What started out with stumping for the Rose Bowl by way of a terrible four-team playoff plan has become an outright frontal assault on the 2011 Alabama football team. You know, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team that hoisted the crystal ball trophy this past January. The Alabama football team that manhandled LSU in New Orleans to win the crown. The Alabama football team that put the screws to Penn State in Happy Valley.
Originally, this looked like Jim Delany's play was to limit the SEC from getting teams into the four-team event. He started out stumping for conference champions to be the only teams admitted into the playoff. After that got shot down by smart people, he opted for his top-six plan that would allow fifth- and sixth-placed teams to leapfrog non-conference champions. That measure was not met favorably.
Now Delany is back with a plan that will play better publicly and achieve his goal of keeping a team, like Alabama from 2011, out of the run for the title. Under his new idea, Delany proposes that teams who do not win their division should not be admitted into the playoff. Delany couches this with all sorts of great talking with respect to resumes, strength of schedule and even using the Pac-12 and the Big Ten as his sole examples. It all does sound really, really good.
But Jim, people want the best four teams in. Is it the SEC's fault that those two teams happened to reside in the same division? Certainly if Wisconsin and Ohio State finished in the top four you'd like to have each of them included in the playoff. Perhaps that is not something Delany expects or even imagines happening: two top-tier teams who are national title worthy being in the same division.
So basically, of Delany's four big contributions to this debate—"Four Teams Plus," conference champions only, top-six plan and divisional champion requirement—two of them totally cut the 2011 Alabama team out of the equation. He's protecting his best interest and working to not only limit the SEC from getting teams in, but cutting a team like 2011 Alabama out entirely. Apparently, Alabama wasn't any good, according to Jim Delany. Or better stated, they are not a team he has much regard for:
"I don't have a lot of regard for that team," Delany said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I certainly wouldn't have as much regard for that team as I would for someone who played nine conference games in a tough conference and played a couple out-of-conference games on the road against really good opponents. If a poll doesn't honor those teams and they're conference champions, I do."
For one, I'm not sure who this "other team" is that played nine tough conference games and "a couple of out-of-conference games on the road." No one plays nine tough conference games. They play nine conference games, but they are not all tough. No one played "a couple" out-of-conference games on the road against really good opponents. Oregon played one. Wisconsin played none. USC played one. Oklahoma State played none.
Either Jim Delany is talking about fictional teams or he is just searching for reasons to not give Alabama and their 2011 season any credit. The Crimson Tide were among the nation's best teams a season ago. Delany's careful play towards resume voters is the very specific reason why you need a human element in voting. Spouting off accomplishments does absolutely zero to validate the quality of a ballclub. That's why coaches watch film. That's why any system to determine who plays in the four-team playoff must include an actual assessment of the quality of a team.
No, Alabama's resume did not have divisional or conference champion on it. But for those of us who watched the Tide play, the quality of the ballclub made us regard them highly. They were among the nation's best at running the ball, defending the run and defending the pass. Three major facets of the game. Delany's regard for a team is apparently not predicated on anything that transpires on the field, rather it is about a computer printout after the season is played.
There's a reason coaches want the four best teams to get into the playoff; they know that conference champions and divisional champions do not tell the whole story. Delany's push to keep a team like the 2011 Crimson Tide out of the four-team event is just ludicrous. The Big Ten commissioner is spending a lot of time trying to craft ways to keep teams out of the playoff. He should give it up and give the sport what this playoff should be—the best four teams getting into the big show to compete for the title.