Wed May 06 06:36pm EDT
Contrary to that bit of silliness Tuesday, I don't think adding a 12th team and/or a championship game will be an automatic positive for the Big Ten or college football as a whole. (Unless, to echo Mssr. Cook, that 12th team is Notre Dame. Which is not happening.) Maybe, under the right circumstances, or maybe not. But concerning one of Big Ten commish Jim Delany's specific objections to the idea ...
"The issue has come up with our football coaches a couple times -- with the extra week and if we did expand, would we be more competitive?" Delany said. "I would say in some years they might be right. But has it enhanced the competitiveness of the ACC in football? Has it enhanced the competitiveness of the WAC? I don't know.
"Just because you have a championship doesn't make you more competitive. ... "The ACC won their first BCS game in nine years, but they've had the championship game for four years," Delany said."
... ESPN's ACC blogger, Heather Dinich, has an effective comeback:
On average, six million people have watched the ACC's title game on TV each season. That's six million fans who aren't watching the Big Ten during that time.
This is the same argument that opened the floodgates on this mini-debate when Joe Paterno said it ("Everybody else is playing playoffs on television. You never see a Big Ten team mentioned, so I think that's a handicap.") and it's a compelling one: What good does it do the Big Ten, in any capacity, to finish before Thanksgiving and sit watching the rest of the country playing for tangible stakes over the next two weeks?
As for the question of competitiveness, there are a couple ways to look at it. In terms of producing national contenders, no, expansion hasn't been the expected boon for the ACC -- it hasn't even put a team in the top-10 in two of the last three seasons. But that has to do mainly with Florida State's steady slide; aside from the 'Noles the ACC has almost never been nationally competitive, anyway. Before FSU made the conference its own private fiefdom in 1993, the ACC had produced exactly two conventionally acknowledged national championships in its 40-year history: Clemson in 1981 and Georgia Tech in 1990. It rarely fielded a contender. Florida State alone made the conference nationally competitive in the nineties and, to whatever extent Miami was supposed to raise the league to another level in 2004, Virginia Tech has upheld the Canes' end of the bargain instead (it's easy to forget that Tech was ranked third in the final BCS standings in 2007 and ranked No. 1 in three of the six computer polls). The ACC is about as nationally competitive since expansion as it's ever been, maybe more, and if Florida State or Miami (or both) ever gets its act back together, suddenly it looks like a pretty strong league, and -- recent attendance disasters notwithstanding -- one that will definitely blow out Tampa in December for an FSU-Miami title game.
"Competitiveness" has another meaning, though, and in terms of facilitating depth and parity, expansion has obviously been gold for the ACC -- sans a monolithic overlord, the conference's very raison d'etre last year was that any team could beat any other at pretty much any point, and did. I wouldn't make too much of the record 10 bowl teams in the current inflated bowl environment, but as Dinich points out, all 10 were still in the running for the conference championship in mid-November. Certainly that's more "competitive" than a conference whose list of champions looked like this for a decade:
The same kind of lack of depth has hurt the Big Ten the last four years, especially Ohio State, which has won or shared four straight conference championships but consistently had to answer for the perceived mediocrity in the middle of the league, very much like the old ACC; Penn State was hardly considered for the BCS title game last year, despite its 11-1 record, because the Big Ten didn't offer enough impressive victories to compete with the SEC and Big 12 ... in no small part because the latter leagues provide an extra game that adds tremendous value to its champion's strength of schedule in the computer polls, and leaves them fresh in the minds of the human pollsters. Besides, you know, the money, exposure and plain fun of a championship weekend.
But everyone in the Big Ten enjoys their holiday, I'm sure.