Gee, we never saw that one coming. Ignore the fact that the best team in the Big 10 would be only the 4th best team in the SEC or PAC 12 last year (at best), and truly didn't deserve to finish in the top 10.
This whole offseason fiasco is a big dance where each conference and the bowls are trying to keep their cut of the pie, and at the same time trying to expand it if able. But what is driving this change, make no mistake about it, is the dropping TV ratings that ESPN has been experiencing. The college football product has been badly damaged by the present system - widespread cupcake nonconference scheduling in an attempt to schedule a championship, heavy program cheating with no real punishment, thugs being allowed to represent their teams because of their abilities and despite their criminal actions, and the elimination of legitimate school from the student athlete equation. The fans of the teams that oppose these cheaters have become frustrated, and when they find out their team cheats as well, they become even less interested. The game is no longer as pure and innocent as it used to be, and it has lost something important in this.
But there is another issue: ESPN has nationalized every program with it's broadcasting, but while they have been doing this, only a very, very few programs can actually generate interest in other parts of the country. This has been an issue for them from the start, but with the above mentioned changes have only magnified the problem. Who wants to watch two cheating SEC teams in Maine? What interest is their in watching an embarrassed and exposed Penn State at Ohio State game in California? Even the teams that can generate the interest are losing their luster. People are finding out that there are some really good ways to spend a Saturday afternoon that don't involve sitting in front of a TV, at least beyond their own team's game.
Now, getting to Delaney's suggestion that there be 4 conference champions in the final playoff (or 3 with one at large)....I can think of no model that would exacerbate these problems more than this. Conference games not involving the leading teams soon become meaningless, even to conference fans. If conferences are so big as to include all of the major teams, they cannot play a schedule that fairly gives every team the same chance. The system is still rigged towards the "haves", and there is no chance for anyone else.
The only real solution is to go back to the old bowl system and let the fans argue about a mythical national champion. In the meantime, stiff penalties MUST be handed down to the likes of Ohio State, Miami, North Carolina, Oregon, and at least half of the SEC.
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