Jon Wilner makes an intriguing point in a column speculating about whether college football is moving towards a full-blown playoff:
… The entire system … from the BCS games themselves … to the conference TV deals … to conference membership … is based on what the market wants/will pay for — with the market defined as the TV networks and their advertisers and the viewing public.
Remember, folks, the Supreme Court determined in the mid-1980s that the NCAA was violating anti-trust laws by restricting the TV deals that individual conferences could make.
The Supreme Court effectively created the system … the system that Shurtleff now claims is illegal.
There is much gnashing of teeth from playoff proponents in the comments section (my favorite is the Gaddafi analogy), but there is a fair amount of truth in what Wilmer writes there. Once the individual power conferences were free to negotiate their own regular season deals, over time those developed into the most lucrative source of revenue for them.
… Just to underscore the disparity in TV money — and financial might — here’s an updated list of the per-school revenue (all figures approx; some figures taken from SportsBusiness Journal and other reports):
Pac-12: $21 million
Big Ten: $21 million (includes Big Ten Network)
SEC: $17 million
ACC: $13 million
Big 12: $12.5 million
Notre Dame: $9 million
C-USA: $1.3 million
MWC: $1 million
MAC/WAC/Sun Belt: < $1 million
You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner in economics to realize that those at the top of the food chain are going to do what they feel they must to protect it. If you look at the BCS as the spawn of a desire to give the fans more certainty about a national title game than the old bowl system did and the compelling need to protect regular season TV revenues, it was inevitable.
What most of its detractors fail to realize is that if Jim Delany and Mike Slive are forced to choose between those two parents, they’re going to pick the one with the money.