This USA Today piece exploring how much influence ESPN has over the dizzying pace of conference realignment got a fair amount of attention yesterday. There’s a little something for everyone in it, regardless of what side of the debate you line up on. This was my favorite part:
… In lower-echelon conferences, there’s a different kind of discomfort.
Weber spent 15 years as president at San Diego State, many of them chafing at the BCS and a format that separates college football’s haves from have-nots.
Football’s six marquee leagues — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — automatically place their champions into a BCS bowl game, where the payouts to conferences of affiliated teams reach as high as $26 million-plus.
The five lower-echelon leagues in the NCAA’s bowl subdivision must hope one or two of their teams meet minimum-ranking criteria to qualify for a BCS bowl. San Diego State and the Mountain West Conference fall among the non-automatic qualifiers (or non-AQs).
That dividing line is based partly on the leagues’ and their member schools’ historical performance on the field — and partly on their attractiveness to TV.
San Diego State and others in non-AQ leagues are effectively branded as second-class, Weber says, raising the question of “the role that ESPN plays in the general positioning of your university.”
He prefers to scrap the BCS and set up a major-college football playoff to which all leagues have access, something the Mountain West has formally proposed.
Weber regards ESPN as “a co-conspirator” with the BCS in frustrating previous efforts in that regard.
He says the network fears the exorbitant rights fees a major-college football playoff could fetch and the possibility of losing such prime property to a higher-bidding rival.
Yes, we all know that everyone is dying to see much more San Diego State football. It’s just that those bastards at the WWL are holding them back!
I haven’t noticed that ESPN has lost many sports properties that it wants lately. Besides, to some extent, those playoff broadcast rights fees would be offset by a decline in what the WWL would have to pay for what would become less valuable regular season broadcast rights fees. Nobody at Disney would be missing any meals over the situation.
But this isn’t about what ESPN would have to pay. It’s really about what San Diego State thinks it should be paid because it fields a football program. And never mind what the marketplace says about that.