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Published: Monday, 5/4/2009

JoePa tries to bring Big Ten up to speed

Why is it an 82-year-old man, the oldest college football coach in captivity, a guy who wears Coke-bottle lenses and a tie and still folds up his pants cuffs, is a more progressive thinker than so many men half his age?

Joe Paterno last week called for the Big Ten, which is really Eleven, to expand to Twelve and create divisional play and a postseason championship game. He then reiterated his belief that the BCS should disappear and a playoff system should evolve to determine a national champion.

A day later, with Congress showing a heightened interest in the latter, the coordinator of the BCS testified to our nation's lawmakers that a playoff would mean "it will be difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game's history, to survive."

What hogwash. Truth is, the rich like being rich. And they didn't get that way by willingly sharing either their power or their money.

It's time for the NCAA to re-take control of college football. It's time for a selection committee to establish criteria, a football version of basketball's RPI, to select eight teams to play seven games, using the existing bowl structure as host sites. So much for their survival. As for the rest of the bowl games, they merely continue matching the fourth-place team from the Big East against the champion of the Mid-American and providing hour after hour of live inventory for ESPN.

OK, it probably isn't that easy. But it could be done. No less than the President of the U.S. wants to see a playoff and he owns the numbers in Congress. Of course, there would be a long, drawn-out court battle and the whole thing would probably be decided in some watered-down version by, oh, around 2015.

That would probably be too late for Paterno, the Penn State coaching icon, although nobody should bet on it.

As much as JoePa favors a national title playoff, he is even more interested in seeing the Big Ten adopt one.

Currently, the entire Big Ten football schedule is completed by Thanksgiving, which is at least two weeks earlier than those conferences that extend to a championship game. It's also three weeks before the pollsters and the computer whizzes spit out their final BCS standings that determine pairings for the most lucrative of bowl games, including the title contest.

That's a couple weeks during which Big Ten teams do absolutely nothing to improve their resumes.

"We go into hiding for six weeks," Paterno told reporters in New York, referring to the length of time between the end of the Big Ten season and the BCS bowl games.

"Everybody else is playing [conference] playoffs on television. You never see a Big Ten team mentioned. We've got a tough job because the Big Ten is not as visible in key times as the Southeastern Conference or the Big 12. I've tried to talk to Big Ten people about, 'Let's get a 12th team

we could have a little bit of a

playoff.' "

Paterno suggested Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers as candidates, although the league could also look west to schools like Missouri and Iowa State that have natural rivals in the Big Ten. Finding a 12th team might not be easy, but it should be explored.

Paterno said that whenever he brings the subject up, the conference's power brokers are "polite, but they snicker."

Neither he nor his idea deserves that response.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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