Big fish, small pond syndrome

You know who the BCS has been better for, relatively speaking?  Mid-major schools who spent lots of money.

The model reveals that selection to play in a “major bowl” is more likely for teams that spend more, have higher attendance and have participated in more bowls in past seasons.  The most dramatic finding from the analysis is the significance and direction of the AQ term.  We find that when we control for the other team characteristics, that AQ conference membership reduces teams’ post season opportunities. The model’s implications are best illustrated graphically.  The figure below shows the relationship between expenditures and major bowl participation for an artificial AQ and Non-AQ school.  The figures are for a school that has participated in 12 minor bowls, 4 major bowls, has won a single national championship and has average attendance of 60,000.  The vertical axis is the probability of a team being selected for a BCS bowl and the horizontal axis is the team’s football expenditures relative to the average expenditures of FBS teams.

For the Non-AQ school, the probability of achieving a major bowl is given for expenditure levels ranging from 50% to 150% of the overall FBS.  For the AQ schools, we plot the probabilities for expenditures ranging from 100% of the average to 250%. When expenditures are controlled for, the probability of playing in a major bowl is significantly greater for Non-AQ schools.  At a spending level equal to the overall FBS average, the model predicts the Non-AQ school has a 14.4% chance at a major bowl, versus just 5% for the AQ school. When a non-AQ spends 150% (think TCU) of the average the probability of a major bowl is about 27%.  For the AQ school this level of spending yields a probability of just 12%.

TCU and Utah have moved up in class, while Boise State has elected to stay in a mid-major conference.  As the author notes, that leads down two very different paths.

… The preceding analysis of the BCS system highlights another aspect of realignment: the consequences for fans versus the incentives of athletic programs.  The cases of TCU and Utah provide examples of non-AQ schools trading off wins for the financial rewards of joining an AQ conference.  The University of Missouri shows how finances can even work across the big 6 conferences.  Missouri football was a competitive Big Twelve program winning 10 or more games 3 times from 2007 to 2011 (and 8 wins the other two years).  In their first year in the SEC, the Tigers went 5-7 and ended their 7 year streak of playing in bowl games.  While the SEC does have a richer set of contracts in place, it also seems likely that Missouri will struggle to be competitive.  The question for fans and for athletic departments is the tradeoff between winning and revenue.  At this stage it doesn’t appear (with the possible exception of Boise State) that winning is viewed as anywhere near as important as money.

True ‘dat.

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1 Comment

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

One response to “Big fish, small pond syndrome

  1. Cojones

    I don’t think that Utah nor TCU intended that their conference record would go down when they entered a more competitive conference. They were going to get better and show that they could compete. The same with Mizzou. Who is to say they won’t get better and will blow the whole regression to the mean thingy out of the water? While I’m sure the letdown was balmed by the extra cash they now receive, that doesn’t mean there was an intentional tradeoff. Reaching for the highest point to fail shouldn’t and will not be discouraged by data. Funny how Boise St was treated as the outlier because they stayed in their conference. Don’t you think there are other things going on that affect the decision of CFB schools besides money? Don’t answer that!