Harvey Perlman wants to protect the regular season and student-athletes.
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By Randy York
Harvey Perlman is 70 years old, and he’s now on Social Security, so he’s more than willing to speak his mind on a controversial subject. Last weekend, after his leadership lecture at the Champions Club, Nebraska’s chancellor spent a few minutes with me to share what I already knew – he’s against a college football playoff, even though he’s accepted the inevitability of some change in the BCS.
“If it (a playoff) was a personal choice, I would be against it,” Perlman told me. “There are some things about the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) I would change. I don’t like the automatic qualifying issue because I think it’s creating incentives for conference realignment that doesn’t make intuitive sense to me. That’s my personal view. I just don’t think if you look at all the interest in college football, it (not having a playoff structure) protects your regular season, it protects your student-athletes, and it’s in the best interests of the fans that count for me. I’m talking about the interest of the fans that attend the games. I’m not excluding the Nebraska fans that watch football on TV every Saturday, but there is a general fan base that watches college football but isn’t necessarily attached to a team, and they want a playoff. I don’t know that the fans who care about Nebraska want a playoff, or at least that it would be in their best interest, so personally I’m against it.”
Perlman, however, recognizes the pressure, the significant interest across the country and the reality that NCAA Division I schools are going to do something. “So what I would want,” he said, “is to do whatever would cause the least damage to college football, the least damage to the regular season, the least damage to the student-athlete and the least damage to the academic enterprise.”
Sportscasters in Nebraska have taken their share of shots at Perlman’s stance over the past few weeks, and he has not budged an inch on why he’s against a playoff. Perlman’s view, I might add, makes complete sense to me. Nebraska’s longest tenured chancellor since the 1960s realizes that sportscasters and sportswriters have jobs to do, and if that means they need to rally public support to revolutionize a game built on a solid foundation, he understands. But he also has a job to do as a Nebraska leader, a Big Ten Conference leader and a BCS leader. So Perlman continues to speak out. “I think the future of college football is at stake here,” he told me while acknowledging that college football is the only NCAA sport where every game counts, and that’s part of what makes the game unique.
One fact fans tend to forget is that the final vote in what most certainly would be a sea change in college football rests in the hands of university presidents and chancellors, and they haven’t seen all the evidence. “We’ll see how it comes out,” Perlman said. “It’ll be interesting.”
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