Beware of commissioners bearing gifts.

Here’s a little story that popped up out of the blue (the BCS coordinator was saying earlier in the day that the BCS would remain the same “by and large” for the next five years) late yesterday.

Starting with the 2010 season and running through the 2013 season, the first time the Rose Bowl loses one of its conference champions and a team from one of the non-automatic qualifying leagues earns a BCS bid, the Rose Bowl must take that team.

The first question that springs to mind is why?

“Under certain circumstances, they can play their way into the Rose Bowl, which hasn’t been true in the past,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Monday at Big Ten media day. “That’s additional access. Standards have been, I think, lightened to access the BCS.”

Pardon my French, but that’s utter bullshit, which, considering the source, shouldn’t exactly be a surprise.  Sure, there’s more access to the Rose Bowl for the mid-majors, but not the BCS overall, as the eligibility rules aren’t being changed.

Maybe there’s a little more money at stake, since the Rose is the best paying of all the bowls, but in the vast scheme of things, I don’t think it would result in a significant additional distribution to the non-BCS conferences.

So what we’re left with as possible explanations for the change are either a fairly empty gesture for public consumption… or giving the prisoner enough rope to hang himself.  The Rose Bowl is always the best drawing postseason college football game; even having a 9-3 Illinois squad participate two seasons ago didn’t change that.  But what happens if a TCU gets in and the ratings tank (not because TCU isn’t worthy, but simply because there isn’t sufficient national interest)?

There’s a lot more to this than meets the eye – the absence of any media speculation that this was in the works, the lack of any comment from a representative of the Rose Bowl and the time frame involved (it starts after Fox is out of the picture and runs through the end of the ESPN contract for the BCS) suggest all sorts of agendas in play.  It’ll make for an interesting story to watch leading up to 2014.

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UPDATE: Matt Hinton aka Doc Saturday (who’s not suffering from an early onset of Alzheimer’s as I seem to be here lately), points out in the comments that Tony Barnhart reported on this change a couple of months ago… and that I blogged about Barnhart’s post.

I mention this not only to correct the omission, but also because in rereading my earlier post, I realize that I don’t find Barnhart’s assertion that the move would help the defense of the BCS convincing, because the overall access to the BCS by the mid-majors isn’t affected.

On the other hand, there may very well be something to this being a way to force the Rose Bowl out of a bad match up like the one created with the invitation to Illinois two years ago.

All of which still leaves us with the question as to who’s driving this train exactly.

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UPDATE #2: The Los Angeles Times has more, including quotes from the Rose Bowl’s chief officer.  It sounds like the other bowls weren’t happy about the Rose being able to dodge inviting non-BCS conference schools.

… Other bowls have been forced to take non-BCS teams before — Hawaii played in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Georgia — which was a sore point at the last round of television negotiations. They wanted to bring the Rose Bowl in line.

Pasadena agreed to put out a welcome mat for the smaller stars in the NCAA constellation. Kind of.

“The only other option was don’t have a national championship game,” Dorger said. “And we didn’t like that option.”

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12 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

12 responses to “Beware of commissioners bearing gifts.

  1. kckd

    IYAM, that’s great. The Sugar Bowl got screwed over with Hawaii and Utah the last two years. Not saying Utah wasn’t worthy, but let those elitist pudknockers from the Pac and Big 10 have to take in the ugly stepchild a few times, especially since they have no problem taking an Illinois team that didn’t deserve the spot in the first place.

    • I agree with your sentiment, but why would somebody like Delany sign on to that?

      That’s the interesting part of the story to me. There’s something else going on here that we don’t know about – yet.

  2. Lowcountry Dawg

    To try and find words for your speculations:

    Perhaps Delaney is acting comparably to the health insurance companies trying to get a seat at the table of Obamacare so they won’t get smashed ?

    Slightly different: he’s voluntarily offering a little lamb to the Congressional lion to see if it’ll go away.

    Another alternative: Orrin Hatch discreetly sent Luca Brasi to remind Delaney what a nice little bowl system he has; be a shame if something happened to it. I doubt this one because Senators are usually incapable of keeping anything quiet.

    • First off, I really don’t think these guys are concerned about Hatch’s antitrust threat. Now if Congress ever threatens to cut off federal funding to higher education over this (silly, I know) or dangles an antitrust exemption carrot in front of the NCAA, maybe it’ll be a different story.

      Second, when you look at it, Delany isn’t really giving the mid-majors much of anything with this, other than a possible trip to Pasadena. There’s no more money and there’s still no guaranteed spot in the BCS. I don’t think anyone will be fooled by that for very long, if at all.

      So I’m wondering if the pressure for this is coming from a more powerful source than Congress – the World Wide Leader.

  3. Re: the lack of media speculation, that’s not exactly the case. Tony Barnhart reported this was in the works two months ago (http://blogs.ajc.com/barnhart-college-football/2009/05/29/sec-headed-to-a-big-payday-in-2010/?cxntfid=blogs_barnhart_college_football), and I posted on it then (http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Move-to-ESPN-puts-barbarians-at-the-gates-of-the?urn=ncaaf,166878). As a matter of fact, I hat-tipped this blog on posting the Barnhart story, so maybe it just slipped your mind.

    The AP is a little behind the curve on this one, but everyone’s picking it up now since it’s actually hitting the wires and Barnhardt only said “This is what I hear.” But he was exactly right.

    • You’re absolutely right, Matt – I forgot about that post of Barnhart’s.

      But I’m still surprised at the lack of attention this change has gotten outside of that. I’m also surprised that Swofford didn’t make mention of it when he had the opportunity.

  4. Lowcountry Dawg

    ‘So I’m wondering if the pressure for this is coming from a more powerful source than Congress – the World Wide Leader.’

    Why would ESPN push for a game including a team that can’t pull ratings?

    • I wonder how much of this is colored by what happened in 2007. It wasn’t just the Rose Bowl that had a poor match up; that bowl’s decision to invite Illinois had a ripple effect on some of the other bowl games.

      I’m not saying that ESPN knows exactly what it’s doing here. It may be looking at the 2010-13 period as a time to experiment so that it is ready to push for what it really wants when the BCS contract is renewed in 2014.

      And this is just rank speculation on my part, mind you. The BCS boys may have done this themselves in the honest belief that it’s a clever defense.

  5. 69Dawg

    Senator, the WWL now has all of the BCS not just the Granddaddy Bowl. The Golden Rule has now taken effect and the Big 10 is going to get screwed. The WWL is not going to be happy with mismatches and it will push for an SEC Pac 10 match-up as soon as they can. Big 10 sees the handwriting on the wall and trys to save face with this. Mark my words SEC Pac 10 Rose Bowl is coming soon.

  6. NM

    So this means either Ohio State has another super-lucky season and Utah/TCU/Boise/whoever gets steamrolled by USC, thus “proving” that even speaking competitively (without regard for money), the little guy doesn’t *really* belong when he faces legit competition (like UGA-UH)…
    OR
    …it means USC made the national title game, and the Big Ten would much rather see Ohio State or Penn State beat (or at least have the “underestimated ‘em” excuse after losing to) a mid-major then get torn up by an SEC team (or Pac Ten also-ran) in the Big Ten’s own bowl game.

  7. wheaton4prez

    What happens if TCU makes it?

    Many of the same people would watch it anyway.

    And the ratings behind any team that might have made it on a non-football basis will go to another bowl, as they should.

    Net result: zero ratings lost for football.

    For example: The Capital One Bowl had better ratings than the Orange Bowl ( http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfb/tvratings ). Is that supposed to be an indication that Georgia and Michigan State should have been in the Orange Bowl instead of Virginia Tech and Cincinnati? What does desirable results serving media corporations have to do with which football team should be playing who?

    Football isn’t American Idol. It’s a competitive sport that includes a limit of 11 players on the field at a time. At the end of the day, that limit is “the problem” the current BCS has. They want to control the match-ups to appeal to the team with the most American Idol voters so they can control where the money goes. But they can’t because every now and then, a lesser known squad of 22 turns out to be pretty good. And when that happens, it exposes how they are working against the basic integrity of the game as a competitive sport.

    That’s all this rule change is about. Hoping to buy another day of milking the cash cow before they have to send her to slaughter. Public demand will eventually force the BCS to yield to the market (that is clearly demanding a play-off), one way or another. They have to know it. They just also know that each additional year that they can squeak past represents more take.

    • Bowl hierarchy is established by payouts to the conferences/schools. The bowls afford these payouts through sponsors, TV contracts and ticket sales. If the match ups they arrange aren’t sufficient over time to support the payouts, either they take a lower position in the hierarchy (e.g., the Cotton Bowl) or they go out of business.

      You keep looking at college football through the prism of other sports like the NFL. College football is a different beast. It’s not a monolithic entity. Its conferences are competitors with their own rules, their own officials and their own revenue distributions.

      I’m not saying whether a playoff is better or worse than what we’ve got now. What I am saying – what I’ve said all along – is that an extended playoff would result in a radical restructuring of the sport. And it seems to me that if playoff proponents want to have an honest debate about the change, the first thing they have to do is quit insisting that it’s all so easy.