NEW YORK — Five power conferences. Four spots in the College Football Playoff.
The leagues knew that when they helped create the new postseason system. Now administrators, coaches, players and fans are living it for the first time.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany experienced the anxiety of wondering whether his conference would be shut out when the inaugural playoff field was announced Sunday.
Ohio State wound up getting in, with the Big 12 stuck on the outside.
“I would’ve been very disappointed” if the Buckeyes had been left out, Delany said Wednesday at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Manhattan.
— Jim Delany
“But we knew when we went into this that either one or two or possibly three conferences might not be involved. I’ve been No. 3 in the BCS, and I was prepared to be out of it again, because that was the narrative.”
College football leaders defended the BCS system through years of angst over whether it was the best method for crowning a national champion. That resistance was chipped away over time — and now the sport has a four-team playoff.
So cue the questions about whether that will soon expand to eight schools.
“This is not going to change,” insisted Bill Hancock, the executive director of the CFP. Of course, he used to say the same thing about the Bowl Championship Series when he served as its executive director. As Hancock also acknowledged Wednesday, “The appetite for college football is insatiable.”
Hancock listed similar concerns about an eight-team playoff as college officials used to voice about the four-team model: the academic calendar, maintaining the importance of the regular season, protecting the other bowls.
“We knew that four was on the south side of the tipping point, but no one knows where the tipping point is,” he said after speaking on a panel at the event, which is sponsored by IMG and presented by SportsBusiness Daily/Global/Journal.
Ohio State and the Big 12’s Baylor and TCU boasted similar résumés when the selection committee made its picks Sunday. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were widely considered the top three teams.
For now, the leaders of the five power conferences are comfortable with the reality that at least one of them will be excluded from the playoff each year. Delany was asked if the sting of exclusion would eventually spur his counterparts to expand the field.
He grinned and said, “Might, might not.”