CHICAGO — The Grandaddy doesn’t budge. He sits on his porch, rocking gently in the breeze as them dagnab kids pass by, never looking up, eyes locked on their smartphones and tablets, thumbs going a million miles an hour.
At the same time, with each passing tweet, the Rose Bowl withers ever slightly.
The last installment between Iowa and Stanford drew the lowest rating for the game (7.9) since it joined the old Bowl Championship Series party in 1999. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany doubled down on the party line Tuesday morning by insisting that even if the dates and times for the nascent College Football Playoff are in flux, the dates and times for the Rose Bowl aren’t.
“There may be changes in the offing,” Delany said, “but I don’t expect those changes to affect the Rose Bowl.”
All of which has those kids looking up from their Instagram feed, staring hard at The Grandaddy Of Them All and asking aloud:
Are you relevant? Really? Still?
“Yeah,” Bill Hancock, director of the CFP, told LandOf10.com after addressing the throng at Big Ten Media Days. “Talk to the players here. And (they’ll say) the Rose Bowl is a significant carrot. It’s a significant reward for those players.”
The fans, of course, might take a little more convincing. This season, the Peach and Fiesta bowls find that their playoff semifinals fall on a Saturday, which is good, but on New Year’s Eve, which probably isn’t. CFP partners seem willing to play ball, assuming ESPN — which owns the broadcast rights through 2025 and is the tail that wags the dog — is on board.
Hey, the Rose is, too. Really. So long as the game always kicks in the late afternoon in the Midwest, as the sun starts to set over the Arroyo Seco. And always kicks on New Year’s Day. And in the years it isn’t hosting the playoff, always hosts its traditional Big Ten/Pac-12 fare.
And that you get the hell off its lawn, thank you very much.
“We haven’t talked to (the Rose) about what might happen after this (ESPN) contract,” Hancock said. “But I don’t see it, based on my experiences. You’ve have to ask them, but I don’t see it.”
As for the kids on the smartphones? The ones who might start swiping past The Grandaddy on their digital planners?
“I’d say to them, ‘College football has rich traditions,’” Hancock said.
“We built the playoff on top of the existing traditions, and I do not see the Rose Bowl moving. I think the Sugar Bowl did the right thing by wanting to continue the traditions that they had taken a break from (and) were eager to get back to. And I just don’t see those changing. I don’t. I just don’t see them changing.”
So if you’re Hancock, you adjust. You deal. You build on top of it, build it around it. It’s not unlike renovating or attempting to “enhance” Wrigley Field in Chicago: It’s a cramped park already squeezed into a cramped block in a cramped neighborhood.
Stride too far, too fast, and powerful toes wind up getting stepped on.
“We’re proud of our traditions in college football,” Hancock continued. “And we can’t say on one hand ‘We’re proud of our traditions’ and on the other hand, now change some significant traditions. So it is what it is, and frankly, I don’t see it as a problem.”
The coaches don’t either. For the most part.
“You know, I like picking the four teams (in the playoff),” Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said. “There’s always going to be controversy there, but deep down, I think they want controversy a little bit. (That’s) no different than before, you can talk about it all year long about who got left out … and I think all that discussion, year-round, is good for college football, and all the attention (is, too).
“And I will tell you this: It’s a lot better system than what it was, just picking two teams. At least now it’s four. You can pick eight, and No. 9 and No. 10 are not going to be there. There’s always going to be that controversy. I like what we’re doing now, and I think it’s good for college football, the excitement’s there and it’s settled on the field now like all the other sports. I’m a big fan of the way we’re doing things in college football.”
He’s a fan of the Rose Bowl, too. And ne’er the twain.
“But it would be unfair to characterize (the Rose Bowl) as not being open to change,” Hancock said. “The fact is, they are one of the most important traditions in college football and …”
“I better not say anymore.”
Based on that smile, he might not have to.
You can reach Sean Keeler via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @seankeeler