It’$ $o ea$y.

One fairly common argument made in the BCS/playoffs debate is that the Masters of the (college football) Universe are spectacularly bad business people because they’ve purposefully elected to leave tons of money on the table by refusing to embrace a playoff for D-1 football.  Typically, Exhibit A in this discussion is the contract the NCAA negotiated with CBS for the basketball tourney – an impressive $6 billion for 11 years, which works out to $545 million per year.

Contrast that figure, the argument goes, with the TV deal for the BCS.  Even under the new, touted arrangement with ESPN, college football stands to be paid $125 million per year.  Do the math:  $545 is much, much more than $125; therefore, college football is cheating itself out of lots of money by failing to move to a full-blown playoff model.

In reality, the math isn’t as convincing as it’s made out to be, writes the Birmingham News’ Ray Melick.

… The NCAA has to answer for its $545 million to 327 Division I schools that are part of 32 basketball-playing conferences. The split is a convoluted formula of sixths and thirds and halves, not to mention administrative costs – the NCAA Tournament accounts for 96 percent of the NCAA’s annual revenue.

The BCS, with its 63 members in six conferences, is much cleaner and financially more rewarding.

Take the Southeastern Conference. According to NCAA records, for a five-year period from 2002 to 2007, the SEC received an average $11.5 million per year from NCAA Tournament money.

During that same five-year period, the SEC picked up an average $17.8 million per year from its BCS share – and that does not include the non-BCS bowl revenue the SEC also took in.

That was typical for each of the six BCS conferences, all of which brought in at least $5 million more on average from BCS football than the NCAA postseason tournament.

Melick doesn’t touch on it, but those numbers don’t include the moneys the conferences receive for their regular season TV contracts in each sport.  Factor those in, and the gap is even larger.

Melick looks prescient with this comment:

Despite the belief that there is a ton more money to be had out there for a full-scale Division I college football playoff, there is also the belief that it will be difficult to keep the NCAA from getting involved. Several years ago, the NCAA’s own economists warned the organization that it is in a potentially dangerous economic position and needs to find alternative revenue in the event that future NCAA Tournament broadcast rights become less lucrative than the current one.

Why so, you ask?  Well, because the NCAA is weighing the possibility of that situation right now.

The N.C.A.A. has a major decision to make within the next 12 months: stick with its 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS to carry the men’s basketball tournament through 2013, or exercise an option to get out after next season.

Options like the N.C.A.A.’s exist to permit leagues or other sports organizations to capitalize on better financial markets than existed when a deal was signed.

But the economy is so weak that only the most optimistic forecaster can spot more than vague stirrings of a recovery by March 2010. If the N.C.A.A. opts out, then it will exchange the certainty of CBS’s fees in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — above the annual average $545 million — for the hope of a March Madness free-agent payoff. Tough choice.

CBS’s $6 billion bid looks overly rich nine-plus years later, but the network was protecting its turf…

The NCAA, like a hooker on the street corner, is looking for a way to entice some new blood – in this case, ESPN – into the hotel room for some paying action.  As part and parcel of its approach, nothing is off the table.  Including expansion of the tournament field.

Another way to lure ESPN after 2010 — and provide CBS some financial relief from the last three years of onerous rights payments — is to expand the tournament to 72 or 96 teams. The N.C.A.A. could then sell ESPN some games (though not all the new, least valuable, early rounders) and still satisfy CBS with the Final Four and other games.

By my math, that would result in roughly 20-25% of the D-1 basketball programs being made eligible for the postseason tournament.  (In case you’re wondering, that translates into something along the lines of a 24-school to 32-school D-1 football playoff.)  And that percentage amount isn’t really out of line compared with many other postseasons.  As I’ve said before, tournament expansion is an historical fact in American organized sports.

Feel free to reassure me in the comments that a D-1 football playoff could never expand beyond four, or eight, or whatever number of schools you think makes the ideal format.  But before you brush this off, remember that this is America.  Pretty much anything is available if you’re willing to pay enough money for it.  And then, once you get it, it’s usually never enough.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

13 responses to “It’$ $o ea$y.

  1. kckd

    And again I say, you argue from every angle. One minute you’re crying that they will expand a four team or eight team tournament to make more money, now you’re arguing that such a tournament would not be a guarantee to make more money.

    If the BCS conferences can structure a tournament that keeps the bowls the way they are (and they can), WTH would they want what basketball has?

    I’ve asked that to you over and over and also shown you how you actually make arguments like this one that says they wouldn’t.

    Yet you still claim it will happen. The NCAA always had control over basketball and the tourney, they don’t over the bowl system. It’s that simple.


    • One minute you’re crying that they will expand a four team or eight team tournament to make more money…

      Nope – the argument is they’ll do it in the hope of making more money. Big difference. Especially if they guess wrong.


      • kckd

        Do you think they aren’t aware of it all?

        You seem to support almost everything they’ve done to this point. Will the BCS presidents suddenly become dumb as dirt?


        • You honestly believe I rail about this crap as much as I do because I support those guys? Jesus, man, get real. I don’t trust ’em farther than I could throw ’em.

          You do realize that many of the same decision makers on football have the same role on the basketball side of things, too, right? How much comfort should we take from that?


          • kckd

            Here’s the deal. You got all upset about the big ten commish the other day and how he downplayed basketball’s regular season. He knows the money he’s getting in football. He knows that if he claims basketball’s regular season is very successful with a 64 team tourney, someone is gonna ask him why not football. So therefore he protected the more important of the two and threw the other one to the wolves.

            Still, while you agree with him, you call him a jerk.

            Tell me one thing in regards to the way they all have handled the college football regular and post season to this point, that you don’t agree with?

            Bottom line: Nothing these guys do will ever make you trust them. They are already giving you exactly what you want and have pretty much said they don’t see any reason to do it differently.


            • I suppose that if I believed the end justifies the means here, or that Jim Delany has a shred of integrity when it comes to the postseason, you’d have a point. After all, there’s no question that he’s a factor in college football’s postseason stasis.

              But I don’t.

              We’re not at the end of anything yet when it comes to college football’s postseason. I firmly believe that when all is said and done, we’ll have a D-1 football playoff in some form or fashion. And I think Delany believes that, too.

              I also believe that Delany in everything he does is motivated by one thing – ruthless self-interest. Everything is judged, every move is made, in light of whether or not it benefits the Big Ten. This is the guy, after all, who forced the NCAA to move its baseball postseason into friggin’ July because he insisted that the regular season couldn’t start any earlier than March or it would result in a competitive disadvantage for his conference.

              So provided that Delany is able to strike a deal for a college football playoff that is more beneficial to his conference than the current BCS arrangement, I think he’ll make that move in a heartbeat. And when it happens, he’ll recite some cynical, contradictory swill to the media – much like the quote you point to that pissed me off – which will eat it up, because, after all, at that point we’ll have a playoff.

              The humorous part of your comment is the assumption that there’s some sort of grand, sinister cabal orchestrating this. “They” aren’t giving me shit, dude. There are a bunch of sheep running around with their own agendas and concerns that are at some point in time going to get sheared by the likes of a Jim Delany. The reason you’ve got the status quo, such as it is, is because nobody’s found the motivation to point them all in the same direction. Yet.

              But, hey, maybe I’m wrong and maybe you’re right about all this and the BCS is something Delany honestly and passionately believes in. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll owe both you guys an abject apology. But judging from the man’s track record, that would be unexpected, to say the least.


  2. Hobnail_Boot

    As I sit here on my over-sized couch eating a super-sized meal in front of my big screen TV, I wonder which America you’re talking about.


  3. GreerDawg

    What’s the over/under on how many day the Senator can go w/o blogging about the BCS?


    • Macallanlover

      Whatever you set it at, it will be too high for me anywhere above one. While I do not agree with the Senator’s position on a playoff, you cannot ignore the elephant in the room and have a serious discussion of college football. It is the single most glaring fault in the greatest sport on earth.

      Discussion on this issue may help motivate fans to assert some pressure and correct this in my children’s lifetime. Bring it up every day is my vote because educating fans can only help improve things and may allow us to have our first true NC by 2020. After 100+ years, it just might be time.


    • Greer, it flares up twice a year (you can guess when). Folks will stop publishing/saying stuff for me to respond to in a week or two.


  4. GreerDawg

    Days not day.


    US Ranked 4th

    After determining the Big-12 championship game participants the BCS computers were put to work on other major contests and today the BCS declared Germany to be the winner of World War II.

    “Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work–including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule–our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking.”

    Questioned about the #4 ranking of the United States the BCS commissioner stated “The US only had two major victories–Japan and Germany. The computer models, unlike humans, aren’t influenced by head-to-head contests–they consider each contest to be only a single, equally-weighted event.”

    German Chancellor Adolph Hiter said “Yes, we lost to the US; but we defeated #2 ranked France in only 6 weeks.” Herr Hitler has been criticized for seeking dramatic victories to earn ‘style points’ to enhance Germany’s rankings. Hitler protested “Our contest with Poland was in doubt until the final day and the conditions in Norway were incredibly challenging and demanded the application of additional forces.”

    The French ranking has also come under scrutiny. The BCS commented ” France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2.”

    Japan was ranked #3 with victories including Manchuria, Borneo and the Philippines.