Finally, a public flak firm that’s earning its money – that would be the law firm/lobbyist Arent Fox, which the Mountain West retained to make its case for automatic BCS inclusion. They’ve looked at some numbers and come up with an argument that’s certainly got some emotional heft to it, as Matt Hinton explains.
… There’s a certain, credible strain of argument that the BCS power brokers shouldn’t be under any obligation to provide small-conference teams with equal access to the postseason pie because the “Big Six” conferences that run the show are overwhelmingly responsible for making that pie; hence, the high double standard for entry favoring the teams that ultimately drive the revenue. But this is a different argument: Here, even after the WAC and Mountain West champions have overcome those barriers to entry, they’ve delivered higher TV ratings, better finishes in the final polls and better attendance in the big-money games themselves than the Big East or ACC … only to leave with half the paycheck to split among not only their own conferences, but all the non-Big Six leagues, most of which have never even produced a contender for a BCS spot.
Andy Staples finally figures out how to pitch a BCS argument that gets my attention.
… Still, why are golden tickets going to leagues that don’t bring in additional gold? On Monday at the Big East meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Big East commissioner John Marinatto said losing the conference’s contractually guaranteed automatic bid is a non-issue. But why should the BCS extend the ACC and Big East’s automatic qualifying status the next time around if they can’t bring as much to the table as the Mountain West? The argument that the AQ conferences are more valuable commercial properties than the non-AQs is entirely correct, but all AQs are not created equal. The Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC have pulled their weight for the BCS in the past five years by bringing in monster ratings and by filling stadiums. The Big East and ACC have not.
For sending Georgia Tech to an Orange Bowl played with empty seats and fewer television viewers than the Fiesta, the ACC received a cool $17.7 million. For argument’s sake, let’s assume the Fiesta Bowl’s 8.23 rating — compared to the Orange’s 6.80 — was a result of the novelty of watching two teams from outside the power structure playing in a BCS bowl. That still doesn’t explain why Georgia Tech didn’t even sell its entire 17,500-ticket allotment.
There was probably a new Star Trek episode on that night. But I digress.
While I think that Matt and Andy make a good case that these numbers score points in the court of public opinion, I disagree with their conclusion that they’ll have a similar impact in antitrust court. The best way I can illustrate that is to look back at the last successful antitrust litigation involving college football, Oklahoma’s and Georgia’s suit against the NCAA about TV contracts. The problem there wasn’t that the NCAA was negotiating television deals. It was that it prevented individual schools and conferences from doing the same thing.
But that’s not the issue here. There’s absolutely nothing stopping the Mountain West, or any of the other mid-major conferences, from arming themselves with the Arent Fox data and going to, say, Jerry Jones and Fox to pitch a bowl game for bigger bucks than the BCS is now doling out to them. (If they really want a marketing winner, offer to make Notre Dame a permanent opponent in the game against the top-ranked mid-major.) It’ll be the market that decides whether such a game is viable.
And before you settle-it-on-the-field folks get your collective panties in a wad over this, remember that none of it has anything to do with the title game, which has no restrictions on which teams take part and doesn’t tailor the checks handed out to the participants by conference affiliation. We’re just talking about glorified exhibition games and payouts.
This is all about the Quan, brother.
UPDATE: The Arent Fox numbers work Boise State’s president into a state of righteous indignation. (That “reverse discrimination” reference is an especially nice touch.)