WHAT IS IT WITH THE BIG TEN AND THE ROSE BOWL ANYWAY? Why is the conference, so savvy in other ways, willing to undercut its economic interests for the sake of a once-a-year-game played two or three time zones away?
That grand old bowl "is a great brand, that continues to show an openness ... to change," Delany told the Chicago Tribune in May. Really? The Rose Bowl has seemed about as open to change as Augusta National or the Vatican. But the commish is partly right: It is a great brand. The Rose Bowl ranks second, behind only the BCS title game, in terms of ticket price and demand. ESPN just gave it a massive raise, agreeing to pay the bowl an average of $80 million a year from 2015 through '26. And so the Big Ten abandoned its push for on-campus semifinals, as Yahoo.com columnist and Death to the BCS co-author Dan Wetzel wrote, "because it just couldn't bear the thought of cheating on a bowl game."
On other fronts Delany and the Big Ten have been admirably progressive. Delany's criticisms of the human polls driving the BCS selections were trenchant and spot-on. His call for a March Madness--type selection committee, to choose the four playoff participants, was creative and correct.
If some SEC supporters seemed lukewarm to the idea of a selection committee, it could be because BCS computers and pollsters have long favored the SEC over the Big Ten. Starting in 2014, those polls and computers will be relegated to the dustbin of history. Wetzel won—he and Playoff PAC and the rest of the anti-BCS forces and everyone else who objected to college football's choosing its champion with the equivalent of the flame-belching apparatus operated by the great and powerful Oz.
College football is headed for a brave new world. The Big Ten is better positioned than most to thrive in it, thanks to some hard-fought victories eked out by Delany. Might some Big Ten squad snap the SEC's six-year streak of national championships in 2012? That will happen only if the conference can field a team as competent as its commissioner.