COLLINS: Commissioner Jim Delany must be more assertive in promoting Big Ten teams

(Scranton) Times-Tribune (TNS)
  • Ohio State did not make the College Football Playoff despite going 12-1 and winning the Big Ten.
  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he was a "little disappointed" that OSU was overlooked.
  • The Big Ten may benefit from a commissioner who more strongly advocates for conference teams.

The SEC, and its fans, and quite frankly many in the media who cover that conference every fall, too often act like petulant, spoiled children.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. FILE PHOTO

They always want more. They’ll whine to get more. They’ll stomp their feet and insist they deserve more, because of their greatness. They’ll base that greatness on the fact they have to be great, because so many teams in their league have so much difficulty beating other teams in their league. They’re so great, they say, even losing should be ignored.

For the rest of us, it’s sickening. It’s frustrating. They live in a world of double standards that, in their minds, they’ve earned. No other conference would dare argue what the SEC tried on Saturday night, after No. 1 Alabama beat No. 4 Georgia in the conference title game.

“I don’t know about you,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey celebrated after the game, “but I think we just saw two of the four best teams in college football play a game this evening.”

Maybe Sankey’s clear insistence that Georgia deserved another crack at the Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff would have fallen on more sympathetic ears had the Bulldogs not blown a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead, let a backup quarterback — albeit one as seasoned as Alabama’s Jalen Hurts — lead the tying and winning touchdown drives, and help him out with arguably the dumbest big-moment play call in college football history.

But hey, at least Sankey lobbied as best he could for his conference.

That’s more than the Big Ten can say about its commissioner.

Delany a "little disappointed:" There are two factors that traditionally have rated ahead of than any other for the CFP committee when it comes to ranking teams: Who you beat, and how infrequently you lose.

Only two programs this season lost no more than once, won their conference championship game and beat two teams ranked among the New Year’s Six eligible teams in the final CFP rankings.

One is Alabama. The other is Ohio State.

The CFP might as well be renamed the Alabama Invitational, and the Tide could have lost by those 14 points by which they trailed on Saturday and still made the field. But the Buckeyes received what seemed like only cursory consideration after beating Northwestern, 45-24, for the Big Ten championship, and it’s the continuation of a disturbing trend from the committee, which absolutely doesn’t value the Big Ten champion.

This marks the third straight season the conference champion has not been selected for the tournament, and the best Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany could say about that is he is “a little disappointed.”

“We know there are four slots. I know we were (No. 6). So, right there on the doorstep,” he told Big Ten Network on Sunday. “We created the system, and we understood there would be close calls. We’ve gotten one or two, and we have not gotten a couple.”

Delany went on to talk about how important it was to look at what was accomplished, added that he thought three conference teams — Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — had the talent to win it all if they made the field, and concluded that it made little sense to brow-beat a committee that works in good faith to create the best four-team tournament it can.

Delany’s nod toward civility, admirable as it is, is only getting the Big Ten pushed around. Meanwhile, the only question with Sankey’s conference isn’t whether it gets its champion in; it’s whether it gets whoever he goes to bat for, as well.

Big Ten needs more vocal commissioner: The Big Ten would benefit from a more vocal, assertive commissioner, but perhaps Delany realizes a staunch defense of his champion will sound a bit like double-talk.

Flash back to Dec. 3, 2016. A few hours before Penn State beat Wisconsin in an epic Big Ten Championship Game, Delany took the stage with ESPN’s College GameDay crew outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and was asked a simple question.

Should the winner of the Big Ten championship be in the 2016 playoff? His response: “I think that there are a couple of teams that probably are unequivocally among those four best. I think Alabama’s had a great year, and Ohio State. It seems to me that winners of games today and Michigan, that the committee is going to have to sort through to fill out those next two slots.”

Hardly an endorsement of the conference champion.

Make conference title games elimination games: There’s a fair way to do this tournament and, essentially, expand the playoff field without adding even one more game.

Make the conference championship games elimination games. Alabama is unbeaten, ranked No. 1 and loses the SEC championship? Too bad.

Eliminating losers of title games from consideration naturally reduces the number of teams the committee can consider to about seven; the Power 5 champions, the top-ranked team not in those conferences, and an unbeaten independent, like Notre Dame. Most of the country — outside of the South, anyway — wants the eye test taken out of consideration, anyway. This does it.

Current strategy doesn't work: If ever there was an advocate for the so-called “eye test,” Delany made himself one with those comments in 2016. The committee took his valuation of his own conference to heart, took one-loss Ohio State over the two-loss Big Ten champion Penn State, even though the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes. Ohio State went on to lose to Clemson, 31-0, and that’s the last we’ve seen of a Big Ten team in the College Football Playoff.

Now, Delany just goes with the flow, backing a system he knows isn’t working for even his most qualified teams, promising the best thing to do for his programs and fans is to hope for better next time.

It’s not a strategy that is working, and the Big Ten is crazy if it continues to let its commissioner back the staus quo.