CHICAGO — How about a national championship game in Detroit? Or Minneapolis? What about Boston or New York?
With college football headed toward a playoff, Big Ten administrators this week came out in favor of staging those games in bowls, a step that would keep the conference's longstanding ties to the Rose Bowl.
But league officials said they could see the title game being played in cities other than the usual suspects in California, Florida and Louisiana, though they did not offer any specific suggestions.
"I think the championship game in any scenario is going to be independently bid, not part of the bowl situation," Commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday after wrapping up two days of meetings. "If you looked at the options that we brought back to our conferences — one is inside the bowl, one is outside the bowl — in either case, I think the information indicated that the championship game would be bid out."
A playoff, likely to include four teams, is expected as soon as the 2014 season, replacing the current No.1 vs. No. 2 BCS championship matchup that has rotated among the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose Bowl sites.
Michigan athletic director David Brandon said the title game "is going to be huge" wherever it is played, but there are more immediate issues at hand, mainly determining the championship field. Options include taking the top four teams in a poll, the four highest-ranked conference champions or some combination of both, and none is a cure for the current controversies.
If anything, they could be magnified.
Picking the two teams for the national championship game is already complicated. Adding more spots to the mix probably won't make it easier.
"We have a system that's been pretty good at determining the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams," Brandon said. "If you go back in history there's been a high correlation between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams of one of them becoming the national champion. Our ability to know who truly deserves to be No. 3 and No. 4 and No. 5 and No. 6 is far less accurate."
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said part of the problem is transparency — or a lack of — with the current rankings system. He wants more clarity.
"I personally think there should be a committee, and it should be transparent so all the coaches and the public know the criteria, where the most weight is put and why decisions are made," Alvarez said.
"And someone stands up much like the basketball committee and tells the public why. Tell coaches why, so coaches know going in what the criteria are, what is going to be weighted, if it influences your scheduling. Is it margin of victory? Does that weigh in? Strength of schedule — does that weigh in? Home or away?"
Brandon said he is "very concerned" about the possibility of teams playing up to 15 games in a season — 12 on the schedule, plus the Big Ten championship, a bowl and the national title game, for example. But he said he is fine with the four-team format. If that sounds like an about-face for someone who had come out against a playoff system, well, he doesn't quite see it that way.
"I don't view this four-team concept that's currently being discussed as a true playoff," he said. "That's where maybe my past comments have been confused. When I think playoff, I think eight teams, 16 teams, something that takes a large number of teams, where you truly try to identify who is the ultimate champion."
He added: "I think it's the only practical model now in terms of balancing all the various interests, including length of season, numbers of games played."
Alvarez said there has been "a lot of discussion" about condensing the bowl schedule from Christmas to New Year's Day as much as possible, with schools out of session and more people in general taking vacations. He also said he thinks the playoff games would be played during that window, followed by the title game.
Delany thinks the bowl schedule could be condensed if a rule requiring teams to go at least 7-5 to be eligible is passed.
"I don't know what the effect will be if 7-5 gets passed," he said. "Maybe it'll be easier to do. There will be fewer bowl-eligible teams and as a result, fewer bowls."
Notes: Delany insisted the Big Ten is not looking to expand again, although he did acknowledge that "the plates underneath conference alignment are still hot (around the country)." ... The commissioner said details are still being worked out on a Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling partnership. ... The Big Ten is looking into an affiliation with the Pinstripe Bowl. "I think New York City is the financial, sports capital of the world," Delany said. "It's a global city, like Chicago. We'll have conversations with them."