Big Ten Insider: If you're Big Cheese in the Big Ten, best to filter Big Mouth

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2010 - 8:18 AM

Ohio State's president had it right -- the bowl system is skewed -- but his approach was all wrong.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee.

Photo: Jay Laprete, Associated Press

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If Gordon Gee was a baseball player, the next pitch would be headed directly at his ear.

As president of Ohio State, Gee presides over one of the biggest beneficiaries of the absurd Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system, a school virtually guaranteed a berth in the national championship game any season it can survive unscathed. A school that has twice embarrassed itself in the title game, damaging the credibility of the entire Big Ten.

Yet when Gee foolishly decided to discuss the BCS and the ongoing controversy over whether Texas Christian and Boise State should get to play for the championship, the highly decorated scholar forgot the first rule of the playground: Don't gloat.

Give him the benefit of the doubt -- his comment that "there's some reason to believe that they [might] not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame" was perhaps a ham-handed plea for the inclusion of the one-loss Buckeyes -- but calling attention to the egregious lopsidedness of the system and giving public voice to the big-school bias was terrible public relations.

And image might matter more than ever right now, as the U.S. Justice Department considers whether to pursue an antitrust case against the big-bowl cartel.

The Big Ten has tens of millions of reasons to protect the status quo, however unethical, since it automatically favors the league over teams that may be better on the football field but disenfranchised by virtue of their small-conference home. Taunting them by calling their schedule "the Little Sisters of the Poor" against his league's "Murderer's Row" is not only gauche, it's inaccurate.

Ohio State's schedule was larded up this year by mighty Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Marshall, and the league schedule that includes Indiana, Michigan and, ahem, Minnesota doesn't exactly invoke the '27 Yankees. Computer formulas judging strength of schedule generally rank Boise State and TCU's slates this year roughly in the middle of BCS conference teams. Like, you know, the Buckeyes.

Can't blame Boise State President Bob Kustra for firing back, describing Ohio State's 2010 schedule as "if not the Little Sisters of the Poor, then the Little Brothers."

"I don't mind somebody stating that they don't think we ought to be in the national championship, but to do it with such erroneous information as Gordon Gee has used gets under the skin of all of us who thought university presidents were supposed to be standing for fairness, equity and truth," Kustra said.

Not to mention, invites action to institute a fair playoff system. I favor that, as do most football fans, but Gee clearly doesn't. He's welcome to his opinion, but he undermines it with such inelegant public posturing.

Pride goeth before destruction, the Biblical proverb warns, and a haughty spirit before a fall. The Big Ten better hope Gee's clumsy arrogance doesn't prove those words true.

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