Of all the love stories ever told, there may be none purer than the Big Ten's undying devotion, commitment and pure heart-throbbing lust to the Rose Bowl.
True love always. Best friends forever. A Romeo and Juliet for the modern ages, complete with suicidal second-guessing because a rose by any other name apparently wouldn't smell as sweet.
It's wrong to criticize someone for who they choose to love.
Instead, just marvel at the depth of the relationship. The Big Ten has abandoned its smart, savvy push for a playoff that featured on-campus semifinal sites and a title game open to bid by cities across the country, including the Midwest, because it just couldn't bear the thought of cheating on a bowl game.
There are still details to be hashed out on how college football is going to stage its postseason. There are still plenty of sober voices out there who think outsourcing hundreds of millions in postseason games is at best illogical and at worst corrupt. Many more think playoff games on campus would be glorious.
But forget it.
If the Big Ten, which has the most to gain on the issue yet is trying to lose, then campus playoff games aren't happening. In an effort to help the Rose Bowl, the conference is willing for a playoff to also be staged in Miami Gardens and Glendale, and so on, rather than Columbus and Ann Arbor.
A playoff will be great no matter where the games are played. It'd just be better on campus. But the bowl lobby has won, and a select few of them are about to become even more fabulously wealthy off the labors of student-athletes. Leave it to the inevitable congressional investigation to sort out how the no-bid deals were reached.
At this point, it's still a romance novel because the Big Ten really, really loves the Rose Bowl … no, I love you more … text me when you wake up … no, you hang up first.
"For us it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told reporters Tuesday after Big Ten meetings hashed out the conference's likely preferred plan.
How critical? Well, so critical that they're willing to make business decisions based on emotion, willing to give up on competitive advantages, logistical ease and monetary benefits.
Possible home-field advantage for Big Ten teams? We love the Rose Bowl.
Making the elements, which Big Ten teams are presumably better equipped to handle, a factor in the playoffs? We love the Rose Bowl.
Showcasing the incredible game-day environment of Camp Randall, Happy Valley or the Big House? We love the Rose Bowl.
Not requiring fans, students and players' families to continue to make lengthy postseason trips? We love the Rose Bowl.
Creating economic impact in the league's hometowns? We love the Rose Bowl.
Not taking discretionary spending out of the region and into California or Florida? We love the Rose Bowl.
Not playing games in opponents' home regions, states, cities or even stadiums? We love the Rose Bowl.
If you hate campus so much, how about compromising and staging neutral-site semifinal games in Indianapolis or Detroit, where the money would be so welcome? Sorry, we love the Rose Bowl.
Other than loving the Rose Bowl there isn't a single reason for the Big Ten to support this plan. Of course, what they love is what the Rose Bowl was (Big Ten champ vs. Pac-10 champ), which is not what it is or certainly will be. This is a playoff blueprint in sepia tones.
It's lunacy. But then again, love's crazy, right?
Somewhere Mike Slive of the SEC and Larry Scott of the Pac-12 are kicking back with a cackle of delight. These guys are angling for every possible edge while the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl sit in adjacent bathtubs, holding hands and waiting for the moment to be right.
Wait, the rest of college football has to be asking, you're not even going to fight and try to make us look like wimps for arguing against football in the cold?
Wait, you seriously are going to ask the same fan base to travel three times in a month – Big Ten title game, semifinals and championship game, the last two at least via airplane? And you think we won't end up with the majority of the crowd?
The Rose Bowl's power over the Big Ten is something to behold. It makes normally intelligent men say ridiculous things.
"It would be a competitive advantage to have semifinal games at home fields … but the bowls have been good to us," Nebraska AD Tom Osborne said.
If rampant profiteering, indictments charging corruption and millions in unnecessary expenses passed onto the schools counts as "been good to us" than the Big Ten may be the battered spouse here. Even so, exactly how good would a bowl have to have been to be better than a Nebraska playoff game in Memorial Stadium?
"If you took them out of the playoff, it would pretty much destroy the bowl system," Osborne said.
Ah, no, it wouldn't pretty much destroy the bowl system. In fact, it wouldn't destroy it at all.
But, hey, love is blind. So blind apparently that no one can be bothered to actually look at the financial statements and business models of how bowl games operate and realize that line is complete garbage.
"From kids' perspective, the bowl experience is the one thing they want to keep," Hollis argued.
Yes, the vaunted bowl experience must be protected for the players. It's cool. Bowls are fun. Except in the same meeting the Big Ten proposed moving bowl eligibility from 6-6 to 7-5, which means maybe half a dozen smaller bowls will, indeed, be destroyed and the experience of those players apparently isn't worth protecting.
If only those games were as loveable as the Rose Bowl.
[Wetzel podcast: Hammering out the playoff details]
The athletic directors talk about trying to maintain or improve the meaning of the regular season, but then they want to take out the incentive of home-field advantage so it really doesn't matter whether you finish first or fourth.
And do players really value the chance to engage in some pie-eating contest more than potentially getting any edge on winning the biggest game of their life, getting one more chance to run on the field of their own stadium or, even playing on the road in one of the nation's other spectacular campuses? Playing at Bryant-Denny, even as the road team, is also a pretty sweet experience.
And what about the chance for the Big Ten to finally stop playing games in SEC/Pac 12 country, maybe see if one of those sunshine programs can handle a few flakes of Midwest snow? Yes, it sure sounds good, but did they mention they love the Rose Bowl?
"There's a part of me that wants to play a team from the Southwest or the Southeast in five-degree weather," Ohio State's Gene Smith told the Sporting News. "But is it really right for the game?"
The NFL thinks all weather is football weather and adheres to the crazy idea of playing games in places like Lambeau and Solider Fields.
If only they had something like a Rose Bowl to love. Then Roger Goodell would immediately get smart and try to move the NFC title game to the Alamodome or something.
There's no question Big Ten fans love the Rose Bowl, although not as much as they once did. They also like to win, also would like to shut the SEC up and also really like showing off their legendary stadiums and great cities, fighting against the idea that they live in some inhospitable, rusted-out region.
Plenty of them could use the economic impact of staging these massive events in the Midwest too. But you can't put a price on love.
And all these years later, that old Rose Bowl sure can cause the Big Ten's heart to flutter. Kind of like Juliet once did.
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