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

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:40 pm

How ’bout: Our academic debate is “Much Ado About Nothing?”

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:41 pm

“He who would his own quietus make with a bare bodkin.” I never could diagram that sentence. Sounds like a prosecutor’s opening statement, though.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:41 pm

Pretty much. Consider the source…TB.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:44 pm

We have succeeding in elevating the art form of blogging to a new low. Or, a new high, although still negative. Darned math, again.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:45 pm

Your sympathy for my weeks plight; my family, my Bro’-in’laws’ and my Outlaws in the Tragic Kingdom!

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:46 pm

If a double-negative=to a positve, then 2 wrongs DO make a right!

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:48 pm

G8R GRAD – Keep of the teacups. I rode those once with my drunken sailor buddies and we all threw up. And that takes some doing for bubbleheads.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:50 pm

“If a double-negative=to a positve, then 2 wrongs DO make a right!”

Save that one, you can use it in your professional work. Ah, they probably taught you that one, or it was on the bar exam.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:51 pm

Good thing my brother-in-law isn’t afraid to “pull a cork.”
We’ll manage through self-medication, but thanks 4 the teacups warning.
Nothing like hurling in front of the kids & your mother-in-law!

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
3:54 pm

Off 2 a pre-trip Happy Hour.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure.
And no matter your collegiate allegiance, good luck in the Fall!

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:55 pm

The teacups may look innocuous, but they are *way* worse than the old Tilt-a-Whirl.

Gator Hater

May 19th, 2010
3:55 pm

Two wrights make an airplane

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:56 pm

I hope everybody wins.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
3:57 pm

Gator Hater – I’ve got to put that one in my notebook!

Otto

May 19th, 2010
3:59 pm

Delbert Agreed, I have also mentioned the projects in my post. I would wager that your neighborhood had a lower divorce and crime rate than what we are fighting now with kids like Montez who was kicked off UGA’s team.

I don;t think there will be anything like a utopia but I hope we can make it better without going full on socialist. I also don’t like making a college degree overly easy to get.

BTW I was scheduled and on the payroll as part time during school in a corp. job but often turned enough hours to get overtime during the Mon-Fri and often worked in a family business on the weekends while going to school full time. I refused to graduate with a student loan or credit card debt.

Otto

May 19th, 2010
4:01 pm

G8tr, 2 wrongs don’t make a right but 3 lefts might.

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
4:01 pm

So, if a double-negative = a positive, then two Wrights do make an airplane?

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
4:03 pm

Sorry. “a left airplane?”

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
4:06 pm

I need a drink!

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
4:06 pm

Enter your comments here

G8R GRAD

May 19th, 2010
4:07 pm

Adios, mi buen amigos!

wham

May 19th, 2010
4:11 pm

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
4:12 pm

Otto – Clark Howard would approve of your college plan. I finally made it by seeing the finish line. I did the last semester working full-time in a union job up north at a power plant, putting up with the extra 8-hour OT shifts, and going to school 4 nights a week and Saturdays.

Back in the school days, nobody got into much trouble, but I started driving at 13 (occasionally, to go to the Boy Scout meetings at the church), and a lot of kids got Cushman scooters way before then. Our football coaches were pretty tough, though. One of our starting guards let his sideburns start to grow, and our line coach told him if he showed up the next day like that, he’d dry shave him.

If it doesn’t require effort, then it probably isn’t worth much.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
4:22 pm

wham – That is very interesting. What caught my eye was “…to obtain, to the extent possible, information necessary to construct preliminary options and recommendations without engaging in formal discussions with leadership of other institutions.” Some of that seems to have slipped out with the Missouri-Nebraska-Notre Dame-Rutgers stuff. Maybe just a bit of disinformation to keep everybody guessing?

RussN

May 19th, 2010
4:48 pm

I read several things here. First is the B10 think they and some others built the whole college football into what it is today. Lets see, I think I watched maybe 1-2 B10 games last year in total. The B10 has OSU, Penn St., Iowa and who else??? Oh yeah, Indiana, Illinois, Minn, Mich (which has lost their luster) Northwestern, Purdue. The B10 doesn’t want a playoff, they don’t want to have to face the likes of TCU or Utah or Boise St. They don’t mind losing to a USC or Texas as it brings in tremendous revenue. But they don’t want to play other schools that will beat the majority of B10 schools, and they don’t want to share their pie either. Well they basically want college football to be like the MLB and they think their the Yankees. Sorry but that model isn’t going to work in college athletics.

JD

May 19th, 2010
4:58 pm

The expansion talk is more than just talk – it will be the end of the BCS within 5 years if not much sooner.

PAC-10 is the first to expand with Utah and Colorado. The Big 10 follows by adding Missouri, Nebraska, and Notre Dame (Yes, the Domers go because they see the writing on the wall). A year or two later there as profits rise for the Big 12 and PAC-12 and the strain starts to show in the Big East and Big 12, those conferences dissolve and the remaining four power conferences start to reel some of those schools in – Pitt and Rutgers to the new Big 16, Syracuse, West Virginia, UConn, Cincinnati to the ACC. The SEC adds Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Louisville, and one more school (USF?) to get to 16. The PAC-12 adds Texas, Texas A&M (those two are joined at the hip), Kansas, and Kansas State after the Big-12 dissolves.

Now, with 64 teams in 4 conferences, those conferences form their own football division and institute a four team playoff pitting the four conference champions.

Don’t believe what the Big 10 or Pac 10 are saying on expansion – it will happen sooner than they are letting on, especially with the PAC as they need to begin negotiations on their new TV deal/network next year at the latest and will need to have their new teams and conference title game in place for the 2012 season when the new TV deal will kick in. The Big 10 won’t be far behind.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
5:08 pm

RussN – Apparently it is going to work in college athletics, because they have gone ahead and done it. This is just the latest step. When everybody else played a 10 game schedule in the ’50s-’60s, the Big Ten played a 9 game schedule-the Big Ten. They had exclusive rights (with their PAC 8 partners) to the Rose Bowl, when every other bowl (except the Cotton) was open.

Scott

May 19th, 2010
5:14 pm

Tide Rising, Texas’ interest in the SEC was twenty years ago. The DI football landscape has radically changed since then. I can assure you, for a variety of reasons, that the SEC is at the bottom of Texas’ list of preferred conferences.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
5:26 pm

Scott,

The interview with Deloss Dodd was only a couple of weeks ago. Also, you are right in that the college football landscape in the last 20 years has changed dramatically. It has changed dramatically in that the sec has led the way while becoming the nation’s premiere conference. If the sec was appealing to Texas 20 years ago than it would certainly be that much more appealing today.

Also, there are not a variety of reasons Texas would not consider the SEC. The sole reason that Texas would possibly consider the big 10 over the sec would be academics. Perhaps Texas fits in better with the big 10 or Pac 10 on an academic basis but that’s about it. And even then I’m not sure that reason would wash since Texas used to be aligned with Tier 3 school Ark. in the old swc.

But geogrphically and culturally Texas fits in far better with the SEC as it borders 2 sec states. Someone in east Texas has a lot more in common with other southerners then they do with someone in Indiana or Illinois.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
5:33 pm

JD – I’m in general agreement with what you’re saying. I can see 4 16-team conferences. The schools in each are subject to several factors; for example the ACC would not accept Cincinnati or West Virginia because they are academic Tier 3 schools. What Texas, Texas A&M, the Oklahoma schools and Kansas do could go several ways, so could the SEC West and SEC East.

Whatever, even if the Big Ten + 6 and PAC “16″ form a solid pact, there could still be a 64-team playoff. Round-robin in each division, division champs for the conference championship, and the 4 conference champs play the final 4 (obviously). It is only game max (only for 2 teams) beyond the current 14th game BCS Poll-based championship.

Every body else could play in bowl games for the popularity contests.

Scott

May 19th, 2010
5:35 pm

Tide Rising,

Having been a former DI athletics administrator and knowing several members of the Texas’ senior administrative staff, I can assure you that the SEC is not preferred by Texas. The two main reasons are television – Texas is working on launching its own network, which is a major stumbling block with the SEC. This is the same reason why texas isn’t going to the Big Ten. Second, Texas lacks political clout within the SEC. Texas is not about to go into a conference in which they do not have the loudest voice.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
5:38 pm

The 64 million dollar question on expansion is does the SEC want to expand its tv footprint or does it want schools that are more culturally and geographically aligned such as Tech, FSU, Clemson, etc. Would those schools bring more money given that those tv markets are already covered by current sec teams or would it be much more profitable to go after the Texas-Oklahoma tv footprints? The answer to that question dictates everything.

If its more profitable to bring in the Texas/Oklahoma tv market then the solution is really pretty easy and it is this:

Add Texas, Texas A&M, OU, and Ok. State to the west division and move Bama and AU to the east division. Its that simple and its the best solution if we’re going after tv market dollars for several reasons with the most obvious being that practically no huge rivalries would be lost by moving Bama-AU to the east.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
5:45 pm

Scott,

If you were a former D-1 athletics director and you personally know several people in the senior Texas administrative staff then obviously I defer to your judgement in the matter. What I don’t understand is that if what you say is true and to me it does make a lot of sense so I believe you then why on earth is the big 10 wasting its time on a possible expansion including Texas? It seems the point would be mute.

I would certainly agree with you that if Texas wanted their own tv deal that is a dealbreaker with the sec. We’re not giving them any special treatment. At least I would hope not anyway. That ties in with your second reason that Texas would lack political clout with the SEC. We’re not willing to be pushed around in the same way that Texas kinda pushes around the big 12 with their own special tv revenue sharing deal. Interesting to hear all that. But now we have nothing to wildly speculate about. What a bummer.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
5:46 pm

“But geogrphically and culturally Texas fits in far better with the SEC”

I think that is true for the South in general, but other conferences span Miami to Boston, and Southern California to Washington State. Actually, California is different from itself – southern coast, central valley, desert, 2 sets of mountain areas, the bay area, and the northern wilderness. That is more diversity than some adjoining European countries.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
5:52 pm

Scott – Do you think the Texas people would take LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Miss. St., and Kentucky (competition for Kansas in basketball) if Missouri and Nebraska leave? Those are very bottom of Tier 2 and Tier 3 schools (the Mississippi schools), though.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
5:56 pm

Delbert D.,

No one is ever going to line up geographically perfect of course. I’m just sayin that Texas in the sec is a better fit than in the big 10 or Pac 10 and that in some of the games like against LSU, Ark, and possibly the MISS schools they are within reasonable driving distance on some game days. Also, looking at the geographic fit of the acc is it any wonder some of the games make no sense. For example FSU-Boston College. When BC comes to FSU do FSU fans really get excited about that?

But alas its all a mute point since Scott popped my balloon of optimism about the possibility of having Texas join the SEC.

Scott

May 19th, 2010
5:58 pm

Tide Rising,

The Big Ten did in fact pursue Texas rather aggressively a few months ago and the deal breaker was the TV network issue. Texas also wasn’t very keen on the geographic stretch, but the real issue was TV. The Big Ten and Texas have not revisited the expansion issue since then, though it continues to be tossed around by the media. Realistically speaking, the Texas-to-the-Big Ten movement is dead.

Its the same with them moving to the SEC. They know that there would not be any concessions made to them if they joined the SEC, which would kill their exclusive tv network project, and that is their biggest priority right now. Same goes for their politcal clout. The Big 12 is definitely slanted in their favor, and they are not about to move into a more competitive conference in which they are not the driving influence.

Yeah, I hate to rain on all of the fun speculation about possible SEC expansion, but realistically Texas isn’t going to be part of it.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
5:59 pm

Tide Rising – Oh, I am having fun wildly speculating. I can’t stand the wait ’til August. I visualize the SEC East (minus KY) plus Auburn and Alabama conquering the east coast all the way up through Maryland, with the help of some ACC schools (drop Miami, BC maybe another tweak or 2.)

Scott

May 19th, 2010
6:05 pm

Delbert,

If the Big 12 were to lose BOTH Mizzou and Nebraska, I believe that they would look first to northern geographic schools so the entire conference would not have to be re-aligned. I wouldn’t be surprised if they targeted Utah and BYU. They fit geographically with the north division and it replaces the St. Louis TV market with Salt Lake City.

Plus, why would any SEC school consider joining the Big 12? Any such school would take a huge pay cut to do so since the revenue sharing is much smaller in the Big 12 compared to the SEC.

Jim Messick

May 19th, 2010
6:06 pm

Having two teams in national championship just because of name recognition, tradition and fans is ridiculus. Try having the best teams in the nation regardless of conference affiliation. Ask CBS what the fans interest was in the Butler/Duke game. Great reviews.

Times are changing, adjust or get left in the dust. Rose Bowl can have PAC 10 vs Big 10 but who wants to watch Illinois vs USC. The ratings were terrible and game was boring, or watch BSU vs Oklahoma, Bama vs Utah fans will make the ultimate choice.

Einsteindawg

May 19th, 2010
6:12 pm

Good article Tony, but you know as well as anyone that a playoff is never going to happen…too much money involved. It’s all about the money, not the fans, not the sport, and not even the good of the game.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
6:15 pm

The more we speculate on it the more I’m starting to think not much is going to change even if the big 10 goes to 16 teams depending on who of course those 16 teams would be.

If the big 10 adds Mizzou and Nebraska and then 3 teams like Syracuse, Rutgers, and Pitt then who really cares? The addition of a marquee name like Nebraska is a coup but as for the other 4 who really cares.

Is Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt, and Mizzou going to make the big 10 a football superpower over the SEC? It would add a lot to their tv market dollars but as far as football prestige I’m not overly impressed with that group outside of Nebraska of course.

Tide Rising

May 19th, 2010
6:17 pm

Jim Messick,

You’re right. In hindsight I would prefer not to have watched the Bama-Utah game.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
6:32 pm

Scott – Why would the SEC consider it? Again, wildly speculating, they would be cutting loose 5 small TV market schools, and joining a group that would add all of North Carolina, all of Virginia, and all of Maryland. That could make for an even more enormous TV contract. And, to make a 16 team conference, the obvious assumption I made is that BYU and Utah would not be available (maybe PAC 16). But what would the Texas-led 16 gain by the inclusion of those particular 5 SEC schools….)

IL Jacket

May 19th, 2010
6:34 pm

The reasons for Texas not joining the SEC have been enumerated well here by Scott and Delbert, but I would only add one more issue. Culturally, the UT faculty see themselves much more in the tradition of a Cal-Berkeley or UMichigan than any school in the SEC and since the President of the University will be driving the bus on the issue, I really cannot fathom it would happen.

On adding BYU to any conference(Big 12 or Pac10), I ran across something interesting on the Frank the Tank blog, which indicated BYU’s prohibition on playing any games in Sunday could
be a stumbling block to their acceptance into another conference. Obviously, not a football problem, but a scheduling nightmare for every other sport.

IL Jacket

May 19th, 2010
6:42 pm

Tide Rising, possibly the fallout could
be limited. The Big 12 would have to do something if Mizzou and Nebraska leave because under current NCAA rules they could not have a season ending championship game-the ACC
already went through that appeal and lost.

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
6:54 pm

IL Jacket – Texas and Texas A&M are both AAU members, as are Kansas, Iowa St. and the presumed Big ten choices, Missouri and Nebraska. The only SEC schools are Vanderbilt and Florida.

Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers are AAU and therefore could be in the mix for the Big 10, but only Rutgers has been mentioned in the rumors from last week.

When I live in North Jersey in the late 1960’s, the only school of real interest in the NY media was Notre Dame. When I lived in South Jersey 8 years later, the only football schools of real interest in the Philly media were Penn State, Pitt and Notre Dame (well, they had to cover Temple).

Everybody knows North Jersey and South Jersey are like 2 different states, right?

Delbert D.

May 19th, 2010
6:59 pm

In Georgia, we have the gnat line. In New Jersey, they have the Pine Barrens (there is a legendary devil that inhabits them.)

wxwax

May 19th, 2010
7:12 pm

What’s wrong with Delany’s point?

Just this: it’s about money, not competition.

A playoff might make everybody rich, but that’s not its appeal to fans.

The point of a playoff is to give schools a chance to compete for a national title on the field, not in a computer. It’s about competition, not money.

That’s what Delany always has, and always will, fail to grasp. He can’t silence the talk by parsing out a few shekels to the small schools. People want a fair competition on the field.

Ironically (deliciously ironic) is that the creation of the BCS opened the door to a playoff. It gave fans hope that someday there might be one.

Nothing more dangerous than a person with hope, Mr. Delany.

IL Jacket

May 19th, 2010
7:18 pm

Delbert, the Pine Barrens is where a lot
of the best New Jersey golf
courses are located isn’t it? Pine Valley and others.