By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter
5:31 PM EDT, July 14, 2012
So what’s the magic number – eight, nine, how about 10?
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Tribune on Saturday that he will huddle with athletic directors and football coaches to determine the preferred number of conference games.
“We’ll have to go back to ground zero,” he said, “and we don’t have a lot of time to do it.”
Delany said he thought the Big Ten “had captured lightning in a bottle” when thePac-12last year agreed to annual games beginning in 2017. That would have allowed the Big Ten to remain at eight conference games while beefing up its non-league slates with matchups more appealing to fans, TV partners and a playoff selection committee.
But the Pac-12 pulled out Friday because several of its schools do not want to play 11 tough games – nine Pac-12 opponents, a Big Ten foe and, in some cases, Notre Dame or Texas A&M.
“I thought if they could not do it with nine (league games), they would go to eight,” Delany said. “But I guess they had television arrangements that made it stickier to do that.”
Ten conference games, Delany said, would produce “the truest champion.” But it’s a pipe dream because schools want at least seven home games, and some have home-and-home dates with the likes of Notre Dame and Stanford.
A nine-game slate last year earned approval – “a majority with reluctance,” Delany called it – despite protests from coaches that don’t want to play five Big Ten road games every other season. The Pac-12 collaboration replaced it. At least it was supposed to.
“Whatever we do,” Delany said, “this isn’t a 7-5 or 8-4 vote. We need to have strong feelings to stay (at eight) or to go (to nine).”
Speaking of numbers, it had been almost assumed that college football officials would require bowl-bound teams, beginning in 2014, to win seven games. Delany and others are wary of bowls that feature 6-6 teams with fired coaching staffs playing in half-empty stadiums.
But Delany said he has “heard from friends in different parts of the country, some of the major conferences, that they are in favor of (keeping it at) six. I suggested that maybe there’s middle ground. If a program hasn’t been to a bowl in five years … it’s an exciting thing.”
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