CHICAGO — The addition of a playoff to determine a college football national champion had Big Ten coaches thinking about tradition on the second day of Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday. The new system comes with a revamped bowl season, one that forsakes old customs.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke questioned the effect of the playoff system on the bowl experience, lamenting the potential loss of the Big Ten champion going to the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten champion has traditionally gone to the Rose Bowl, but that could change this season when the Rose Bowl will serve as a national semifinal on Jan. 1.
“Being able to go to a Rose Bowl and experience that, I feel bad for the kids in the Big Ten who don’t have that opportunity,” Hoke said.
Last season, Michigan State made the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988 in what was considered a great moment for the program and its fans. Now, with national semifinals rotating between bowls, such milestones may not be as significant.
“I know when you look at the Rose Bowl, so many people identified with the last time they were there was ’88,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “They were so excited about that and they brought back a lot of memories and everybody had a story. Everybody had a story about when they were there last and who they came with and how they got there.”
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (1,609 yards, 12 touchdowns) enters the season as one of the league’s top returning players. After the redshirt junior decided to return to Wisconsin instead of declare for the NFL draft, he started to garner preseason Heisman hype.
But Gordon is less interested in the hype and more disappointed in how the West Division of the Big Ten is being overlooked, even though Wisconsin has represented the league in three out of the last four Rose Bowls. The West Division contains Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue.
“We can’t control that, we can’t control where they put us,” Gordon said. “But, you know, we look into that and it’s kind of almost a slap in the face to the teams on our side.”