Would mega-expansion get us closer to a playoff? I don’t think so

 I get asked a lot whether or not big-time conference expansion would bring us closer to some kind of playoff in Division I-A football. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if we end up with four, 16-team conferences, a playoff of some kind is more likely?

I don’t think so. And here’s why.

Amid the clutter of noise that surrounds the issue of expansion, we occasionally have a moment of clarity. That really didn’t come yesterday when Commissioner Jim Delany told reporters at the Big Ten Conference meetings that his league might look South for expansion. Understand that Delany’s comment was just another shot across the bow of the SEC, the Big Ten’s only rival when it comes to financial supremacy in college athletics. When you’re reading all of these expansion stories and projections remember that at the end of the day it is about only one thing: The SEC vs. The Big Ten. Everything else is just conversation.

The clarity about which I write this morning came last Friday when Delany did a brief Q&A with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Delany was asked: What should be the role of the NCAA in regulating some of the commercial issues in college sports?

I’m paraphrasing his answer but essentially Delany’s response was that the NCAA really doesn’t have a role in this regard. That’s because the schools and the conferences should control and benefit directly from the revenue they generate. The NCAA is not there to spread the wealth: “No one questions that Harvard or Texas have a (big) endowment and don’t share it with Hofstra and South Alabama.”

And then Delany said this. Read this very carefully:

“But intercollegiate athletics is sort of unique in that institutions that have certain advantages—based on demographics or history or tradition or fan base—somehow are seen as the sources of resources for others that do not. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon, but there’s certainly a lot of gnashing of teeth, like why doesn’t the Rose Bowl spread its revenue around to Boise State?”

Read this even more carefully:

“Well, partially because we developed it. We built it, it’s our tradition and to the extent that it’s successful, it’s successful for our institutions. So that’s essentially a home-rule approach. I think it’s an honest approach. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with money, but life’s a lot easier when you have it than when you don’t.”

Delany is one of the most blunt and to the point men I’ve met in college athletics. He is nothing if not brutally honest. His point, I believe, is that while the media, and fans, and Congress want college football to throw all the money into a big pot, hold a playoff, sing Kumbaya, and share everything equally for their entertainment, that’s not the real world.

Here is what I believe Delany would say to those people if he could:

“Hey guys, let’s have a little reality check here. The Big Ten and the other power conferences like the SEC have built college football, and specifically post-season football, into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. ESPN is going to pay the BCS $125 million in each of the next four years. And they ain’t paying that kind of money to see Boise State play Utah for the national championship.

“The reality is that our institutional brands, which have been built over 100 years of hard work, are what bring the eyeballs to the television sets and create the value. Remember that the networks came to US in 1998 in order to build the BCS. They determined that the six equity conferences (ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10) gave them the best value. It has now become one of the most successful brands in the history of sport.

“Now does Ohio State or Alabama have an advantage over other schools because of size, tradition and fan base? They sure do and we’re not about to apologize for it or give it away. I work for the 11 presidents of the Big Ten and my job is to put our institutions in the best possible position, both competitively and financially.

“We’ve tried to be fair for the sake of keeping peace but all we get is grief from Congress, the media, and the fans who think every conference should be equal and we should just give away the equity our institutions have built. Here is another dose of reality: Before the BCS the five non-equity conferences (Mountain West, WAC, Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt) were making relatively little money from bowl games. In the past five years those conferences have collectively taken home about $80 million from the BCS. I would say we’ve been more than fair.”

Here my ultimate point on this exercise. The Supreme Court decision of 1984 determined that individual schools, not the NCAA, own the property rights to a school’s football games. And the benefits that are created by these institutional brands will accrue to the institutions. That’s the law. Delany’s point is that his institutions should not be forced to give away the equity they have built any more than Steve Jobs should be forced to share his I-Pad revenue with the folks who make the Kindle.

The counter argument, of course, is that educational institutions are, for the most part, tax funded and should not be conducting business like Apple or Kindle. But I’m afraid that train has already left the station.

If we have expansion Armageddon, the conference’s first and only goal will be to protect its members and to give its specific television partner (s) the best bang for its buck.  College football’s regular season, which is the best of any organized sport, will become even more important because so much money is invested in it. The Big Ten could decide that playing in the Rose Bowl is in its long term best interest because that way it controls the equity that it has created. The SEC could decide that its champion will play somebody in the Sugar Bowl and wait for the polls. In other words, the big conferences will become even more insular and detached from the other conferences in Division I-A because that is in the long-term best interests of their institutions.

I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope that in four years we can come up with a way to have a four-team playoff for the national championship.

But I also know that the big conferences are terrified that college football might go the way of college basketball, where the vast majority of the public outside of Durham and Chapel Hill doesn’t pay attention until the NCAA Tournament.  The commissioners are going to do everything in their power to protect the regular season. Will it ever come to the point of the biggest conferences pulling away from the NCAA to form their own organization? I don’t think so. I sure hope not.

That’s why I think if expansion comes in a big way it moves us further away from a playoff than ever.

 

MACINTYRE FUND UPDATE: Last week I wrote about former Vanderbilt coach George MacIntyre, who is bedridden with MS and was forced out of his home by the floods in Nashville. Former Vanderbilt players are raising funds to get permanent housing for Coach Mac and his wife, Betty. The papers have been filed now all donations are tax deductable. If you want to help, please send a donation to:

Betty & George MacIntyre Flood Relief Fund

Green Bank

4205 Hillsboro Road, Suite 101

Nashville, TN 37215

 

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217 comments Add your comment

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
12:30 pm

“If we follow the Big10 model kids that did not have the funds or requirements out of High School should be denied a chance at a college degree or networking with the boosters of the athletic programs?”

There’s so much wrong with that statement that it is hard to address in one comment. I guess it could be boiled down to the “pay for play” argument.

leroy

May 19th, 2010
12:32 pm

could somebody please explain to me why the current KING of the SEC is playing Ga State? Cannot BAMA man up and play somebody to give an example to the rest of the nation that yes we can play these “sisters of the poor” but we choose not to and be the leaders that we are? This school use to hate Curry years ago so why are they not telling him to Blank off now and play somebody? The only answer to me is that they are cowards and so is UF for playing Charleston Southern who was forced to move up to Div IAA because of the basketball team. They (CS aka Baptist College) are beneath High School in facilities and a stadium. If you people want to walk around and brag about your conference than quit playing these Wussies with a capital P. MAN UP

Otto

May 19th, 2010
12:37 pm

The system is working Bama was the best team last year and Texas 3rd best behind UF. OU and UF were the year before, Texas lost a 3 way tie. ‘07 LSU was the most deserving. More times than not the best teams play in the title game.

Miami and FSU worked their way up from where many of these programs that the media says does not stand a chance. Follow FSU’s and Fresno State’s model of play anyone anywhere and the program can build into something with hard work. Bama put alot of hard work in their program years ago to be the first southern team to win the Rose Bowl. UGA scheduled Yale to open Sanfard Stadium. For some reason the media seems to think the hard work to build the program is no longer required.

Otto

May 19th, 2010
12:38 pm

So paying them with a chance at a college education is a bad thing?

1eyedJack

May 19th, 2010
12:43 pm

Tony, could you suggest to Delany that he run for President of the US? Spread the wealth my eye.

Jim from Crestwood

May 19th, 2010
12:52 pm

Hey, don’t knock Georgia State. bill Curry is a great coach. We bama people loved him and treated him and his family with the greatest of respect while he was here! I think GaSt will be a challenge!

HugoStiglitz

May 19th, 2010
12:53 pm

The only problem with that Otto is that we really dont know if Alabama was the best team last season. They might have been but they never had to prove it. You cant really say that more times then not the best teams play in the title game because we dont really have a good way of deciding who the best teams are. Boise St may have blown Alabama out if they played them. We really have no idea.

athensdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:56 pm

As stated best by Lewis Grizzard:

“I went to the Ohio State Michigan game one year, and let me tell you, it was about as exciting as two mules fighting over a turnip.”

Sounds like the Mules want to keep all their turnips to themselves. They can have ‘em.

SEC Big 10 man

May 19th, 2010
1:05 pm

Don’t knock the Big 10. It is a hell of a lot more civilized than the SEC rabid insanity. And the quality of the football is surprisingly comparable. Tex needs to try a brat and some beer in Madison sometime…it is damn good stuff.

Wooly1

May 19th, 2010
1:10 pm

It’s not the first time I have heard that sentiment, and as a capitalist I have to agree with the basics of it. However, I would argue that in general the fans of college football, the ones who take every year spend hard earned money to take football trips with family and friends, the ones who spend the money to go to bowl games, watch it like a religion on TV and generate all of this revenue stream for these schools does not give a rats rear end about the money (sure its a fun side not and we all cheer for the little guy or the down trodden and want it to at least appear to be fair) but generally thats not our beef. What we do want however is a REAL National Champion.. we want to see that crystal football raised up by a team that it wasnt just handed over to because some press dude or coach (who btw hasnt even watched much college football outside his small world, especially when compared to rabid fans of the game) voted it that way or some data fed computer has crunched a bunch of numbers based on a mathematical logarythm that some nerd deems to be statistically correct! We want it raised up by a team that worked to get there and when they arrived took names, kicked butt and earned it the old fashioned way…. they beat everyone else and WON IT!

SOMISSEAGLE

May 19th, 2010
1:17 pm

No one wants to see Utah vs. Boise State for the national title? No one wants to see Wake Forest vs. Washington State for a national title either. Some schools are in the BCS because they’ve always been there. Grandfathered in. In reality, when re-alignment occurs, some bottom feeders need to be thrown out. Hear me, Mississippi State, Indiana, Washington State???

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
1:20 pm

“Seems like I remember Vince Dooley taking on the NCAA long time ago about keeping tv money. I can’t remember all the details, but Dooley wanted to form a separate conference for big time football and leave the NCAA. Maybe it is time for the SEC, the Big 12, and eight other schools to form a Baby NFL.”

Murfdawg,

I don’t remeber Dooley ever talking about this but it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Awhile back I remember Alabama having informal discussions with several major football powers about breaking away from the NCAA and forming a superconference consisting of about 20 big time teams. I don’t remember all the names but some of them were Texas, OU, USC, ND, etc.

The issue was about tv money and general dissatisfaction with the NCAA. The talks never got real serious but the idea has been out there before about a group of premier programs taking their ball and forming their own mega conference.

Probably will never happen and if it ever did it wouldn’t be anytime soon. But stranger things have happened.

The Reason Bama Sucks

May 19th, 2010
1:28 pm

is its mouthbreathing knuckledragging fanbase. Anybody happen to catch Bill Maher on Friday night?

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
1:28 pm

Leroy,

Alabama does “man up” and play big time out of conference opponents. In the 2000s we played home and homes with OU, UCLA, and played 1 game contests with Va Tech, Clemson, etc. We pick up Penn State this year for a home and home.

As far as these “sisters of the poor” get real. Every sec team as well as acc, big 12 and big 10 teams play a series of anywhere from 2-4 games against these “sisters of the poor”. Everybody does it.

Last, we are playing Georgia State as a favor to Bill Curry and it was he who approached us about playing the game. He knows they will get blown out. But what he is looking at is the national exposure of playing the defending champions and the obscene amount of money GSU will make from the game. This is badly needed money to help grow the program. The game will also erase some of the bad feelings between Curry and Alabama and the fact that he was never fully accepted by a lot of old guard Bama folks.

The Reason Bama Sucks

May 19th, 2010
1:31 pm

Bama should be shamed if itself playing GA ST. Florida is no better with it’s pitiful schedule…I think I saw a catholic girls middle school on the Ole Miss schedule for 2012.

Brunswick Tech

May 19th, 2010
1:35 pm

for the last time “TEXAS IS NOT AND WILL NOT JOIN THE SEC !!!” they do not need to what would they gain? they got plenty of cash and they are already #1 in total Athletics. they will stay put and play close to home.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
1:41 pm

The Reason Bama Sucks,

Don’t know who your team is but if I did I guarantee I could go back through 10 years of scheduling and find a series of no name and double AA opponents if you’re a rival sec fan or an acc fan. Likewise I probably won’t find any Oklahomas, Penn States, or Va Techs on your regular season schedule.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
1:41 pm

“So paying them with a chance at a college education is a bad thing?”

Otto – There is nothing wrong with rewarding an athlete with a scholarship as long as he/her meets the requirements that all students applying to that school have to meet. They already get a waiver on the out-of-state quotas. If they can’t meet University of Georgia or Georgia Tech requirements, other schools aren’t as stringent. Bob Hayes, the fastest man on the planet (that we knew about) attended Florida A&M. The NFL doesn’t care where they came from, as long as they look good at the combines and on tape.

According to the current administration, everybody will have an opportunity to attend college on a free government ride. I find that offensive, as it is socialistic and also grubbing for votes in future elections. I didn’t get a free ride, and I didn’t deserve one. I had a 50% loan that lasted me 2 years, going to school and working, and then 8 years in the military. I got my BS 4 years after that, again while I was working full time.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
1:45 pm

Brunswick Tech,

In a very recent interview Texas AD Deloss Dodds was on public record as saying Texas wanted in the sec back in the 90s. But the sec wanted Texas only and not Tam. The Texas legislature blocked the deal because if the sec was going to take Texas they would have to take A&M also so the deal fell apart. Apparently you and the Texas Athletics Director have differing views on whether Texas would or would not like to join the SEC.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
1:54 pm

“As far as these “sisters of the poor” get real. Every sec team as well as acc, big 12 and big 10 teams play a series of anywhere from 2-4 games against these “sisters of the poor”. Everybody does it.”

Tide Rising – USC’s sister of the poor last year was San Jose St.(WAC). The others were BC, Ohio St. and ND (an annual opponent). This year they got Hawaii (WAC), Virginia and Minnesota (and ND). 9 in-conference and 4 FBS schools.. Boy, are they stupid.

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
1:59 pm

Boss, you need to either get back on your meds or lay-off the drugs. First Texas isn’t interested in the Big 10, they make more in their share of the Big 12 pie. GT is only the sixth academically ranked school behind Duke, UVA, UNC, Wake Forest, and Boston College. Any of these, Texas, A&M, Nebraska, Kansas, or Iowa State will be as good a fit as GT and any of them would be closer.

SEC for Ya

May 19th, 2010
2:01 pm

Delbert D.
May 19th, 2010
10:40 am

We already have “a good place to go for ex-high school players who cannot meet the minimum academic requirements that regular applicants have to meet.”

It’s called thUGA.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
2:06 pm

Awhile back I posted the SEC’s out-of-conference schedules. Nobody’s asked for the ACC, but to support my 1:54 post, here’s a sample:

U Miami—–Fl. A&M, Ohio St., Pitt, USF
FSU———-Samford, Oklahoma, BYU, Florida

The 2 schools are atypical of the rest of the ACC, no debate from me on that. But, like Southern Cal, it’s not the “2-4 games…’sisters of the poor” mentioned previously.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
2:06 pm

Delbert D.,

In the interest of being brief I was leaving USCw out because they are the single exception to the rule. ND also I would maybe put in there because they play no double AA opponents to my knowledge and while some of their bcs opponents may not be the strongest in the conference they still play bcs opponents. Heck, Navy isn’t even a joke to play.

I have an immense amount of respect for USC because they are the one and only program I can think of that plays no double AA teams ever and I’ve seen full schedules where they don’t even have patsy. San jose state would be their one patsy but most years they play the full pac 10 schedule, then one heavyweight like Ohio State, then a bcs conference team like UVA, and then a typically good, respectable middle tier team like Fresno State. I’ll never put down their scheduling.

Otto

May 19th, 2010
2:07 pm

Delbert, My problem with that is the lower Division schools such as do not offer a full ride and can not due to NCAA scholarship limits. Many of these kids would not attend school.

I would rather these kids have a chance at a college degree under a full ride and if nothing else go into coaching or some sort of business with connections made while in school than remain in the projects or the low income rural housing.

It may appear socialist in giving these kids special rules to get in the school but IMO they will more than pay for it in the hours they will put in at practice, money made for the school which fund other athletic programs, and hopefully staying out of crime and living off Gov. programs. The success rate for getting the youth out of the projects is not very high on other programs.

Is it perfect? No but it is an improvement.

Also if you take away special clauses to get the athletes in school then I would suggest taking away transfer limitations for athletes. Allowing them to transfer between schools just as any other student without having to sit out a year.

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
2:10 pm

G8R Grad, Hold on there, you say 8 were Big 10, I count only 5 – Northwestern 12, Michigan 27, Illinois 39, Wisconsin 39, and Penn State 47 and two from the SEC – Vanderbilt 4 and Florida 47, and seven were from the ACC – Duke 10, Virginia 24, UNC 28, Wake Forest 28, Boston College 34, Georgia Tech 35, and Miami at 50.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
2:12 pm

Delbert D.

Yes. The FSU and Miami schedules are very respectable. Only 1 patsy for each of them. But you get my drift. I’m saying that in general the majority of the bcs teams out there play 2-4 patsys. K-State would be a notorious example as in many years they played 4 patsys. That’s how Bill Snyder built the program.

Also, Georgia played a highly respectable schedule last year. Tech, Ok state were 2 decent teams. ASU not so much but they are still a bcs caliber team. Only 1 patsy last year for the dawgs. I think the year before they only had 1-2 patsys also. This year they will have 3 since I have to include a 3-9 Colorado team as being a patsy. In years before the last 2 years Georgia played a typical 2-4 game patsy slate like everyone else in the sec.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
2:17 pm

“Bama should be shamed if itself playing GA ST. Florida is no better with it’s pitiful schedule…I think I saw a catholic girls middle school on the Ole Miss schedule for 2012.”

On my SEC OOC schedule post, I had Florida ranked 2nd in toughest OOC games. LSU #1, Georgia #3. Ole Miss #12.

1) LSU————-UNC#, West Va., McNeese St., UL-Monroe
2) Florida———Miami (OH), USF, App. St., FSU*

12) Ole Miss——–Jacksonville St., Tulane*, Fresno St., UL-Lafayette

It should be mentioned that Ole Miss-Tulane is an old rivalry, and Fresno St. did go to a bowl.

* road game
# neutral site

Otto

May 19th, 2010
2:18 pm

Tide Rishing, USC is cutting back on those heavy weight games

Virginia, Syracuse, Minnesota, and Hawaii look to be making the schedule for the next few years. A series with BC is also in there, respectable but I would not say a regular powerhouse.

http://www.fbschedules.com/ncaa/pac-10/usc-trojans.php

The next school scheduled that is a regular hevy weight is Tenn. in 2021

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
2:32 pm

Otto, USoCal/UVA was a home and home, doubt that they will play again for awhile.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
2:33 pm

Otto – The partial scholarship problem is there, no doubt. The lack of a convenient JC is, also. Some of these kids could be commuters if they live in metro areas. If they get a ride on my tax money, well, they also hopefully will have to meet standards to stay in school.

By the way, Hutson Mason said (earlier last Fall) that he was planning to attend Georgia anyway when it looked like he wasn’t going to get any offers.

Thank the Oklahoma Sooners for your TV $$$

May 19th, 2010
2:36 pm

Tony you can thank the Oklahoma Sooners for your ultimate point on this exercise. It was the University of Oklahoma who sued the NCAA, resulting in the Supreme Court decision of 1984, which determined that individual schools, not the NCAA, own the property rights to a school’s football games.

It was great for college football, but it landed Oklahoma on the NCAA hit list.

Prior to the lawsuit, powerhouse schools were on TV at most 2-3 times per year. Now we are seeing Billion dollar TV contracts with hundreds of games being televised.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
2:42 pm

OB-1 – Click on “Top Public Schools”

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
2:45 pm

Delbert, not all colleges in the “big” conferences are public so you should use all, both public and private.

GeneralNeyland96

May 19th, 2010
2:52 pm

Tony,

What would you think about getting the “Big 4″ conferences lined up, then instituting a policy similar to the English Premier League where lower conferences’ teams compete to “move up” into a slot in one of the main conferences…..gives incentive to the “little guys” as well as the Vanderbilts, Wake Forests, Northwesterns to put out a consistent high-quality product or be relegated to a lower conference for a couple of years.

Otto

May 19th, 2010
2:56 pm

Delbert, I see your point but many of these rurual kids come from bad school systems which fight low income and often with bad family situations with ineffective or underfunded gov programs. I would argue that the SEC fights this more so than most Big 10 states. It is no secret where many of these states and their school systems fall.

A 4 year scholarship would be cheaper in the long run than a lifetime of foodstamps and section 8 housing. Have SEC, SWC, ACC and other schools in other conferences expolited this in the past?

Absolutely, at the current time I think there is much more effort put on making the kids better.

In a perfect world the school systems would be able to give these kids the education they need to have an equal shot at getting in the Big Schools but that day is a long way off and will require some socialism in a capitalist economy. Remember both only work perfectly in utopias.

All the way turnt up

May 19th, 2010
3:13 pm

I can’t believe Mr. Georgia Basketball Marcus Thornton chose UGA over Tech. Why?

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:19 pm

OB-1 – Right. I think his point was to screen out the Ivy League and some others that don’t play football. Hey, the rankings are intended to help people decide where to attend, and how much it’s going to cost. Most public schools are less expensive. None of their listings are all-inclusive; the service academies and some other all-military schools aren’t in any of the USN&WR listing, for example. Their curricula is less diverse.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:20 pm

IL Jacket & OB-1:

I was looking at the National PUBLIC Universities list.
Thanks with my “math” anyway.
I went to law school for my lack of mathematical aptitude.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:22 pm

And thanks for the clarification Delbert.
You’re a scholar and a gentleman.

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
3:23 pm

G8R Grad, is it true they teach you how to read/write legalize?

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:29 pm

Don’t U mean “Legal-like?”

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:33 pm

And OB-1, aren’t U supposed to start your sentences with a verb?
Mistaken, you were?

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:34 pm

Or is that Yoda?

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
3:35 pm

Great is the force in this one.

OB-1

May 19th, 2010
3:35 pm

That was Yoda but what the heck.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:35 pm

Otto – Some of the worst aren’t in rural areas. I was in a class of 100 in a town of less than 5,000. Not rural, because we had 2 grocery stores, I guess. I’ve been in towns in Arkansas that make it look like a metropolis. On the other hand, Belle Glade, Florida is in Palm Beach County, and Glades High School has turned out a *lot* of football players. But, according to the FBI in 2003 the city had the second highest violent crime rate in the country at 298 per 10,000 residents. And there’s Detroit, and the numerous high crime areas in the LA area, and before Katrina, the infamous areas of projects in New Orleans.

I don’t think their can be a utopia. When everybody has a BS or BA degree, who’s going to work at the grocery store, or man the check-in lines at the airport, or drive the cabs? Maybe everybody will be smarter in terms of knowledge exposed to, I don’t know. I won’t be around to see it.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:37 pm

Sorry.
Wrong part of speech.
It’s been a long day.
And I have to go 2 Dismal World w/the whole Famn Damily tomorrow!

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:38 pm

G8R GRAD – What the heck, how about some Shakespeare?