In the next edition of “It’s Not About The Money”…

Have Not:

… Institutions facing fat deficits have risked the wrath of students, parents and alumni and cut scholarships and teams. The University of Cincinnati wiped out scholarships for three men’s sports: track, cross-country and swimming. Stanford University told its fencing teams to look for other financing.

The University of Massachusetts dropped its ski teams, and Kutztown University in Pennsylvania eliminated its men’s soccer and men’s swimming teams. On Friday, the University of Washington said it would cut its swimming teams to save as much as $1.2 million, less than half of the spending that the athletic department needs to reduce.

Have:

… Some programs are so wealthy that they subsidize entire athletic departments. In the 2007-8 season, the Southeastern Conference distributed an average of $5.3 million in football and basketball television revenue to each of its 12 members. In August, the SEC signed 15-year television contracts with ESPN and CBS that will generate even more money.

Have Not:

… The Ohio Valley Conference, which includes 11 universities in Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, is not so fortunate. It reduced the number of teams that play in conference championship tournaments to six, eliminated media days before the football and basketball seasons (instead conducting news conferences online), and stopped printing media guides.

Have:

Last week, the Arkansas athletic department said it would spend $1 million to help the university avoid increasing tuition.

Have Not:

… At Lehigh, which has 25 varsity sports and competes in the Patriot League, athletes on the volleyball, field hockey and soccer teams will return to campus only a few days before dormitories open, instead of a full week. The change will save the athletic department about $20,000 in room and board.

Joe Sterrett, Lehigh’s athletic director, trimmed $250,000 from his budget. He said he was also concerned about a potential decline in the number of athletes who attend the university’s sports camps, which bring in as much as $900,000 each summer.

“You have to look for ways to squeeze,” he said.

Have:

… In December, the athletic department at South Carolina agreed to steer $1 million of its television revenue back to the university.

“There’s no doubt that most if not all our institutions are experiencing budget issues with their state legislatures,” said Mike Slive, the commissioner of the SEC. “To the extent that our athletic departments can assist, they’ve done that.”

Notice a pattern here?  Miles Brand does.

… Taken together, the cuts could deeply alter the college sports landscape. The gap will widen between the haves with television and sponsorship deals, and the have-nots that rely mostly on alumni and their universities for financing.

“One of the things we have to worry about is competitive equity,” said Myles Brand, the president of the N.C.A.A. “If some schools have too small a budget, it could affect their play, and that isn’t fair.”

Ah, good old fashioned fairness.  It’s not fair that the SEC has more impassioned fans than does the Patriot League.

Here’s my paranoid scenario, which isn’t nearly as far-fetched as you’d like to believe:  as we watch the BCS/playoff debate unfold in Washington, mark the point when the folks from Utah whining about wanting their team to have a chance have their voices replaced in the debate with calls for a more socially just solution.  Throw in a dollop of Title IX concerns, as well.  That’s when things can change.

So, while Mike Hugenin is right when he notes this:

Second, during Friday’s hearing, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said, “Many have said the current BCS system ensures a permanent underclass. They are right.” Indeed, that is right: Compared to USC, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Penn State and the like, the Wyomings, Louisiana-Lafayettes, Eastern Michigans and New Mexico States of the world aren’t equal. And the Mountain West and the Sun Belt and the Mid-American are not equal to the SEC and Pac-10 and Big Ten. That’s not communism; that’s reality. That’s also the marketplace: For whatever reason, more people would rather watch USC-Ohio State than San Jose State-Ohio University.

And that leads into point three. The BCS is in place to match No. 1 vs. No. 2 – whoever they are. The BCS is not in place to give the team ranked fifth a chance for the national title; that would necessitate a playoff, which the vast majority of university presidents have said – repeatedly – that they’re against. Indeed, it’s better than even money that if university presidents were asked to vote between a playoff and a return to the “old days” – i.e., before the BCS – they would overwhelmingly vote to return to the “old days.” What that would mean, of course, is that the major conferences would be just fine, while the likes of the Mountain West and Western Athletic again would be fighting over crumbs.

… that’s in the here and now.  Things can migrate from there.  The real club the Feds have is the money they toss to higher education.  The carrot they have is an antitrust exemption for the NCAA.  Don’t believe for a second that in the right hands those can’t be wielded effectively.  Money changes everything.

The funny part to this will be the reactions from the useful idiots like Barton and Hatch when it dawns on them that they’ve been preempted.  That will almost make up for how much the end result is likely to suck for college football fans.

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13 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

13 responses to “In the next edition of “It’s Not About The Money”…

  1. 69Dawg

    The end game will be that the schools in all bowl games will get less, the NCAA will take more and give the have nots more and more. Just good old fashion socialism.

  2. BigOldDawg

    If anybody thinks all these numbers don’t mean anything on Saturday in the fall, here’s a number which is a direct result of concern for “equality” among the NCAA member schools, a number which has a direct bearing on the outcome of many a Saturday game.

    85 scholarships.

    Don’t for a minute think you can ignore the babble.

  3. RedCrake

    Aside from rabid fan bases, here’s another novel thought…look at the enrollment and alumni base:

    Lehigh University: 7,000 students

    University of Georgia: 30,000+ students

    Lehigh University: 35,000 potential alumni over a 20 year period

    University of Georgia: 150,000+ potential alumni over a 20 year period

    Yes, the state and government sets most of the budget for public schools, but part of the reason that larger conferences have larger fan bases is because they have more alumni, more family of alumni, and so on. TV deals and bowl affiliations come from having large fan bases. Nobody cares about Lehigh sports because, at best, Lehigh has 1/5 as many people associated with its programs.

    And as an undergraduate alum of a small, private college and a graduate school alum of UGA, I’ll tell you right now, I am contributing to the UGA Athletic Dept. with dollars, purchasing of licensed products, and as a viewer of advertising because its big time college sports. I don’t contribute to the small, private school because who gives a crap about the Berry College tennis team?

    The major conference schools are, for the most part, big “successful” sports programs financially because they have the student body, alumni base, and fan support to justify their existence.

    And should we go down this “equity” path, how long is it before revenue sharing dictates that Georgia, Florida, and Alabama send some of that licensing money Vanderbilt’s way?

  4. Point #1: If the Mountain West succeeds in pressuring Congress to dissolve the BCS, I sincerely hope the commissioners of the Big 6 Conferences take their collective ball and go home just to stick it to Congress. I’ve made this point here before just as the Senator makes it above. Either the Mountain West isn’t aware or they just don’t care, but the BCS is good for them from an exposure standpoint and a $$ standpoint. Without the BCS the best they could ever hope to do is play on December 28th in the Las Vegas Bowl and never sniff the Fiesta or Sugar. Essentially if Congress gets its way we go back to the 1980s where bowl decisions were made in shady backroom deals which as the Senator mentioned above “the end result is likely to suck for college football fans”.

    Point #2: I suppose Congress has decided that we must go socialist on everything now? When the Sun Belt and the MAC can sell 70K+ tickets for a game come talk to me about “spreading the wealth”. The reason the SEC makes so much coin is because its fans are bat-shit crazy and will spend money on anything and everything with their team’s logo and name (Snuggies, notwithstanding). SEC fans will still shell out the cash and I assure you that SEC stadiums will still be packed come this fall despite the terrible economic situation. Huegnin hits it on the head with the comment that “more people would rather watch USC-Ohio State than San Jose State-Ohio University”. I honestly implore you all to write and call your senators and your congressmen with your concerns because until they feel pressure from their consituency, nothing is going to change.

  5. Savannah Mike

    Battle over the BCS…love it

    Keep the articles coming

  6. The Magic Number is 133.

    There are currently 65 BCS member school plus Notre Dame (66). Their interest resolves around protecting the BCS’s financial structure.

    There are about 120 Div I programs. The existing Div I schools voted to slow and restrict access to Div I-AA schools looking to move up. They had to do this to keep the non-BCS schools from gaining a voting majority over the BCS members.

    When the overall number of Div I (FBS) schools breaks 133 without conference expansion of the existing BCS schools, that means the smaller schools will have the 50% majority.

    And that’s when real change of the structure of the playoffs will happen. Before that happens though, the Big 10, Pac 10 and Big East could all expand and make it even tougher for the voting majority to be won by the smaller schools.

    Until then…most of this stuff is just a blow hard pandering congress reaching into an area where it really can’t do much.

    • Paul, I think that as long as the debate stays focused on access to a title game, the big boys win. They’re not going to share any more of the pie than what’s there now. If they’re pushed hard enough, either by antitrust claims or by membership growth, they’ll walk and form that 80-school super division that many of us would like to see.

      That being said, I believe what I posted. If this debate shifts to a focus on financial equality, it’s a whole new ballgame. I disagree with you that the Feds can’t do much. They can threaten with higher education funding. They can tempt with an antitrust exemption for the NCAA.

      How’s this for a “solution”?

      1. The D-1 tourney gets turned over to the NCAA, which sets up a 32-team playoff and reduces the regular season back to eleven games. The bowls are bypassed for the most part.
      2. D-1 football scholarships per school are reduced to 65 total, 20 per year.
      3. The NCAA is granted its coveted antitrust exemption.

      There’s a helluva lot that’s attractive in that, even for the big boys. Revenues are spread more broadly. Costs are reduced. There would be more parity. Schools would face less pressure related to Title IX compliance. Coaching salaries and perks – not just in football – get reined in dramatically.

      I can think of a number of school presidents who would see all of that as a little bit of heaven on earth. The big question for them would be how much the regular season revenue would be impacted. If the answer winds up being “not much” (that’s the answer in their heads when they’re making the call, not when it plays out afterwards), what’s not for them to like?

      Notice there’s nothing in there about the fans. We won’t factor into the equation, just our wallets.

      • bevo

        Good stuff. The BCS teams + Notre Dame want as many non-BCS teams out before undertaking a playoff.

        I noticed this desire in the mid ’90s while getting my MA.

        For political reasons, the BCS teams will have to take the Mountain West and another 10 teams from east of the Mississippi. The remainder of the schools get sent back down to I-AA or II where they belong.

        The NCAA can accomplish this move by either enforcing the attendance standards or increasing financial requirements (number of funded scholarships, number of sports, etc.). However, they will fight a protracted antitrust suit, which the NCAA should win because private organizations can enforce memberships standards.

  7. I have a hard time believing that all of this committee grandstanding is going to have as big of an impact as some are willing to guess. Firstly, the Mountain West does not want that kind of big change (federal coercion of budget fairness). The MWC just wants a spot in the BCS. Secondly, I don’t think Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch have all that much support for such ideas. I could be wrong, but that’s how I see it at this point.

    • Well, I don’t want to claim that I know what’s going on in Commissioner Thompson’s head, but he did say this:

      Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, which does not get an automatic bid, called the money distribution system “grossly inequitable.”

      He also hired a Congressional lobbyist, so I presume he’s looking for something there.

      I will say it’s not this committee I worry about, or Hatch’s either.

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