B1G Change

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.

Iowa Jab

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 laketheposts@gmail.com with your tales of tickets!

  • NorCalCat

    Loved the satirical Nike Pro Combat uniform designs over at BHGP. Our’s was funny, if a bit cliched as LTP pointed out. My favorites were Illinois and Mich State. State as little brother dressed in Michigan’s hand-me-downs made me laugh out loud.

  • Scooter

    Wait, so we’re going to totally throw transparency to the wind in this? The polls and computer rankings sure aren’t perfect, but at least we can have some pretty good ideas about what’s going on behind the scenes. If we have a secret committee a la March Madness, that just intensifies the “this team should have gotten in” issue. I agree that coach and media polls are lousy, but how about a dedicated committee ranking as one element of an approach that also includes computer rankings (no historical bias, and equal treatment of games at different points in the season are huge pluses)?

    • vaudvillain

      Depending on how the selection committee works, this could be *more* transparent than the BCS, not less. Not all of the computer formulas are made public, so there’s still a bit of a black box to the BCS. There have been suggestions about televising discussions with the selection committee, and also suggestions about getting some of the more well-respected members of the sports media involved. Two advantages there — they actually know something, and they can help articulate the arguments why some teams were chosen and others weren’t. There will always be controversy — no matter how many teams there are in a playoff, and no matter how you choose them, there will always be a team at X+1 that could left out, even though they felt they were more deserving than a team that did get in. But I like a selection committee — as long as it is transparent — better than an arbitrary formula.

      • skepticat

        “There will always be controversy — no matter how many teams there are in a playoff, and no matter how you choose them”

        I disagree. The pros, to my knowledge, have never had controversy in any sport about which teams have made the playoffs. There’s a reason for that.

        The NCAA isn’t going that route, so in my opinion the actual formula/system really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s “in the ball park.” And even if it isn’t, how many years did they spend “tweaking” the BCS before it finally just started producing the match-ups everybody wanted to see anyway?

        No, this is 100% politics and money, and the only thing that really matters here is that Delaney maneuver the conference into the best position to benefit. I’m a bit concerned he’s being left in the dust on this one: as if he’s almost throwing up his arms and saying, “Well, we want the Rose Bowl, but whatever you guys want.” From the guy that pioneered the conference television network and netted a whale with adding Nebraska to the conference, it’s a little disconcerting.

        • cebpd

          Why the hell would you want an NFL-like playoff.

          And for the record, you don’t think the Giants were controversial? the Giants were 9-7, the Packers were 15-1. The best team does not win an NFL like playoff, the “hottest” team does. It doesn’t award a true champion, which is why the regular season weeds out these teams like the Giants.

          The regular season in college football is SO damn exciting, thats why people watch it thursday, friday, saturday, everything means something somewhere. The atmosphere for LSU-Bama 1v2 matchup, any other “big” game, would be incredibly diminished in an NFL style playoff.

          Keep the NFL-style playoff where it is, in the NFL.

          Keep the playoff elusive and exclusive, like it is now. That way, when you get there, it’s that much more exciting.

          • skepticat

            Well if, say, 7-5 Texas had finished their season by beating Oklahoma St., Stanford, and LSU on the road, and then Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, at the very least it’d be pretty tough to say that any of the other teams deserved it more. But I have a real simple fix if you don’t like wildcards winning your championship game: don’t include them in your playoff. As it is, the NFL messes around with the playoff scheduling for the sole purpose of accomodating wildcards; I’d have no problem leaving them out.

            I also suspect that undefeated LSU and undefeated Alabama, playing for the fast track to their conference championship and a playoff berth, broadcast on Saturday prime-time network television, would still generate a pretty electric atmosphere. Although … tell me again why they played that game? Just ’cause it was on the schedule, I guess, since in the end it meant absolutely nothing. Nobody who accepts Alabama as last season’s national champion can make a case against including wildcards in the championship game and/or playoffs. Furthermore, you cannot seriously claim that “every game matters” in a system that awards the championship to a team that a) didn’t win their divison, b) didn’t win their conference, and c) won it by beating a team that beat them during the regular season.

            Here, I have the perfect system for you, one which guarantees maximum excitement during the regular season and ensures that every game truly matters:
            1) Eliminate all conferences
            2) Run the entire season as a single-elimination tournament

            That’s basically what we have now, except the eliminated teams keep playing, and when we get down to the Elite Eight, a popularity contest is held to determine who plays for the championship.

  • TENman

    I look at the changes occurring in the college football landscape as detrimental to NU from the standpoint of how high it can finish in the conference and also in national polls. Clearly, the introduction of the conference championship game decreases the odds of earning a conference title. No more two or three way ties – it has to win the division and then the CCG.

    The BCS system that bridged the old legacy bowl system with the new playoff format actually worked quite well for NU and the B1G. If a B1G team went undefeated, it would be considered for the NCG. The BCS also afforded B1G teams at-large slots, effectively allowing everyone in the conference to move up a rung in bowl position. For example, NUs slot in the Outback bowl in 2009-2010 was due in part to two B1G teams (Ohio State, Iowa) getting into BCS bowls. Since drawing power, in terms of ticket sales and television ratings, was a major determinant for deciding the at-large slots, the B1G had a natural advantage.

    I see the new playoff picture as being remarkably disadvantageous to the Northwestern and also the B1G. For example, under the current BCS system, should NU run the table and go undefeated, it probably would have had a 75% chance of being selected for the BCS title game. Disregard NUs current bowl losing streak and assume it has a 40% chance of winning any bowl it plays in. Therefore, the chance of winning national title given undefeated season is 28% (0.70 x 0.40). Look at the scenario under the four team playoff proposal. Certainly, if NU runs the table, odds of making playoffs jump to 100%. However, it needs to win two playoff games, not one. Championship probability now plummets to 16% instead of 28%.

    I don’t see how any NU fan could be excited with these developments.

    However, as LTP astutely notes,

    “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 way the current power structure is set up, SEC and B12 probably would insist upon conferences dividing up playoff revenue based on their percent contribution of teams in the playoff. B1G, PAC12, ACC might be more amenable to pushing for a even split. From a pure football perspective, the playoff is a loser for NU. What remains to be seen is what compromise can be reached that will garner revenues sufficient enough to warrant the potential diminishing returns in terms of bowl positioning and national rank.

    • vaudvillain

      Yes, I am a Northwestern fan — but I am also a fan of college football. As a CFB fan, I think a four-team playoff is way better than the current BCS system or a plus-one. And as a NU fan — even one who swills freely on that Koolaid — I don’t really envision us playing for national titles anyway (except in WLAX, of course!), so I’m not sure how relevant it is. I want to focus on winning the B1G. If we do so in a year when the B1G is strong, we’ll get into the tournament. If we do so in a year when the B1G is weak, we won’t. Let’s win a conference title first, and then we can worry about the Final Four.

      • zeek

        I tend to agree.

        We need to focus on getting recruiting into the range of where it is for schools like Iowa, Wisconsin, or Michigan State, and then focus on winning the Big Ten.

        What happens in the national title chase has no real bearing for us at this point.

        Oh and winning a bowl game would be nice.

        • cebpd

          screw the bowl game. CAN WE PLEASE STOP with this notion of winning a bowl game? Who cares if we are 7-5, go to the motor city bowl, and win against a crappy MAC team? I’d rather us go to 3 outback bowls and 3 Citrus bowls and LOSE THEM ALL then be able to say, “oh but we won a bowl game against a crappy MAC program”. I want us to go 10-2 and be in the big ten title race and lose as an underdog in the citrus bowl because the Big ten teams got bumped up in order(because of natty championship) than go to a crappy bowl 7-5 and be irrelevant.

          • DT

            Hey, you might not give a hoot if NU wins a lesser bowl game, but if going 7-5 means we play in in say, The Pizza Bowl, I’m all for winning the damned thing… Capiche? The last time NU played a so called, “crappy” MAC team in that bowl, was a Top 20 Bowling Green team with an All American QB no less… You might remember it was loss #4 of our current 9 game streak…

            Give respect- get it… I can just hear the folks at Texas A&M last year breathing a sigh of relief they were not seeing Purdue or Illinois at The Texas Bowl for instance… How does that go over?

  • DT

    You are getting careless, LTP… Not included in your superlatives about the venerable Big Ten Commish, is his recent walking across the Des Plaines River on the way to work…


  • Lake The Posts

    That was funny! I love that I literally know your voice and can hear the sarcasm shining through.

    • DT

      Sarcasm? Me?

      Along those lines, I can hear you waxing poetic introducing The Tar Heel turned Midwest Icon as he accepts his place in “the revered hall of college administrators” that you suggest. No doubt televised on BTN…

      • GTom

        You left out one traditional “DT” detail – shouldn’t it be a river of Kool-Aid (with love)?

        • DT

          Deep Purple at that, GTom!
          Hope all is well…

          • Polymersci

            Hi DT,
            About fell out of my chair laughing last night at your expanded “walking on Deep Purple Koolaid!” Too late to comment then, but had to chim in when I had a minute today. Good to “see” you on LTP. Can’t wait for the football banter to start!!

            Go Cats

          • DT

            Hey, Poly-
            Trust this finds you doing well… In just a couple months, we can get it all rolling again for another exciting (?) season of NU Football…. Till, then LTP is quite capable of fodder to comment on! God love him nonetheless. Want to give odds on when the next Jim Phillips tribute appears on the blog? :-)

            Be well…

  • CatInTheHat

    I’ve gotta hand it to the BHGP folks. I clicked on that link expecting to get riled up and ended up with a smile on my face. They get points for actually taking the time to find a relevant class in the NU coursebook to serve as a foundation for that post. Good stuff.

  • willycat

    Skepticat, your absolutely right that it’s all about politics and money. The rich will get richer and NU any others will left out. One other disturbing item in the story is that while NU realizes 25 million from the BTN and will get a few million more from a playoff system it does not go to athletic department as it does at every other conference school but in the the university coffers and then given to the the athletic programs after things such as a boat house and other needs are met.