Jim Delany says he would back champs-only playoffs, but with a minimum ranking

Pat Forde

CHICAGO – Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told a small group of reporters Wednesday that he is open to the idea of limiting a proposed four-team playoff to conference champions, but only if they meet a minimum ranking standard.

For instance, Delany suggested potentially capping the lowest rankings of the eligible conference champions at No. 6 in whatever ranking system is chosen. If there were not four league champions in the top six, then a wild-card team could be chosen to fill the four-team playoff.

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Other conference commissioners, including SEC boss Mike Slive, are opposed to a champions-only playoff format. They prefer the four highest-ranked teams, regardless of how they finished in conference play.

Delany also said he is open to using a selection committee to pick the participants in the playoff.

He acknowledged that agreeing on the method for choosing the playoff teams is probably the most complicated part of the process of moving from the current BCS system to a new postseason.

Delany and the other conference commissioners emerged from meetings last week in Florida with a mandate to proceed with a four-team playoff. The next step is for those commissioners to go back to their conference membership and determine what, if any, action their leagues will support.

Delany labeled the Big Ten "a conservative conference," and said there are league members who are opposed to a playoff of any kind – specifically mentioning Michigan. Delany, formerly a staunch playoff opponent, now is accepting of the idea but wants to incorporate the bowls in the new format.

Delany said he has been in near-constant contact with Big Ten administrators in trying to gauge what the league believes is the best plan for the future. He had a teleconference Wednesday morning with league athletic directors to discuss the topic.

[Related: Dan Wetzel: Four issues to fix ahead of a college football playoff]

Big Ten ADs, senior women administrators and faculty representatives will meet May 15-16 in Chicago, which will give them an opportunity to discuss the issue in person. Then there is a league president's meeting scheduled for June 3. After that comes a Collegiate Commissioners Association meeting June 20, and Delany said it is possible that a finalized proposal for the future postseason could be unveiled then.

Delany spoke to reporters from Yahoo! Sports, The Sporting News, CBSSports.com, the Detroit Free-Press and the Iowa Press-Citizen on Wednesday. The reporters were at Big Ten offices to speak to the league's media relations directors.

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