Jim Delany announcing Rutgers' addition to the Big Ten.

The stage was set for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Faced with the harsh reality that the Big Ten conference champion would be left out of the College Football Playoff for the third year in a row, it was time for Delany to tell the college football world that enough was enough and it was time for a change. Yes, someone is always going to be left out when it’s four spots for five Power Five champions, but it’s clear the Big Ten continues to draw the short straw. (Well, the short straw for anyone not named the Pac-12, which still only has two appearances in five years.)

As the leader of the Big Ten, it’s up to Delany to make the case for his conference, his football programs, and his fanbase that the league simply can’t be sitting on the sidelines any longer for the playoff.

If there is anyone in the current college football power structure who can expedite the process towards a more inclusive eight-team playoff, it’s Delany. So there it was, the perfect opportunity to push for expansion with Ohio State not only not making the Top 4, but even insultingly finishing behind SEC championship game loser Georgia at 6th in the final standings.

So what did Delany do with that opportunity to push for reform?

Nothing.

He did nothing.

No, his reaction to Ohio State and the Big Ten being left out for the second year running was to just sit there and take it.

Delany then went onto the Big Ten Network and basically shrugged it off as though this was no big deal, that the conference and its fans should just simply roll with the punches. He even specifically addressed the topic of playoff expansion without prompting and proceeded to throw cold water all over the idea by saying it could be something that might possibly potentially be looked at somewhere down the line.

Can you imagine what the SEC would be doing if Alabama won the conference and were left out of the playoff two years in a row? There would be an uprising the likes we’ve never seen before in college football. It would be getting non-stop coverage on ESPN. It would be an unending controversy. And yet, Delany and the Big Ten are just rolling over and letting this happen because they still think it’s 1960 and a Rose Bowl berth is enough of a consolation prize. Thank goodness the Pac-12 is right alongside the Big Ten on the bottom of the Power Five totem pole so that tradition can be preserved.

It’s a sad reflection of the priorities of Delany and the Big Ten when he’s more aggressive in proposing to move the entire conference to Division III if schools ever had to pay student-athletes than he is trying to advocate any change to the playoff. Maybe Delany would have actually said or done something constructive on behalf of Ohio State and the Big Ten if the committee had threatened to take BTN off of those east coast cable packages instead. It’s clear that the priorities of the Big Ten are making money, not what happens anywhere else. Rutgers and Maryland aren’t exactly great resume builders anywhere but in the Big Ten’s profit/loss statement at the end of the year.

In fairness, this discussion isn’t even about whether Ohio State deserves to have made it into the Top 4 this year. Even level-headed Buckeyes fans would agree that they were way too inconsistent to be in any real serious contention for the fourth spot and that it’s impossible to forget the memory of being blown out on the road at Purdue. The same was true last year with the blowout loss at Iowa. Those are tough for any program to overcome, even one the caliber of Ohio State.

The larger issue at play here is that this was a chance for Delany to shake it up and make sure that his conference (and everyone else) had a seat at the table every year. If he really thinks Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State would have a chance in a playoff if they were let in, then why not do something about it! Why just hand out empty plaudits and talk about how many ranked teams the conference beat and how good of a year it was when your entire conference season was just rendered absolutely meaningless?

One of the arguments against expanding the playoff is that it would make the regular season have less meaning. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Because we just witnessed Ohio State score the most points in the history of the biggest rivalry in college football and it didn’t mean a dang thing. It was just passed over thanks to a four-team playoff, forgotten about like it never even happened because of “strength of schedule” and “eye tests” and whatever the committee hit on the dart board for their rationale this year.

What is meaningless right now is the Big Ten and its conference champion. Maybe someday, someone will care enough to do something about it.

An eight-team playoff is surely the way this has to go. Every Power Five champion gets an automatic bid with three at-large spots, one guaranteed to the top Group of Five school. In that system, everyone has a pathway into the playoff. It makes too much sense for everyone, it would make a ton of money, it would be a massive success, and it would actually be fair for all. Only in FBS college football do half of the schools that compete (like UCF in spite of their back-to-back undefeated seasons) know they have no chance to win a championship no matter what they accomplish. An eight-team playoff is the way to make right decades of wrong in college football. (And that’s to say nothing of all the interest and money it would draw.)

Instead, Delany and the rest of the college football power structure clings to the status quo for reasons unbeknownst to anyone else, even in spite of it being a detriment to himself and his conference. Everyone wants an expanded playoff to happen except the people who can actually make it happen. What could be more fitting for college football than that?

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

12 thoughts on “Jim Delany could have been the hero we needed for playoff expansion. Instead, he chose to uphold the broken status quo.

  1. Advocating for change would require effort. The commissioners are very comfy, please, do not disturb.

    1. They know there are professors who are anti-sports who would likely protest if the playoffs were expanded to where they would get donors who are anti-sports involved.

  2. Nothing will change until the next round of television rights for FBS playoffs arrives. ESPN doesn’t want to change now because they would have to pay more.

    1. We really need a 32-team playoff with ALL conference championship (plus as I would do it this year, Notre Dame with two such along with Army having one such) hosting at least one playoff game. It would be the December version of March Madness.

      1. Most bowl games suck, so would this tournament. Basketball and football are not the same sport. It would not play out the same way. All this would do is render much of the Regular Season to be worthless.

        1. Regular season would be FAR from worthless. In the Power 5, in most cases unless you’re really weak winning your conference (or like Notre Dame, going unbeaten and being in the Top 15) means First AND Second round games at home that are huge while all conference champs get a home (plus in addition to Notre Dame this year, Army getting one meeting certain criteria as an Indepenedent). You’d have stories like Army and UAB (a school that actually suspended its program three years ago) HOSTING first-round games that would be massive deals for them. For the smaller schools, getting to host a big-time program in Round 1 would be THEIR championship game. That would be part of the charm of a 32-team tournament while the regular season is still meaningful because you’d need to earn 1st & 2nd round home games.

          1. Give it up already. You’re not going to see it happen. Not only would it water down College football, but It’s too much of a toll for the football players to play 12 games already. You’re asking for 5 more on top of that? Especially in a month where student athletes are studying for final exams. No one wants to see an 8-4 or 7-5 SEC or Big Ten team in the national title hunt, nor should there be. It’s fine the way it is now, End of discussion for me.

          2. An 8-4 or 7-5 school from a power conference would have to do it the hard way: Winning TWO games ON THE ROAD at the higher seed. I actually had Auburn, who would have been AT Notre Dame in the first round knocking off the Irish in South Bend, and Auburn would have been the NINTH SEC school in the field of 32 (in the years I’ve been doing brackets, the SEC is the only conference ever to have more than six schools in a field of 32, and they have done that five times now, with two other times each their getting seven or eight schools into the field of 32).

            What it shows is how tough the SEC really is that a 7-5 Auburn squad is worthy of an at-large bid.

          3. you’re basically repeating yourself like a parrot.

            Sorry, no. I just don’t see it delivering, and i don’t think the parties involved want it. fans, players and schools do not want it, no one wants it, it’s watered and unrealistic to think it will be exciting just because it works in basketball, it’s apples and oranges and extends the stamina of the student athletes beyond what they can already should be doing,
            weaker teams do not belong in the conversation. Not having some long shot. Nothing, And no rewarding regular seasons of mediocrity that are followed up by 2-3 good games by a team.
            There’s nothing you can say or do to make me change my mind and probably anyone else’s.

          4. You were trying to bring Walt around? The next time he proposes something rooted in reality will be the first time.

  3. Delany knows there is a very small, but extremely vocal group of professors who are in some cases completely anti-sports (as one who lived near an Ivy League campus for almost 30 years, I frequently dealt with people like that) who would be outraged if they tried to expand the playoff and those would have donors who are also anti-sports speaking out. That is why there was not a playoff at all for years (even though a 32-team version would be the December version of March Madness) in my opinion and might be a roadblock against advancing.

Comments are closed.