of 25% of goal. We’ve got to get to 200 NEW season tickets by converting friends and/or +1, +2 or +4 our respective ticket packages. A reminder that this will be the only way to ensure you can go to the Nebraska AND likely Iowa games as both are projected to be quick sellouts. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your tales of tickets!