The Big Ten is tweaking its tiebreaking procedure for determining the league's automatic representative to the Bowl Championship Series, according to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who told the university's athletic board about the changes late last week.
The first tiebreaker will remain head-to-head competition. The next tiebreaker has been eliminated. That called for the team that played more games against Division I-AA teams to be eliminated.
Also gone is the tiebreaker that the most recent team earning the BCS berth will be eliminated. That policy dated to when the conference sent only one team to a bowl, that being the Rose.
In its place will be a tiebreaker that got the Big 12 in trouble last season: the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings will get the automatic berth.
That tiebreaker caused a firestorm of protest last season from Texas fans, who saw the Longhorns defeat Oklahoma in a head-to-head matchup. Because Texas later lost to Texas Tech, creating a three-way tie for the Big 12 South title, Oklahoma was declared the Big 12 South winner because of a higher standing in the BCS. The Sooners then beat Missouri in the conference title game and earned a berth to the BCS title game.
That scenario was brought to the attention of Alvarez by a board member. The athletic director responded: "If Texas wanted to be there, it had to knock the kid out at the 10-yard line."
He was referring to the game-winning touchdown catch by Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree in the final seconds.
It's an interesting comment from Alvarez when you consider that ESPN tried to broker a game between Wisconsin and Texas this fall in Austin. Depending on who you believe, the deal fell through because the teams couldn't arrange a return game in Madison until 2013, or that neither team was willing to give up a home game in 2009.
We'll throw in a third reason: Wisconsin didn't want any part of Texas, which was desperately trying to upgrade its nonconference schedule in hopes of enhancing its chances of getting a berth to the BCS title game. As it stands, Texas plays Louisiana Monroe, Central Florida and Texas El Paso at home and at Wyoming in nonconference play, which won't help in a strength-of-schedule argument should the Longhorns once again find themselves battling for a top spot in the BCS.
As for Wisconsin, it plays Northern Illinois, Fresno State and something called Wofford at home and at Hawaii in nonconference play. Not exactly murderer's row, but given the decline of the Badger program, there was no incentive to brush aside, say Wofford, in favor of a game against Texas.
The only incentive for Wisconsin was to back the wimpy clause that games against I-AA teams be treated no differently than games against I-A teams in the tiebreaker system. By doing so, the Big Ten is legitimizing games against I-AA opponents. The reality is that such games are nothing more than a glorified scrimmage for teams like Wisconsin and a paycheck for teams like Wofford.
Add in that Big Ten teams only play eight conference games — bypassing two league opponents — and you're likely to see this tiebreaker procedure come into play.