Adventures in circular reasoning

I almost feel like I should apologize to you for neglecting to mention the loathsome John Feinstein’s most recent anti-BCS screed.   When it comes to college football, he is Mr. Over The Top.

And he doesn’t disappoint with this:

… Finally, there’s the now well-worn claim that college football has the “most meaningful” regular season in sports. Again, this is complete hyperbolic trash. First, how can you call a regular season meaningful when the decisions on who will play where in the postseason are made by computers and frequently biased voters… Are the BCS apologists trying to say that the college basketball regular season has no meaning? Every game played the last three weeks of the season is analyzed, re-analyzed and broken down to determine how it will affect seeding, the bubble and who is in and who is out.

I guess that depends on what your definition of “meaningful” is.

My meaningful may be “well-worn”, but it’s not just your garden variety trash.  Complete.  Hyperbolic.  Trash.  His is a glorious delivery system for the postseason.  Bring on the brackets!

Maybe Feinstein can explain why TV spends so much more on college football’s regular season than it does on college basketball’s.  Judging from the new SEC contracts, that doesn’t seem to be well-worn at all.

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UPDATE: Groo gets it.

… I’m still amazed that Feinstein concedes that college basketball has more or less a three-week regular season.

And it’s not important for the same reason football’s is, either.  It’s purpose is to serve tournament eligibility and seeding.

That doesn’t make it better or worse.  It’s just different.  That means it’s not automatically an appropriate template for whatever D-1 football chooses to do with its postseason.  If Feinstein wasn’t such a horse’s ass, he might calm down and notice that.

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UPDATE #2: Elkon gets medieval on Feinstein’s ass.

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27 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

27 responses to “Adventures in circular reasoning

  1. Prov

    “Every game played the LAST THREE WEEKS of the season is analyzed, re-analyzed and broken down to determine how it will affect seeding, the bubble and who is in and who is out.”

    Doesn’t this only discredit his argument?

  2. The greater money amount that TV networks pay for college football’s regular season doesn’t come from the postseason structure. It comes from the scarcity of games.

    The marginal value of one game is higher when there’s only 12 of them as opposed to the roughly 35 that most college basketball teams play. Add on top of that the I-AA games and cupcakes that the marquee football teams always play, and then they have only have 8 to 10 meaningful games (not even accounting for the in-conference cupcakes like Washington State or Iowa State which drive that number even lower).

    The other big factor is that football is a more popular sport across the board in this country than basketball is. More popularity brings more money.

    • Your scarcity argument might have more traction if it weren’t for the fact that it’s not just the payment per game that’s higher, it’s the value of the overall contract, too.

      If it all boiled down to scarcity, wouldn’t it make sense for college basketball to shrink the size of the regular season? Or, for that matter, wouldn’t that be an argument against expanding the postseason? Again, you’ve got the same decision makers for the football contracts as you do the basketball ones, so you’d think they’d be easy to convince if this were the case.

      Your other argument is much stronger, although even with the cases of schools where basketball carries more weight, like Kentucky, the football money seems to be better.

      • History plays a lot into it, since college football and basketball date back well before there was big money to be made by televising the sports.

        Football has always had a small number of games per team because of the physical demands. Basketball has always had a lot more games per team because it can be played more often. If you take a look at Adolph Rupp’s all time records you can see that UK had been playing 20 to 40 game schedules long before televised college basketball became lucrative.

        Because of the history (and the fact that taking away games is nearly impossible), football operates from a market of scarcity and college basketball operates from a market of abundance. Because there are so few games (and even fewer good ones), college football regular season games have an extremely high value placed on them. Due to their abundance, college basketball regular season games largely mean nothing as long as you win enough to go to the tournament.

        The one time a year where there is both meaning and scarcity in college basketball is that tournament, which grosses about $545 million a year in TV money. The SEC’s new contracts with CBS and ESPN collectively gross about $205 million a year (though not all of that is football money), and I’ve been able to determine through some quick Google searches that the ACC gets about $38 million and the Pac 10 gets about $43 million a year for televised football. You figure the Big East is lower than those and the Big Ten and Big 12 are higher (plus Notre Dame gets $9 million from NBC). All told, that’s collectively less for the entire football regular season than the 33 games of March Madness alone. That’s why college basketball doesn’t even care about contracting the regular season (even if it could do so, which it probably can’t). The tourney is the cash cow that pays for everything else.

        • You’re spot on with your historical argument.

          I would argue that the expanded tourney is what devalued the basketball regular season. It’s what the Big 6 commissioners fear could happen to football.

  3. JasonC

    I do think that college football is going to have a ‘meaningful’ game problem because of the rampant scheduling of I-AA games. Florida and other teams have proved that you can get by with soft OOC schedules. I think the NCAA should make a rule that you can play only one I-AA team a year or, make bowl eligibility based on 6 FBS wins and not count the I-AA wins. That would reduce double-dipping a la Florida, et al.

  4. CFR

    Its clear the balance of over-the-top commentary in this discussion skews heavily towards the anti BCS/pro playoff crowd.

    Lots of emotion trumping reason out there.

  5. Connor

    One of the points that is consistently made by those in favor of a college football playoff, and Feinstein makes it as well, is that “every other NCAA sport has one.” Isn’t it clear that college football is unique within the NCAA, even excepting the postseason situation? It brings in all the money. You have one sport paying for 19 others, why is there some shock that it isn’t handled the same way as all the others. It’s not attended the same way, it’s not allocated scholarships the same way, it’s not allocated school resources the same way and it’s not covered by the media the same way. I just don’t see why it’s so hard to acknowledge that Major College Football is a whole different game. The fact that Lacrosse or lower division football have a playoff is not relevant, they are not remotely comparable. That’s not my only problem with his piece, but that particular argument has always vexed me.

    • Do you honestly think football revenues would suffer under a NCAA championship?

      IF it were an 8 team playoff, and Georgia was not in it, and were playing in the Cap1 Bowl, how would that be any different than not being in a BCS game from a revenue propsective?

      • Do you honestly think football revenues would suffer under a NCAA championship?

        If you’re talking about the schools from the Big 6 conferences, absolutely, for two reasons.

        1) The wealth will be spread amongst more schools.
        2) To accomplish that, it will be necessary to have an expanded postseason – 16 schools, at a minimum. An expanded tourney devalues the regular season. Eventually that will be reflected in future regular season TV contracts those conferences negotiate.

        You are kidding yourself if you think a D-1 tourney conducted under the auspices of the NCAA will be limited to eight schools.

        • 8 vs. 16 is a point that I must concede. However, there is a reason so many schools play D-1 basketball but not football. D-1 football is entirely to bloated and must be trimmed.

          My argument is, and always be, in the competitive spirit of determining a champion, and not in protecting the SEC’s piece of the BCS pie.

          The entire argument, valid as it is, is about revenues. Perhaps the BCS is not the problem but merely a sympton of a larger problem. If find it very ironic that the ivory towers of academia, while promoting the virtues of diversity and socialism, take such protectionist positions with regard to a singular “amatuer” sport.

          I could not give two shakes of a lizards tale about Utah, Boise St., or any of the “lesser” conferences. I do care about the teams that do everything that is asked of them on the football field and are denied an opportunity to compete for a championship due to a system that incorporates voters and computer to determine which two teams reach the “finals”.

          Yes, there will always be arguments about #64 in basketball and there would be arguments about #4, #8, etc. in football, but the fact remains the larger the field, the smaller the margin of error becomes. Nothing, except the old system, can be more error prone than a field of two.

          • Mike, I get where you’re coming from. The problem is that the money argument is going to drive this train, not the competition argument.

            You do realize that the reason so many more schools play D-1 basketball than football is because that’s where the money is for the small fry, right?

            • Without a doubt. Title IX has created a monstrous dependency on D-1 football that makes competition secondary to economics. That is a can of worms for another day.

              I still remain astonished that D-1 institutions will not even listen to a proposal to replace the BCS. I imagine, as with your point about 8 vs 16, if the NCAA was running it, there would be a greater obligation to spread the wealth.

              Your title is so appropriate! Round and round.

  6. Perhaps the basketball tournament should be dropped for a BCS type system.

    • Connor

      If your teams could only play 1 basketball game a week and needed 90,000 people to be in attendence and you couldn’t organize it so two games could be staged in the same facility back to back, then yes, you would drop a 64 team playoff.

      • Connor, I am not making an orgument against the basketball tounrey. But if your argument is logistics, how is it that every non D-1 football division plays a post season tourney?

        • Because the history’s different. Only D-1 schools had bowls.

          • Isn’t the NIT older than the NCAA tournament?

            • By one year.

              The NIT was perceived from its inception as primarily a New York City tourney. That was good in the early years when the NBA was largely an East Coast league, but the NIT got killed with the point shaving scandals that hit several NYC teams in the fifties.

              Once the NCAA really put the screws to the NIT by expanding its tournament, that was all she wrote.

              • +1 Senator, so I now call for the NCAA to put the crews to the BCS:-)

                • But here’s the difference: the NCAA created the value of its basketball postseason, but the value of football’s postseason was created and has been maintained by the conferences (and Notre Dame) and the bowls. The NCAA just can’t swoop in and take that away.

                  If you’ll remember, the last time the NCAA and its D-1 member football schools had an antitrust fight, the NCAA got its ass kicked.

          • Connor

            It’s not just logistics (though that’s part), it’s everything. Football at D-1 schools, and especially the BCS coference schools, is so different from the non D-1 schools that it just isn’t a valid comparison. My point is that there isn’t a comparable sport in the NCAA to major college football, so it isn’t a legitimate argument to say “All the other NCAA sports do this, so therefore so should college football.”

            • There is no disputing history and/or tradition.

              Setting histroy aside, what is the difference? Is the talent/revenue/fan support delta between D-1 and D-2 in basketball any greater? The only difference I respect is the financial dependence that is placed on D-1 football by politicians.

              • Connor

                Not sure what you mean by the last part, but in general, yes, I think the difference between D1 football and D2 football is greater than that between the basketball, but that isn’t really the point I was making. My point is the difference between D1 football and all other NCAA sports is vast, and in many ways greater than between any of the other sports, individually, rendering comparisons to them meaningless.

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