Playoff expansion and perverse incentives

Stewart Mandel raises an interesting aspect to the coming CFP broadcast deal ($$).

In 2019-20, the most recent season for which the CFP publicized its data, each Power 5 league got a flat fee of $67 million. A conference could net an additional $4 million for each team that qualified for a New Year’s Six bowl and $6 million for reaching a Playoff semifinal. As such, the spread between schools in the Big 12 (which splits only 10 ways) and those in 14-team leagues like the Big Ten was fairly modest — from $7 million to $10 million per school. The Power 5 conferences also net extra payments for their contracts with the Rose (average $40 million per team), Sugar ($40 million) and Orange ($27.5 million) bowls.

In an expanded Playoff, however, the Big 12 suddenly looks smart for staying at 10 teams all this time. With all those contracts folded into one, the expected average CFP revenue for each Power 5 conference jumps to just north of $320 million. In the Big 12, that amounts to $32 million per school, up from an average of $10 million today. The 12-team Pac-12’s hit $27 million; the 14-team ACC, Big Ten and SEC reach $23 million.

Sure, you could argue the Big 12 isn’t going to flood the playoff zone with teams any time soon, but what about Conference It Just Means More?  Four playoff shares spread among ten teams goes a lot farther than it does among fourteen; Mandel’s $9 million a year ain’t chump change.  And he’s using averages.  If the SEC gets twice as many schools in as others, that spread is going to be even greater.

Is that enough for Sankey’s bosses to reverse course on conference expansion?  If not that, it’s probably a decent reason not to add any more unless you’re getting a new member that’s a likely CFP participant.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

18 responses to “Playoff expansion and perverse incentives

  1. I don’t think further expansion makes sense especially for the SEC for all of the reasons you mention.


  2. godawgs1701

    Well, there you have it. Now is the time to kick Missouri back out.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. 86bone

    Bah Bah Mizzou and Vandy….Hello Oklahoma & Clemson!
    The argument would then be OVER and the SEC would be 👑 King!
    Hey it’s ok to dream ain’t it fellas🤦🏼‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

    • originaluglydawg

      Good thoughts, 88..but there is really no argument.
      Everyone knows the SEC is by far the best CFB conference.
      If they say they believe otherwise they are either not a CFB fan and know nothing about it, or they are lying.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. theotherdoug

    I think it’s like this:

    Conferences want to expand to get a greater share of the regular season TV $. That’s why it makes sense to add a Texas or Oklahoma.

    Conferences will start having to weigh the above against the playoff $ split, and I agree it’s going to take a special team to get in the SEC.

    I keep thinking at some point the pie is going to stop getting bigger and then the only way to increase $ is to take it from another conference or cut teams from your conference. The taking from another conference is where we are now, and there isn’t a lot more the SEC can squeeze out of Mickey. Maybe letting Mickey control the schedule, but that’s it. That leaves cutting teams.


  5. ASEF

    I’m still hopeful money squabbles kill this thing.

    Faint hope. Slimmest of hopes. But there’s a remote chance these morons gets into the messy details and get obstinate over shares.

    Pleeeeease let that happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MGW

    Maybe we WILL be rid of AnM and Mizzou one day soon. If Arkansas and SC are smart they’ll jump ship to the Big12 and ACC, too; that would grant them both more realistic, consistent paths to the playoff they STILL won’t have in the SEC with a 12 team field. I hope those two don’t but theres just no oxygen left in this room. If the money is comparable and it’s a more national sport anyhow at that point (it will be), why not move for the sake of being competitive?

    Especially after they watch a few UCF’s and App State types make the field before they do. That’s going to really stick in the craws of some mid level P5 teams after a few years. Mark my words; there will be some previously unthinkable conference moves due to this playoff expansion.


    • TAMU is likely to be a CFP participant under Jimbo.


      • MGW

        True, but far more likely and far more frequently in the Big 12. They’d be, at worst, the #3 program over there. Here they’re doing pretty good now, but as a “program,” they’re easily behind Bama, LSU, Florida, and Georgia, and neck and neck with Auburn at best.


  7. ericstrattonrushchairmandamngladtomeetyou

    I’ve advocated throwing Mizzou, Arky, the Chickens and Vandy out of the conference for years. Don’t need ‘em—never did. With the current rules a 10 team SEC can play a 9 game round robin schedule each year and still have the SECCG which was the raison d’être for conference expansion in the first place. Now, with a bigger cut of an extremely large pie looming there is NO reason to keep them.