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Published: Friday, 7/25/2003

Big 10 is old school 12th team, title game disliked

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CHICAGO - Big Ten Conference football coaches aren't in any hurry to cash in on a big payday by instituting a conference championship game.

And the conference doesn't appear to be in a rush to add a 12th team.

“I have no desire at this point for a playoff,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said yesterday during the Big Ten kickoff lunch-eon at the Hyatt Regency. “I don't want an NFL-style atmosphere in the college game. I think it's ludicrous.”

A recent proposal submitted by the Atlantic Coast Conference asks the NCAA to change its rules to allow leagues with 10 or more teams to hold financially lucrative league title games. Only conferences with 12 or more schools are currently allowed to play title games. The three Division I-A conferences that have them are the Mid-American, Southeastern and Big 12.

The Big Ten consists of 11 teams.

“We do not look at a championship game as necessarily a positive,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. “We believe such a game has as many negatives as positives.”

He said coaches fear that a championship game would diminish the importance of season-ending matchups - such as Michigan-Ohio State - that have existed for decades in the Big Ten.

“There is money in Thursday night football and Friday night football and we haven't done that,” he said.

Delany said a conference championship game could generate $10 million to $15 million for the Big Ten, but most coaches are not in favor of adding a title game.

“We discussed it at our last meeting, and I don't think anyone was in favor,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “In the leagues that have playoffs, I don't think they're very excited about having playoffs. It takes away from bowl games.

“Sure, it's a big payoff for one game. But I think it's a letdown for the team that has a great season [and loses]. It seems the only reason is for a paycheck. I just think there are too many negatives for the players. It would have diminishing returns.”

Indiana's Gerry DiNardo, who formerly coached at LSU and Vanderbilt, both Southeastern Conference members, is familiar with a conference title-game setup. The SEC has had one for years.

“I'm really not in favor of extending our season under any circumstances,” he said. “The players get hurt by it. It would be easy to add a 12th team and begin playing a championship game, but is that what we're all about?”

The recent movement of Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference led to speculation that the Big Ten would consider adding a 12th member. Delany said he has not spoken to Notre Dame about expansion after the Fighting Irish refused an invitation to join a few years ago.

“There's no strong sense of having to add, nor is there any fear of [losing schools],” Delany said. “We're in a very fortunate, healthy situation in light of this change and chaos that occurs in and around us.”

Penn State coach Joe Paterno views the notion of a conference championship game as a gimmick, and prefers a full-blown playoff system for Division I-A schools.

“Whether we should have a championship game in the Big Ten, I don't know,” he said. “You have to tell me how you're going to match it up. If you gave me one combination of division teams and then gave me another it might change my outlook on it.

“It's a very difficult thing when you have 11 teams. If you get 12 teams in there, then there's a natural division - east and west or north and south - and it seems equitable then. I think you would have a good arrangement. But until someone comes with [a scenario] ... right now no one has anything on the table.”

Northwestern's Randy Walker, who coached at Miami in the MAC for nine seasons before taking over the Wildcats' program in 1999, is one of the few Big Ten coaches in favor of staging a title game.

“It keeps more teams in the hunt longer,” he said. “That builds excitement. Plus, we all know the type of revenue it could generate. Having a Big Ten playoff game would be a huge event.”



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