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Commentary: E. Gordon Gee warming up to change in college football

Cody Cousino / Photo editor


The winds are changing.

With multiple reports saying the Big Ten Conference is considering a four–team playoff in college football, you can consider some form of a playoff system in college football an inevitability.

“We have to listen to the fans; we cannot be tone-deaf,” Northwestern director of athletics and recreation Jim Phillips told the Chicago Tribune on the matter. “The Big Ten is open and curious.”

Like the BCS or hate it, the Big Ten plan would do away with the current system.

The top four teams in the BCS would play in a tournament with the top two seeds hosting the semifinal games at their home stadium.

The semi-final winners would then meet for a revamped version of college football’s National Championship game.

The proposal is nothing new but the support of it is, and with powerful people warming up to the idea, it’s only a matter of time.

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee discussed the possibility of a playoff with The Lantern Monday and his previous stalwart anti-playoff tune is changing a bit.

Gee still is against the notion of a playoff, but has lightened his stance.

“I’m very much on record of being opposed to a playoff system,” Gee said. “Saying that, one of the things you have to do at my age, you have to understand that the world is changing around you, so therefore you have to take a look and see what the possibilities are … I want to think about it.”

The fact Gee is even willing to think about it speaks loudly.

People in high places are talking and being forced to reevaluate their position on the issue.

In 2008, the SEC proposed a similar four-team playoff system. At that time, the ACC supported the proposal, but Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12, Big East and Notre Dame all rejected it.

But if the Big Ten jumps on board and supports a playoff, that makes waves. The SEC and Big Ten are the two most powerful conferences in college football. They have the strongest fan bases and the most stability. If the two powerhouse conferences in the support can align, others will follow.

The Pac-12, which also wields significant power in college football, has always worked closely with the Big Ten. The two conferences recently signed a multisport scheduling agreement and have preserved the notoriety of the Rose Bowl amid the BCS system.

The Big 12 is still gasping for air after being on the verge of extinction from conference realignment and the Big East’s football prowess is further deteriorating with the departure of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and most likely West Virginia.

If the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 can align, there’s nothing that can stop them.

With bowl attendance declining and the 2012 BCS Championship game’s rating down about 13 percent from last year, people now more than ever are looking for a change.

From an academic perspective, students are missing class to travel across the country and play in a BCS game when games could easily be played over winter break.

“There is a very strong sense that we have missed the boat and are playing games too late,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told the Chicago Tribune. “Students are back in class, people are back at work.”

Delany has talked to Gee on the subject too.

“I actually had the commissioner on campus to talk to me and to the athletic director and the football coach to kind of explain what all the options are,” Gee said. “He explained a number of different kinds of options including the plus-one system.”

People in positions of power are talking.

Obviously, there are a multitude of issues that would have to be worked out, but the movement is underway.

It might not happen today. It might not happen tomorrow. But a playoff system in college football will happen. Just wait.

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