Food for thought

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.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

10 responses to “Food for thought

  1. DawgPhan

    It isnt that a playoff doesnt sound like fun, but why on earth would a UGA fan be in favor of giving their money to Wyoming. We know that the Big 10/SEC are not going to give any ground, we know that the major conferences control all of the money, and we know that it is better to have money than to need money. It just doesnt make any sense to push for a playoff and cheer for a major college program.


  2. TennesseeDawg

    You mean they are using free market capitalistic principals to give consumers what they want? Preposterous!


    • Which just goes to show, even more starkly, what clods the politicians are who want the government to get involved in college football. Joe Barton spent all of last summer (when he wasn’t groveling before BP, of course) railing away at how the BCS was a communist system, yet he was the one who wanted the federal government to step in, tear down a creation of the free market, and install something that better fit some arbitrary definition of “fairness.”

      I hate the BCS as much as anyone, but it’s a devil-you-know kind of situation. If the choice is between that and some government-inspired, committee-designed playoff monstrosity that’s destined to balloon in size and kill the regular season the way March Madness has, I’ll grudgingly stick with the BCS.


  3. Dawgfan Will

    Wow, check out the difference in per-school revenue between the Big Ten and Notre Dame. Wonder how much longer the Irish will decide to remain an independent?


    • W Cobb Dawg

      That stood out to me too. Why did ND turn down the opportunity to join the Big 10+2? I suppose they’ll be shoppng for a better TV deal soon.


  4. Krautdawg

    “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.” To me, this summarizes the BCS discussion. The Supreme Court, long before it broke up NCAA control of TV deals, pointed out that all contractual arrangements restrain competition. So long as that restraint is not unreasonably anticompetitive, however, no Sherman Act violation occurs.

    What appears to be on the horizon now are a series of measures designed to keep revenue, largely derived from TV contracts & exposure-driven sales & marketing, flowing to power conference schools. For example, the “full scholarship” discussion. Would such a D1 entry requirement create an unreasonable entry barrier for smaller schools? The answer, I would guess, is no — even without such a requirement, the entry costs for building a D1 power football program are astronomical. It’s also tough to imagine Nevada muscling USC out of TV revenue through what’s being described as “pure” competition.

    It’s also difficult to see how the BCS is itself more anticompetitive than a playoff. True, the playoff gives fans more games, and the BCS creates a self-reinforcing revenue cycle. But a playoff, like the BCS, will involve a series of cross-contracts between conferences that lay out a complex set of rules/formulae to determine who gets a shot at the postseason & its revenue. While this may produce more “on-field competition”–a useful ambiguity for talking points–it won’t eliminate BCS mechanisms currently under scrutiny for anticompetitive effects. This is especially clear when one considers that there are market (read: competition-related) justifications for allowing 3-4 SEC/Big11 teams compared to 1 BigEast team into a playoff.


  5. Cojones

    The general fan public doesn’t see these unequal showstoppers that some of you mention. It also does not mean that equitable rules can’t be established for the conferences participating in the playoffs. What you see today is not necessarily the way some really smart people have to restructure a playoff. Oh! Forgot. The woldwide banking crisis didn’t occur and the Supply and Demand part can’t be overcome while reigning as the 5th Law of Thermodynamics. Since polls show that over 80% want a playoff we had better assume that they have seen playoffs work in college football and in the NFL, counter to all the arguments put forth that the BCS is better. And it will happen.


  6. Cojones

    Oh! And I am not a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. Please don’t nominate me when D-1 college playoffs begin.


    • Chairman, Nobel Prize Committee

      I am pleased to advise you , Mr. Cojones, that you have been selected to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics for the Year of 2012. You may not reveal that you are the recipient of this award before January 1, 2012, however, upon pain of forfeiture of said award and all emoluments. (What? There has been a mistake? It is Professor Cojones of the Harvard Bulldogs, not Cojones of the Georgia Bulldogs!) Er…Mr.Cojones……Never mind.


  7. Cojones

    Wait! Wait! I have this acceptance speach…….Damn!

    Did you check on Professor Cojones at Miss and Fresno States? They have Economics Courses too. Fact is I think that several of their faculty have been trolling on here lately.