Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/5/14


As the drumbeat for a playoff grows, who better to lead college football fans into this brave new world than Jim Delany?

In an irony to beat all ironies, according to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, longtime playoff obstructionists Delany and the Big Ten are have suddenly taken the lead in the movement to institute a postseason tournament. Under a proposal reportedly being kicked around in the conference, the four highest-ranked teams in the final BCS standings would play in a three-game playoff, with first- and second-seeded teams hosting semifinal games. The final would be bid out to neutral sites, much like the Super Bowl.

Although the issue has never raised before – at least not to my knowledge – Delany did make sure to emphasize in comments to Greenstein that the college football's powers that be wouldn't "kill a baby" with any bath water to get a playoff done. With Delany taking killing an infant off the table, presumably the plan's chances of success are much higher.

Obviously, the B1G proposal has a long way to go before becoming reality. Still, it's worth asking, what changed the league's tune?

Well, in the words of Thomas Paine, you can either lead, follow or get out of the way, and the B1G under Delany has followed a predictable pattern. Despite the conference's stodgy reputation, under Delany's leadership, the conference has taken a proactive stance whenever college football's tectonic plates have started to shift. Sometimes, the league has moved the plates themselves.

It was the B1G that first pushed the concept of a conference network. It was the B1G that touched off the conference expansion ******** in 2010. It was the B1G that raised the issue of a stipend for college athletes' living expenses. Most recently, it was the B1G that has moved towards four-year scholarships.

Aside from the conference's undying devotion to the Rose Bowl, the B1G more often acts as an agent of change than protector of the status quo. In doing so, the conference can take the reins and frame the discussion to its benefit.

A playoff looks more and more like an inevitability, whether the B1G likes it or not. So what does the conference stand to gain by making this move now?

Well, currently warm-weather cities like Miami and Phoenix dominate college football's postseason. The B1G would inevitably play some home games under its proposed playoff structure. Looking back at the past 10 years of the BCS, for instance, Ohio State would have hosted three semifinal games (Ohio State in 2002, 2006 and 2007). Additionally, sites in B1G country – Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis – could get in on the bidding for the title game.

And don't think the Rose Bowl wouldn't at least get something out of this.

Obviously, there's still plenty left to play out to get from here to playoff. Now, however, we know who's in charge of taking us there.

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