Big Ten on board with four-team playoff

The Big Ten's athletic directors met in Chicago and are all in agreement with a proposed four-team playoff system. However, the other details for a new postseason system must be ironed out.

The Big Ten's athletic directors are all on board with a playoff to decide college football's champion. The rest remains up for debate.

Numerous key issues were left on the table as the Big Ten athletic directors exited the conference spring meetings in Chicago. For the most part, each of the conference's athletic directors share similar goals, but a universally popular model is impossible to reach.

"I don't think there will be a perfect system," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said. "There will always be controversy."

The Big Ten's priorities is clear: ensure a playoff model does not compromise the integrity of the regular season or damage the bowl system in place. A playoff system involving more than four teams would reduce the importance of each regular-season game.

"It diminishes the importance of the season, and I don't think we don't want to do that," Osborne said. "We want to keep those stadiums as full as possible."

A major flaw in the current BCS system is the importance of computers, which offer little transparency to the public. At the end of each regular season, controversy is generated leaving fans unhappy and unsatisfied

The proposed four-team playoff would remove debate as to which teams deserve a shot for the championship as the nation's No. 1 and 2 teams, but instead causes arguments for which teams should be ranked in the final four. Big Ten athletic directors are in agreement that humans need a larger influence in deciding the polls.

"That was discussed heavily," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith. "There's a part of me that feels that you need to have a people element in there, particularly for (teams ranked) 3,4,5,6."

The human element could calculate certain variable during the season, which could construct fair, exciting matchups.

"I think there are so many factors that need to be considered, such as an injury late in the season to a key player," Osborne said. "Even though that team may be ranked third or fourth, do you want to keep them third or fourth if it's a quarterback and that team obviously is not the same team? Do you want to make adjustments for that? Maybe a selection committee would be appropriate for that."

Others aren't necessarily against the computerized polls, but ask for fairness and transparency in the process.

"If we're going to use computers, people are more up front about what's in those computers," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "It would mean perhaps the pollsters that we have would have to refrain from ranking teams before they ever play. It would mean we would have to honestly discuss strength of schedule and how we measure it."

The site of potential playoff games remains undecided, but was often discussed during the meetings. One option proposed is for the hosting rights to be bid on by various cities. On the contrary, another possibility is for on-campus playoff contests.

A Big Ten-hosted playoff game, played in early January, would surely be beneficial to the home team which would be accustomed to the frigid temperatures. That was something considered during the meetings.

"I thought about what's good for the game," Smith stated. "Let's say Ohio State is hosting and whatever day it may be, January or December, it is 5 degrees. Is that right for the game? We're not pro (players). We need to figure out what's best for the game. I think a fast surface, good weather is important for the game. It's important for the kids."

Another downside of hosting a postseason game on campus is taking away the excitement of a bowl trip -- namely the pre-game festivities each team takes part in.

"The bowl experience is the one thing they want to keep in the equation," said Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis. "With campus sites, it becomes like a regular-season game."

All discussions on a new postseason model involve what will best suit the fans, leading to revenue for each school. Generally speaking, the call for changing system stemmed from college football fans' outcry.

"We haven't tried to do any of this in a manner where we haven't been conscious to what they're feeling," Northwestern director of athletics Jim Phillips said. "That's the message, that's the pervasive indicator, that, hey, we hear you, we hear what you're asking for."

Chris Emma has covered college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports since 2009. He covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs.
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