Big Ten ADs see year of readiness fueling debate on balance

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith had high praise for college football's playoff system - and a warning to the NCAA about adding another round.

More bandages will be needed.

Smith said his Buckeyes were a banged-up bunch as they marched toward the championship and expanding the playoff field form four to eight teams will only add to the bumps and bruises.

Ohio State knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the title game. But the way Smith sees it, a third game sure would add to the physical toll after watching his Buckeyes beat rival Michigan before playing in the league title game.

''Could they (play one)? Sure,'' he said Tuesday. ''Would we have had significant injuries? No doubt. We had a nice gap between the Big Ten championship game and the Sugar Bowl. But we still had guys recovering from playing the gauntlet of the regular season. We play the `team up north,' that's a tough game for us. And we turn around and play the championship game. We have guys recovering after that.''

Smith said if another round was added, it would have to be in December and not January. He also praised the playoff, and he insisted the kind words were not the product of his team's championship.

''The kids had a great time, not just because we won, but because of the way they set it up,'' he said. ''I really like the fact they took the semi game and made it like the bowl experience, because that was one of our concerns. It worked.''

Smith and other Big Ten administrators are meeting through Wednesday at the conference's headquarters.

They were asked about a wide range of topics, including the notion of making football and men's basketball players ineligible as freshmen as well as football coaches participating in camps far away from their campuses. Their responses centered on a common theme - stirring debate and improving the process.

In that sense, they said Commissioner Jim Delany succeeded when he introduced the idea of a so-called year of readiness for athletes to help strike a balance with academics.

Delany pitched the idea in February. He followed that up last month with a 12-page letter titled, ''Education First, Athletics Second: The Time for a National Discussion is Upon Us,'' outlining a plan to make football and men's basketball players sit out their freshman seasons without losing a year of eligibility.

The odds of it becoming a reality are slim since no other commissioner has voiced support for the plan. But the point is this: ''It's created a great national dialogue about what are the things we can do to improve the student-athlete experience,'' Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said.

As for football coaches taking part in ''satellite camps'' far away from their campuses? It's fueled quite a territorial debate, particularly with the SEC.

NCAA rules allow football programs to hold camps on campus, within their state or within 50 miles of campus. They also allow coaches to guest-coach at another school's camp.

The SEC and ACC prohibit that, partly because they don't want coaches invading each other's backyards. But with new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Penn State's James Franklin going into SEC territory to take part in camps for high school prospects, a territorial dispute is percolating.

Franklin, who left Vanderbilt for Happy Valley, and his staff were guest coaches at Georgia State last year.

Harbaugh took it to another level this year by announcing a tour that will make nine stops in seven states, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He also put out the welcome mat and invited every coach in the country to come to Michigan's camp.

''That's an ACC-SEC issue,'' Purdue AD Morgan Burke said. ''It's not high on our list of items to talk about. Why should it bother us? To be honest with you, maybe I'm not close enough to the issues raised by my colleagues in the SEC and ACC. But if somebody wants to spend their money and that's how they want to spend their recruiting dollars, I'd say, what's the problem?''

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