With the announcement over the weekend about the ACC’s move to add Pittsburgh and Syracuse, it seems that the game of conference musical chairs is picking up tempo. There are competing rumors about West Virginia and Missouri as the SEC’s fourteenth team and it looks like Texas may be swallowing a little Longhorn Network pride in submitting itself for admission to the Pac-12.
One thing’s for sure about all of this expansion talk. It’s making Mark Emmert sound increasingly impotent. Indeed, it’s becoming clear that his one major concern is protecting the NCAA’s cash cow.
… Emmert made the point about how important the NCAA’s $10.8 billion, 14-year deal for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament with CBS/Turner Sports is to the membership and yet another reason why there isn’t anxiety at headquarters over four super conferences leaving and forming their own version of the NCAA.
“(The contract) supports something in the order of 96 or 94 percent of the revenue that flows into the NCAA,” Emmert said. “It’s very important to the membership and a vast majority of the money indirectly or directly flows back to them and supports the various championships that we support. The only real question now is when this is all over whether or not the automatic qualifiers (to the NCAA tournament) have to change over time and the same thing with the BCS. We’ll see where this ends up when it’s all done.
“I’ve been talking pretty constantly to all the commissioners and presidents involved in these things since the beginning,” Emmert said. “My job is to shape the outcome and to make sure the decisions are made with good information. Just like last year, it looked like monstrous changes but only a few schools moved around. Let’s see what really happens this time.”
Well, maybe so. But maybe not. If these realignment moves are motivated by the chase for the almighty dollar (Who am I kidding here? Of course they are.) how long will it take for the major players to move to grab the basketball postseason revenues once the dust settles?
And that highlights a conflict about conference consolidation I raised a long time ago. As Ed Gunther puts it,
There’ll be more money for (almost) everyone
No, not everyone is going to make out like a bandit here. That’s not my point. My point, that I’ve made before and will continue to make, is that while college football rakes in billions of dollars, the schools and the NCAA are not demonic institutions or greedy businesses – at their core they’re institutions of higher learning who’s missions are to educate people. Their budgets are being slashed right and left, and the cost of providing quality educations is skyrocketing. If these colleges and universities can make some extra money by playing football, I’m all for it. They need the money, and whether you can admit it or not, the majority of the money eventually goes to education. As it should.
We’re that much closer to a playoff
This is the big one, and in some ways the most baffling. A lot of the people crying and moaning all these years about how it’s a travesty that college football doesn’t have a playoff are the same ones now complaining about conference realignment. A playoff is so much closer to happening with this setup, especially if things go down fast and new conferences start playing next season. That leaves plenty of time before the 2014 re-negotiations about the BCS bowls to get some sort of post-season playoff set up.
It’s gonna be real messy, but it’s happening. The reasons not to are crumbling, and soon will be overshadowed by the money, and at that point we’re going to see a whole new college football postseason. There’ll be spots for the champions of the superconferences as well as some at-larges, which will be monopolized by the big boys. All of the schools that get excluded (either officially or unofficially) are gonna be pissed, and there’ll be fallout, but it’ll happen.
Here comes the final conflict. The overwhelming majority of fans want a playoff, but could care less about whether San Jose State gets a fair share of the pie. That’s why Baylor is fighting tooth and nail to find a home in a BCS conference.
And that’s why there’s one loose end, one catch that might cause some of this to unravel. It may be that Mr. Starr found some sympathetic listeners on his recent trip to Washington.
… In a telephone interview early Sunday morning, a congressman from a state with a university that could be harmed by realignment said that the issue raised concerns over taxes, antitrust law and, potentially, Title IX.
While no one has formally approached Congress yet, the congressman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the situation was “spinning out of control.”
“I think the situation is rising to a level where getting Congress engaged may be unavoidable,” he said. He added: “Congress has the nexus to engage. These are tax-exempt organizations now making billions off of unpaid athletes. When it’s a regional league, it seems to make sense. When you’re taking schools practically from coast to coast and putting them in big-profit revenue leagues, we may be at a point where the N.C.A.A. has lost its ability to create a fair system for all to play in.”
Logically speaking, that’s a lot of claptrap. Why the geographic spread of a conference makes a difference in fairness makes little sense. And as Mark Emmert would be the first to tell you, the NCAA never had the ability the anonymous congressman alludes to there.
But as a threat to make sure that the politically connected are taken care of when the realignment dust settles, it’s effective. That “tax-exempt organizations” reference is particularly chilling if you’re a school president.
There’s no guarantee that Congress gets formally involved in the process, of course. But if it does, you can count on two things: the process will slow down dramatically and the spin from certain quarters about what’s going on will be hilarious.