Pac 10 Commisioner Threatens To Leave The BCS (or BSC)
Pac-10 Commish Not Dealing in Reality
When it comes to college football, I'm what you might call a "semi-traditionalist." I openly embrace many of the more modern elements of the sport -- overtime, conference championship games, spread offenses, etc. -- while at the same time grumbling about Tuesday night TV games, mocking the oversaturated bowl lineup and cherishing what remains of the Big Ten-Pac-10 Rose Bowl.
Pac-10 commissioner Thomas C. Hansen, on the other hand, is what you might call an "ultra-traditionalist." Hansen's affiliation with college football dates back to his years as an undergrad at Washington in the late 1950s. He first worked for the Pac-10 when the league was still called the Athletic Association of Western Universities and had only five members. He's been around long enough to remember when only the conference's champion went to a bowl game and nobody really cared about the "true" national champion.
From his comments over the past few years, one gets the impression he'd gladly return to those days in a heartbeat. At the very least, if he had to do it over, he never would have let his conference and the Rose Bowl get sucked in to the BCS, which disrupted his league's most treasured annual tradition and, on two occasions (2001 Oregon and 2003 USC), jobbed one of its members out of the title game. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Hansen is threatening to cut ties with the BCS if it were to adopt a "plus-one" game (a title game played after all teams' bowl games) when the current contract ends in 2010.
Last week, Hansen told the Sporting News, "Our presidents have no interest whatsoever in a plus-one model -- none. It's a little annoying that my colleagues continue to float this idea as though it has merit. If they continue to push it, and try to push us into a corner ..." What? The Pac-10 would leave the BCS? "Yes," he said. "No question."
Hansen elaborated further during an ESPN Radio appearance on Thursday. "My understanding of a plus-one model is it would include seeding of the teams," said Hansen. "... We oppose it primarily on the basis that we might be seeded out of the Rose Bowl."
Hansenís comments come in response to a recent New York Post article, citing unnamed conference and network sources, that indicated "support is steadily growing for a plus-one." The article said that the current BCS bowls would rotate hosting two "Final Four" games before the championship, and that a sixth bowl would be added to the lineup.
Keep in mind, the powers-that-be have yet to hold any formal discussions about the future of the BCS, and the majority of the nation's commissioners and athletic directors -- including current BCS coordinator Mike Slive -- have already indicated for some time that they'd be open to the possibility. The fact that the title game has already become a stand-alone entity played a week after New Year's would make for a logical segue.
However, leaders across the sport have also known since long before Hansen's comments that the advent of a plus-one is far from a done deal -- and that the primary opposition will come from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl.
Hansen said his league was "very reluctant" to sign off on the BCS originally but that "we felt it was in the best interest of college football." Clearly, he does not feel that way about a plus-one. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has made no such threats himself but did say last winter that the league's relationship with the Rose Bowl is "more important than the BCS." Complicating matters is the fact that while the BCS's contract with FOX expires in three seasons, the Rose Bowl has a separate deal with ABC that runs an additional four years.
So what's my opinion all this? Well, the traditionalist in me empathizes with Hansen's protectiveness toward the Rose Bowl and understands why it's so important to him. But the modern realist in me says -- "You've got to be kidding, Tom." Do you really think your members would sign off on a deal that precludes them from playing for the national championship? Their fans would be livid and you'd be run out of town. I love the Rose Bowl, too, but I'm afraid that ship has already sailed.
Ultimately, I see this playing out one of two ways. Either the Rose Bowl factor will prove to be such a significant obstacle that the other BCS conferences will put off reconfiguration until the ABC contract expires. Or, more realistically, the parties will reach some sort of compromise that exempts the Rose Bowl from further dilution. In other words, if the Big Ten or Pac-10 champion is ranked No. 1 or 2, it would still be moved to whatever bowl is hosting the semifinal (which is really no different than today); however, if those teams are No. 3 or 4 (or lower), they'd still play in the Rose Bowl, with the next-rated team moving up to take their spot.
It certainly wouldn't be a perfect solution, but then again, when has the BCS ever been perfect?