Myles Brand does a Q & A with the Houston Chronicle which has a couple of interesting exchanges.
First, on the “P” word:
Q: What do you see as the major issues against having a college football playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A)?
A: I’m not inside those discussions, but let me give you my best sense of the matter. I think those (school) presidents take very seriously the regular season. They don’t want to, in any way, threaten the regular season and turn football into a tournament sport. Basketball is a tournament sport. They want to put the emphasis on the Saturday rivalries. That’s where the fans show the most interest. They are very much concerned about moving toward an NFL-type playoff system.
Carefully phrased. He is honest in acknowledging that college basketball has become a tournament sport and that college football currently isn’t one. What he doesn’t say is whether he or the NCAA takes the position that it would be a bad thing if college football became a tournament sport at some future time.
Then there’s this on college athletics revenues:
Q: Only six Division I programs are making money. How long can this go on?
A: I don’t know how long. Presidents’ lives are short — 4 1/2 for a public university and 6 1/2 for a private university. So presidents turn over. Eventually, you may get another group that thinks differently, so you can’t forever go forward with this. I don’t know if it will change. I don’t think in the near run it will. I don’t think there is as much money in (a football playoff) as people think. [Emphasis added.] A lot of the revenues are coming in through ticket sales and TV contracts on the regular season. I think you’re going to continue to see good TV contracts in the regular season. If you had a playoff, what would the size of those regular-season contracts be?
Q: How do you subsidize those programs? Is that through tuition fee increases?
A: It’s OK to subsidize intercollegiate athletics. If intercollegiate athletics was like the professionals, we would only have one, at most two, sports. … The reason why in college sports they are having to subsidize is because there are teams over and above those revenue-producing teams. Ohio State has 38 sports; we require 16 sports. Very few (schools) have that few. They are all losing money except perhaps a couple of revenue sports. Why do we do that? Why are we engaged in tennis and golf? Tennis is not going to make any money. But why do we do it? We do it because we believe to our bones that intercollegiate athletics participation provides educational value to the student-athletes; it improves the quality of their education and their experience in school…
The highlighted comment was the biggest surprise in the article. And if Brand’s logic is accurate, it reinforces my belief that once the process to expand D-1 football playoffs begins, it’s going to be an enormously tricky job to find the sweet spot where the postseason doesn’t negatively impact the monetary value of the regular season. If it’s missed, then it will lead to a race to the bottom, as the powers that be will have no choice but to maximize the postseason revenue (i.e., further playoff expansion) in order to make up for the lost regular season money. The big losers in that will be the BCS conferences and Notre Dame.
And notice that he didn’t answer the second question there. Instead he dismissed the concern over subsidies and segued into a noble statement about intercollegiate athletics participation. Nice sentiments, but if it’s “OK to subsidize intercollegiate athletics”, why was Brand ringing the alarm bell about spending on athletics a few days ago?