I don’t need to talk to a beat writer to reach the same conclusion Tony Barnhart does.
Daily Archives: May 9, 2011
I want to return to this story about the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s decision to terminate its football program to fund in part its move from Division II to Division I, because I think it says something relevant about the current economics of college athletic programs.
Trev Alberts is UNO’s athletic director and it’s clear from the article that he’s fully invested in the decision. As a former college football player and former Mark May sidekick, he’s not a college football hater. So why the call? While it was one Alberts felt strongly he had to make, it wasn’t easy. And it won’t be cheap for a school UNO’s size.
… Previously a school making such a step up paid a fee of only $20,000, Alberts said. But four years ago, concern that schools not capable of competing at Division I were making rash decisions to move up led the NCAA to put a moratorium on such reclassifications. During the interim, the NCAA put new standards in place to make it tougher to initiate such changes.
One was to require any school stepping up to have a bona fide offer of membership from an existing Division I conference. That’s why UNO’s invitation to join the Summit League was so critical, Alberts said.
As an additional hurdle, the NCAA created the $1.4 million fee. It’s based on the average annual share of championship revenue the NCAA divvies out to Division I members, though schools in lower-level conferences such as the Summit generally receive far less than that — in the hundreds of thousands annually.
“There’s a concerted effort to stop institutions from reclassifying,” Alberts said. “The NCAA hopes to eliminate those who would ultimately dilute the overall brand and (the NCAA’s) ability to distribute (dollars) to its members.”
Those “rash decisions” have come on the basketball side. The last time I looked, there are now more than 300 schools which are eligible to play in March Madness. That’s an awful lot of slices to cut if you’re the NCAA, even with a pie as large as the one the basketball tourney bakes. And a $20,000 entry fee isn’t exactly a daunting barrier to entry when you’re chasing even the relatively smaller payouts the Summit League receives. That’s why it became time to price the riff-raff out. And that’s why Alberts believed he had no choice but to take the drastic step of shutting down football. Because for schools like UNO, the money isn’t there; it’s in basketball.
All of which should make you wonder what would happen if D-1 football’s postseason were handed over to the NCAA for it to manage. Actually, I don’t think it would take very much imagination at all to see a number of 1-AA schools begin the gold rush to move up and gain access to the money which a football playoff would generate. And the inevitable expansion of both D-1 and the football playoffs to accommodate that. And the increased fee the NCAA would be able to charge schools looking to make the move. And the willingness of those schools to pay the fee in the hopes of gaining access to the huge pot of postseason money.
All of that would be good for the smaller schools looking to move up in class and the NCAA, but it’s hard to imagine how any of that benefits the schools in the power conferences who would face the double risks of watching the postseason money carved into many more shares than now and the potential dilution of the regular season TV broadcast rights as more and more attention would be diverted to the postseason playoffs.
How much imagination do you think Larry Scott, Mike Slive and Jim Delany have?
John Chavis makes a bold pronouncement:
“I’m not one to brag on guys, but by the time he’s done, Barkevious Mingo will be the premier pass rusher in the SEC — bar none.”
Between Barkevious Mingo and Jadeveon Clowney, the SEC all-name pass rushing team would seem to be in good hands for the next couple of seasons.
Jim Delany speaks Big Six truth to DOJ power:
“There’s no judge or jury in the world,” Delany said, “that can make you enter into an four-team, eight-team or 16-team playoff.”
Tactically speaking, it’s erroneous to assume that college football is structured monolithically in the way that the professional leagues are or March Madness is. Which is why it’s foolish to brush off this threat:
… Echoing Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick, Delany insisted that, if the BCS were dismantled, it wouldn’t lead to the kind of playoff Varney referenced in her letter. Schools and conferences more likely would return to a pre-BCS format in which they struck their own bowl deals, top to bottom.
Every new regular season TV deal makes it easier for these guys to do that. (Bonus points for the James Brown reference!)
Maybe it’s a bluff. I know there are people like Dan Wetzel who are fully convinced it’s just that. Maybe they’re right. But nobody can say they weren’t warned otherwise.
“I know at the end of the day that we’ve operated in total good faith. I know that (the postseason) is better than it was. . . . And if it can’t go forward, it can’t go forward. But I also know that we can’t be enjoined, we can’t be directed or forced into something we don’t think is the right thing for us to do.”
Welcome to BCS poker, folks.
UPDATE: Over at Coaches Hot Seat Blog, Joe, with his usual overheated rhetoric, points to a governmental strategy which I agree might impress more than the antitrust threat.
…The approximately $200 Billion Dollars that is sent to colleges and universities in America each year for student-aid and all kinds of research would be TRUMP CARD No. 1 Delany and that you, Jack Swarbrick, Gordon Gee and lots of other folks don’t understand that reality is not a big surprise to us here at Coaches Hot Seat.
If Gordon Gee and other university presidents and chancellors would like to run their schools without student-aid and money from the US Government and thus the US Taxpayer then they can go ahead and give it a try but Gordon Gee and every other college and university president in the country knows their schools would shut-down overnight if not for Federal Student Aid and the research monies that they get each year from the US Taxpayer and that means that this is all going to come down to these Bogus BCS Bastards:
Either institute the same type of postseason playoff tournament that student-athletes in other sports have access to as administered by the NCAA or US Government and US Taxpayer money to your school will cease….immediately.
Joe’s right. That’s not chump change. But there are two problems I see with that approach. First, if it’s such a great and effective idea, how come Congress has been more than willing to let DOJ carry its water with the antitrust threat? I suspect that’s because of part two: there are a lot of members of Congress with powerful constituents who don’t want the BCS changed. Just because those aren’t people squawking as much as Orrin Hatch doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Maybe this is something that changes if DOJ takes a pass. To me, it might turn out to be an effective strategy if Congress combined the stick of withdrawing financial support with the carrot of an antitrust exemption. You can’t tell me the school presidents wouldn’t be tempted by that.