No changes to the BCS anytime soon, Paterno's successor, more
On April 30, I sat around a conference table with about a dozen other writers at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Fla., and listened as the lords of the BCS discussed their decision to extend the system's current format through 2014.
Of the eight gentlemen who addressed us that day (the six BCS conference commissioners, Notre Dame AD Kevin White and WAC commissioner Karl Benson, who was representing the other five I-A conferences), three -- White, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen -- have recently announced they're giving up their seats at the table. White left for Duke, where he will no longer serve as his own commissioner, while Tranghese and Hansen are retiring next summer.
So you knew this question was coming ...
How will the impending retirements of Tom Hansen and Mike Tranghese affect the future of college football with respect to the creation of a playoff system?
You know how whenever a Supreme Court justice retires, all the pundits start debating whether the new appointee will be the "swing" vote? This feels very much the same, only with one major difference: Nearly the entire bench is already on one end of the spectrum. Even if the new Big East and Pac-10 commissioners turn out to be radical playoff proponents (which is highly unlikely), it still would not be enough to swing the balance of power.
And remember, when it comes to issues like these, the commissioners act primarily as mouthpieces for their member schools' presidents and chancellors. They are the group that remain most adamantly opposed to a playoff, and therefore any radical changes to the postseason aren't likely to happen until a new generation of presidents comes along (which could take a decade or more).
The biggest impact of these gentlemen's departures is likely to be felt within their own conferences. Tranghese, who basically built the Big East's football conference from scratch, then successfully reinvented it following the ACC's purge several years back, will be an extremely tough act to follow.
But he's not the one I got inundated with e-mails about.
Stewart: Tom Hansen (a.k.a. The Wicked Witch of the West) is finally stepping down, and the sigh of relief in Pac-10 country is almost big enough to cause a typhoon in the Pacific. Are we rejoicing in vain? What kind of progress can a new, more forward-thinking commish actually make for the Pac-10?
Hansen is a very nice man who's dedicated nearly half a century to college athletics, so I'm reluctant to flat-out bash the guy on the occasion of his retirement. That said -- I've done it plenty of times in the past. The Pac-10, more than any other conference, would benefit immeasurably from the leadership of a more modern and visionary commissioner. The league perennially lags behind its peers in terms of television contracts, bowl partnerships and national perception despite stacking up favorably with any of them when it comes to actual competition.
Some of that can't be helped. A new commissioner can't change the time-zone factor. And a new commissioner can't change the fact that in general, Pac-10 fans simply aren't as rabid as those in other parts of the country; they do not fill 80,000-seat stadiums for spring games or send monstrous hordes to bowl games. It's simply not good business for a New Year's game in Florida to align itself with schools 3,000 miles away.
But what's always bugged me about the Pac-10 under Hansen (and note that it's not just him, but the presidents and other officials he works with) is how out of touch they seem with their constituents. As long as the old-timers have the Rose Bowl and convenient kickoff times, they're happy. Their fans, however, understandably want more. They see the SEC getting the coveted prime-time ESPN slots every week, they see a star like Dennis Dixon fail to get the same massive publicity as a Tim Tebow, and, understandably, they get ticked off. (Note that for the most part, USC and UCLA don't suffer as much as the others.)
The Pac-10 can do better than syndicated Fox Sports Net games, the Pac-10 can do better than sending its No. 3 team to the Sun Bowl and the Pac-10 can do far more to promote its product. (As an example, all the other major conferences have two-to-three day preseason media events with their coaches and star players; the Pac-10's version is a two-hour event at an airport hotel.) Hopefully Hansen's replacement will be someone who recognizes this and will take the appropriate steps to change the culture.
With the Pac-10 commish stepping down, do you think there is any chance the league will try to expand after his departure? With the huge payoff from conference-championship games and a couple of teams in the region (Boise State, Fresno State) getting better, it seems like a no-brainer to me.
Actually, that's one change that likely will not be on the table. The idea that conference championship games are a "no-brainer" revenue stream is a misnomer. It may be a gold mine for the SEC, where the location (Atlanta) is convenient to all 12 schools and the fan bases are all extremely rabid, but ask the ACC how lucrative that Wake Forest-Georgia Tech game was a couple of years ago. The Pac-10 would suffer the same problems with geography and logistics -- 30,000 Washington State fans aren't going to fly to Los Angeles or Phoenix on a week's notice.
The main financial benefit of expansion comes from a league's regular-season TV contract, and to that end, the type of schools available in that area - Utah, BYU, Boise State, etc. -- are not going to send the networks scrambling to pony up more money. The Pac-10 will remain at 10 for the foreseeable future.