Is the BCS supposed to be fair?

Let me say up front that I have my own issues with the BCS. I believe it is in the best interests of college football to do away with the current format after the four-year contract between the BCS and ESPN expires after the games of January 2014.

I would like to see a seeded four-team playoff.  We would put the magic back into New Year’s Day by playing the semifinals in two of the big bowls on Jan. 1. A week later the two winners would play for the national championship. I believe this is the best way to move the sport forward without disrupting the current college football calendar and while keeping the bowl system intact.

And believe me folks, the university presidents are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the bowl system and the current college football calendar. Any changes in the post-season will have to fall within those presidential parameters. The presidents run the show. Not the media. Not the fans. Not the coaches or the players. The presidents who make up the BCS oversight committee will ultimately make this call.

Therefore, any proposed change to the system has to be rational and fact based, not emotion based. The presidents are not going to vote for an eight-team playoff because the majority of the fans and the media want it. They are not going to vote for a playoff because politicians know that bashing the BCS is like bashing the IRS: It’s easy and it plays well to the folks back home.

Now all of that is a preface to our question of the day:

Is the BCS supposed to be fair?

I’m serious.

What prompted the question was an email I received from Mr. Alan Fishel, whose law firm represents the fine people at the Mountain West Conference. In his email Mr. Fishel included a “BCS Revenue Discrimination Chart.”

I did not make that up.

Mr. Fishel’s point was that over the past four years the Mountain West and the WAC, who do not have automatic qualifier status,  have outperformed the ACC and the Big East (who do get automatic bids) when it comes to BCS TV ratings, rankings, and attendance. Here is his chart:

http://www.arentfox.com/email/fishel/BCS%20Revenue%20Discrimation%20Chart.pdf

Counselor, I will stipulate that your figures are correct and those conferences have performed better over the past four years than the Big East and ACC.

Mr. Fishel also points out that that the six equity conferences that formed the BCS back in 1998 (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10) have benefitted  substantially more from the BCS than the other five Division I-A conferences. Again, Mr. Fishel is right. In fact, I went back to 2004 when Urban Meyer’s Utah team earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.  Here are the total dollars paid out by the BCS, per conference, since 2004.

Big Ten——————$128.2 million

SEC———————–$123.6 million

Big 12——————–$119.1 million

Pac 10——————-$105.6 million

ACC———————-$105.6 million

Big East——————$105.6 million

Mountain West———-$42.4 million

WAC————————$31.3 million

C-USA———————-$12.6 million

MAC————————$9.7 million

Sun Belt——————–$8.2 million

Note: Notre Dame earned about $23 million in this same time period.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s about $687 million that has gone to the six equity or “privileged” conferences (as Senator Orrin Hatch likes to lovingly call them) and about $104 million to the other five “non-privileged” conferences. That’s a gap of about $583 million over six years.

Mr. Fishel goes on to say that “The revenue discrimination chart attached is meant to begin the process of shining light on what is occurring and will continue to occur, under the  BCS unless there are significant changes.”

Just out of curiosity I did a Google search on the words “BCS” and “fair” and there were tons of items, including Boise State president Robert Kustra who, not surprisingly, had looked at Mr. Fishel’s numbers and decided that the BCS was not “fair.”

I get nervous when politicians, media, and college presidents start throwing around words like “fair.” It is a moving definition. Some people think that if their neighbor drives a nicer car than them that it’s not fair. The term is too vague.

But however it is defined I must ask again: Where is it written that the BCS is SUPPOSED to be fair?

Here is the problem that I have with Mr. Fishel’s sometimes breathless argument:

No. 1: All of these numbers he cites are a matter of public record. Nobody has to shine a light on anything. It’s all out there. The six BCS equity conferences that put this deal together in 1998 and marketed it and grew it make a lot more money from this deal than the other five conferences. It was designed that way in 1998 by the television networks who were putting up the money. No news there.

No. 2: I want the five non-equity conferences to get as much money as they can out of the BCS pool. Keep pushing. Keep negotiating. Keep reminding the other conferences of your value. The Mountain West has a chance to play its way in to an automatic bid in 2012 and 2013.

But to say these conferences are the victims of “revenue discrimination” (I’ve got to write that one down for future use) is to presume they had a pre-existing claim to the BCS money pool that is somehow being denied.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany mentioned this last week and it bears repeating: Colleges and universities have institutional advantages based on geography, tradition, enrollment, endowments, etc. Institutions trade on those advantages, in some cases built over 100 years, in order to field the best athletics teams, the best law schools or to hire the best faculty. The lawyers produced at East Idaho State Teachers College may be every bit as good as those who from Harvard. But the lawyer with a sheepskin from Harvard has an advantage and that, gentle readers, ain’t gonna change.

So let’s tone down the rhetoric about “revenue discrimination” and come up with a plan that works. If the Mountain West keeps doing what it’s doing, it will become the seventh conference with an automatic bid in 2012. Then that league will get a full share of the BCS pie. The five non-automatic qualifier conferences were given a path to become an AQ.  The MWC, I believe, is going to succeed.

Last season, for the first time ever, two teams from non-AQ conferences (Boise State, TCU) went to a BCS Bowl. As a result the five conferences shared a record $24 million. Should they get more?

Yes, and they will. This year the BCS contract improves from $80 million per year (under Fox) to $125 million per year (under ESPN). So if the MWC and WAC get back to the BCS there will be more money available.

Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Maybe the BCS should just throw all the money into one pot so that the Sun Belt and the Mid-American conferences, which have sent no teams to BCS bowls, will get the exact same share as the SEC, which has won four straight national championships and sent 10 teams to the BCS in six years. Maybe that would be the “fair” thing to do.

You tell me.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be subbing for Brandon Adams today on the “Brandon and Woolvey Show” at 11 a.m. on 790 The Zone. We’ll be taking a detailed look at the SEC, ACC, and Top 25 heading into the summer.

www.790thezone.com

255 comments Add your comment

The rest of us

May 27th, 2010
10:09 am

Where was all this outcry from Boise State when UGA paid them half a million to come to Athens and get their butts whipped?

PTC DAWG

May 27th, 2010
10:11 am

I’m for a playoff…seed the top 8 teams and let’s figure out who is the best team.

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
10:11 am

DaginLex,
I think the difference is fan support which equals revenue. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 30 plus years. The schools with large stadiums that routinely sell them out and have their fans travel all over the country to see them play are the ones that have created the current revenue system. I’m sorry if Utah and Rutgers don’t fall into that category, but maybe they should be upset with their alumni….not the BCS.

Dave in San Diego

May 27th, 2010
10:13 am

The BCS isn’t supposed to be fair; it’s just a cartel of four bowls, six conferences, one or two TV networks (this changes with each BCS TV contract), and the coaches’ poll. However, casual college football fans are supposed to believe that the BCS is fair, because if they don’t, they might stop watching the games (or at least everything but the title game, which is the only game of significance if the BCS ratings don’t screw up the title game — oh wait, they do that a lot).

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
10:18 am

In the end I dont really care. My school will be in the mix more often than naught with whatever format is developed

Joey

May 27th, 2010
10:21 am

Bill Brasky, aparently the Sugar Bowl (in Jan ‘08) didn’t pick up UGA’s Michael Adams’ expenses. UGA itself paid about $140,000 for his “president’s party in New Orleans.”

What a guy.

Eric

May 27th, 2010
10:22 am

Grow up BREAKING FOOL. Your adolescent rant adds nothing to this discussion. If the smaller conferences don’t qualfy for AB status, they shouldn’t even be in the mix. There’s no reason to rank them and there is no reason to share the bucks with them.

#1 BAMA FAN

May 27th, 2010
10:25 am

Tony….check the pre-BCS system (bowls) and see if the payouts to team and conferences do not mirror the BCS payoffs. There probably would not be much difference. For the record, I would prefer some type of playoff system. RTR

Alphare

May 27th, 2010
10:29 am

Tony mentions “current college football calendar”. I don’t know what exactly that means.

But for those who are proposing this or that kind of playoffs, most of those proposals are just not practical for college students. Remember, the athletes are college students, they have to do course study, midterm exams, final exams, etc. That’s why the college presidents don’t want to change the way it is. Otherwise, it will interrupt an athlete’s class routine, and the student may fail in exams, which leads to disqualification.

I remember when I was in college, an athlete did not do too well with his exam and he came to the professor. The professor basically said, too bad, I cannot change the score for you.

That’s the reality the presidents face with the athletes.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
10:31 am

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
10:18 am
In the end I dont really care. My school will be in the mix more often than naught with whatever format is developed

Yeah, that’s the truth!

Joey

May 27th, 2010
10:31 am

Tony, keep in mind that a 4 team playoff after the 07 season would have excluded the team that a lot of folks thought was the best team that year, UGA. Even though UGA wound up with a #2 ranking after the Sugar Bowl, they were at #5 before the game.

What I’m getting at is even if the NCAA put on a full fledged playoff (like Division 1-AA Football), good teams that don’t get in are still gonna scream.

Dawgdad (the original)

May 27th, 2010
10:36 am

Tony, I like your four team playoff. Any playoff would be better than what we have. I could live with a plush one game after all the bowls are played. Yes, no matter how many teams you have in playoff, there will be whiners, just look at Basketball. Right now everyone is upset when the NC doesn’t go their way and they blame the polls and that their team did not get a chance. The number of people upset after all the bowl games adn a four team playoff would be limited to the number 5 and 6 team supporters only as everyone else could see the logic. 95% of the folk happy beats the heck out of 10% happy now.

BREAKING NEWS

May 27th, 2010
10:37 am

“More often than jawja Mr. Breaking News.”

I don’t give a rats a$$ about UGAY, ma’am.

BREAKING NEWS

May 27th, 2010
10:39 am

“keep in mind that a 4 team playoff after the 07 season would have excluded the team that a lot of folks thought was the best team that year, UGA.”

Oh cry us a river. UGAY 07!!!!!! You gals didn’t win your division nor did you win the SEC.

Go undefeated, win the SEC and THEN get left out.

Delbert D.

May 27th, 2010
10:41 am

Here’s how a “fairness-minded authority” would do it. Before any BCS conference can have a 2nd team selected to a BCS bowl game, a team from each of the non-affiliated conferences must be assigned to a BCS bowl game.

If you like that idea, good for you…that’s the way our country is headed.

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
10:42 am

Joey

You want a team that got shafted look no further than Auburn 04. The naysayers blame Auburn playing the Citadel but that doesn’t hold any water.

Florida played Citadel in 08 and was still able to go to the BCS title game.

Chad

May 27th, 2010
10:49 am

I read staples article bashing gt and the acc on the same subject. How stupid some people are. College football goes in cycles. In the 80’s and 90’s fsu and miami were dominant. UF stunk in the 70’s and 80’s. Ok stunk in the 90’s. Texas too. USC was no where in the 80’s and 90’s. Again, it all goes in cycles. Miami and fsu because of their history and location will be back in the nat champ hump this decade and so will the acc as long as their isn’t major expansion. As for gt, it’s not a big school. Half of the fan base could care less about sports. Many graduates travel not only out of the south but out of the country for jobs. And they played in fla for the acc champ game that I went to and I didn’t have the money to go to Miami nor could I with my job.

Anti-alternative

May 27th, 2010
10:50 am

You want to shut non-AQ conference teams up? Let the champions from non-AQ conferences be eligible to take the spot of the last-place team in the nearest AQ conference by geography. The new team can then have one full season in football only to try and go better than .500. If it works the conference can then extend them an offer to stay. If not, they go back to their original non-AQ spot.

Boise would probably be in the PAC-10 and TCU or Utah in the Big 12 right now if this were in place. Of course, that might mean Washington State and Iowa State would be in non-AQ conferences, but does that make that huge a splash?

I think it shuts up these teams that feel they’re being locked out of the big dance. Playoff or no playoff, I think a conference swapping system like this between the non-AQ’s and the AQ’s would be good to have.

Sam

May 27th, 2010
10:51 am

Two points:

1. No one outside the AQ conferences expects Boise to garner the revenue Ohio State makes. But the overwhelming majority of BCS revenue is generated by the championship game. Recently the Orange Bowl has actually lost money. Why, exactly, does Baylor get a bigger annual cut of money from a title they never threaten to reach than perrenial top 10 Boise?

2. This isn’t about levelling out the competitive advantages Alabama, for example, has over Boise/TCU/Utah/whoever. It’s about giving them an equal chance to earn it on the field. Why, exactly, did Bama get twice the pay out Utah received from a Sugar Bowl in which the Utes destroyed the Tide?

HugoStiglitz

May 27th, 2010
10:52 am

The biggest problem with this is that the BCS is a business. Not a legitimate sports organization. Therefore its naive of us to expect the BCS to care about the interest of all of its members. It cares about the bottom line and Boise St does not help the bottom line very much. I really wish College Football wasnt structured this way but it is and we keep supporting it so it wont go away. The route that College Football is going now they should just become a semi professional organization consisting of about 20 teams and start paying their players. Then they could quit pretending they are comparable to normal collegiate athletics in fairness.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
10:56 am

Auburn04…..

Florida also played a better than most non conference schedule that year with FSU, Miami and Hawaii. So playing the Citadel was irrelevant. Don’t know Auburns entire OOC schedule in 2004, but Im sure it wasnt to the level of UFs other 3. Secondly, UF went and blew out a #8 UGA team along with a ranked LSU team. Finishing off beating the #1 ranked team in the country (Alabama) in the SEC title. You do all that and nobody cares you played the Citadel. Not saying Auburn was any less deserving, but you really cant compare the two situations or the two schedules.

Ron

May 27th, 2010
10:59 am

When boise and tcu and utah can bring in the viewers like a big school can, then they can complain. They never will so it’s moot.

Joey

May 27th, 2010
11:00 am

Of course Auburn got shafted. The worst shafting since the BCS started up. Auburn would have made a playoff like Tony proposed, though. My point was not about being shafted, though, just about good teams that will get left out of the top 4.

And I wasn’t “crying a river,” BREAKING NEWS. All those letters in caps tell us why you’re angry. You may need therapy to deal with your size deficiency.

Anti-alternative

May 27th, 2010
11:00 am

Ron, I think the Fiesta Bowl with a WAC vs. MWC matchup did better ratings and attendance-wise than the Orange Bowl did with a Big Ten vs. ACC matchup. Am I wrong?

Ron

May 27th, 2010
11:01 am

Sam
Because their conference distributes it that way. Blame the conference they are in.

Reservoir Dawg

May 27th, 2010
11:02 am

So this Florida student walks into a bar with a monkey on his shoulder. One of the patrons asks, where did you get that? The monkey replied, in Gainesville, they have bunches of ‘em.

Idi

May 27th, 2010
11:04 am

Boise State by itself couldn’t draw flies to a pile of manure without the participation of a BCS power. And since BSU isn’t in one of the BCS Conferences, what right to anything does it have? Why don’t the Broncos sue its own Conference for not obtaining a more financially lucrative deal with the Networks or better, why doesn’t BSU seek membership in a BCS Conference?

Programs that have evolved over many Decades, expended untold sums to achieve notoriety, and who command the marketability to have the networks seek THEM are discriminating against the nons HOW???? Only by virtue of the sense of charity does any non even get a whiff of the dough as schedule fillers, something that could quite easily be ended if push comes to shove. Filling out 12 game schedules with only the BCS programs wouldn’t be too terribly difficult.

Such hyperbole and chutzpa by a BSU entering only its 15th season of big boy ball would appear to
any outsider as terribly arrogant and without merit.

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:09 am

“Florida also played a better than most non conference schedule that year with FSU, Miami and Hawaii. ”

Florida ALWAYS plays FSU. Hawaii???? Dern, that was one awesome team! LOL. As for Miami, you guys play them on a regular basis. So…………………..

“So playing the Citadel was irrelevant. Don’t know Auburns entire OOC schedule in 2004, but Im sure it wasnt to the level of UFs other 3.”

No not really, especially since the naysayers, such as yourself, have said that playing Citadel kept them out of the title game.

Oh, and I’m very happy that Auburn kept little Timmy Crybaby from going undefeated. Urban has never beaten Auburn. Oh well.

“Secondly, UF went and blew out a #8 UGA team along with a ranked LSU team.”

UGA was ranked number 7 when Auburn beat them in 04. LSU was ranked #4 when Auburn beat them in 04………..

Your point?

“Finishing off beating the #1 ranked team in the country (Alabama) in the SEC title.”

And yet……you gals still had one loss on the season……

“Not saying Auburn was any less deserving, but you really cant compare the two situations or the two schedules.”

Sure and let’s look at facts shall we.

Auburn 04: Beat 5 top 25 teams. Beat one of them twice. Set an all-time NFL recruiting record and every one of those players recruited all start for their teams. Had the best defense in the country in 04. Tubberville won the NCAA college coach of the year. Campbell won the SEC player of the year.

And………..went undefeated.

Florida can’t say that.

The General Feeling

May 27th, 2010
11:10 am

I hope college football NEVER goes to a playoff system. What would be talk about, then?

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:10 am

Whatever happened to Chris Leak and Rex Grossman?

Paul in RDU

May 27th, 2010
11:11 am

Tony – I don’t care if the BCS is “fair” – life isn’t supposed to be “fair”. A better question would be “is the BCS legal”?

You essentially have 1 group of NCAA Div 1 schools (the 6 AQ conferences + ND) running a cartel to make sure that they maximize their income. In the process another group of NCAA Div 1 schools is disadvantaged. I have no idea whether this is legal or not but you can bet that the BCS lawyers have their briefs ready.

GeezusDawg

May 27th, 2010
11:12 am

Reservoir Dawg …. nice.

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
11:18 am

Reservoir Dawg,
We don’t need to make jokes about UGA.
Ya’ll do just fine by yourselves.
17 out of 20.
WE RUN THIS STATE!

gdawginkalamazoo

May 27th, 2010
11:20 am

The five non-automatic qualifier conferences were given a path to become an AQ. Okay once they walk the path what do they have to complain about. Part of this system is based on traditional football powers that people want to see. I can tell you right now Western Michigan does not deserve the same cut of the pie as Bama or Florida or UGA. These WAC schools haven’t traditionally been there but if the path for inclusion is available I have no problem with them earning the rights.

boise state grad

May 27th, 2010
11:23 am

I agree that if Boise State played in a bigger conference that our pattern of undefeated seasons would go away. I think it would be good for the program to experience more growing pains. Jim Delaney however needs to be careful about claiming that since the big conferences did all the work they should reap all the rewards. I believe that the Fiesta and Holiday bowls were built by the WAC. Guess who controls those bowls today, not the WAC.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
11:25 am

Auburn04….

People such as myself say Auburn shouldnt have played in the title game because they played the Citadel? Sorry dont think you ever saw me say that. I for one think they should have played in the title game, but at the same time understand that Oklahoma and USC both had equal arguments toward it, counter the fact that Auburn had already proven the two previous years that they could not beat USC and I think that more than anything stuck in voters minds. They saw Auburn/USC in 2002 and 2003 and each time USC wiped the floor with them. So I think for 2004 when you had Oklahoma sitting there undefeated, people wanted to see that matchup instead. Dont think it had much if anything to do with playing the Citadel.

As for your ranting and raving about Auburn beating Meyer and whatever else. Im so glad that causing the 1 loss to Florida in 2006 brings you so much joy, but fact is, Florida still at the end held up its first of 2 titles in 3 years, so I really could care less how many losses Meyer has to Auburn. Kind of like when Vol fan wants to brag about beating the Florida basketball team in 2006 and 2007. Thats nice, UF still won it all, so who cares?

GeezusDawg

May 27th, 2010
11:26 am

Hawaii v Florida; Georgia v Boise State; Alabama v Fresno St … I guess that when the revenue from un-compelling match-ups falls, these non-AQ teams will cry about “regional preference discrimination”

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
11:28 am

Auburn04…

Really, as a Auburn fan your going to ask about QBs in the NFL or lack there of? Chris Leak I think is going to go on to be a coach some where, while Grossman I think is in Houston. But Im sure the line of great NFL QBs from Auburn is extensive isnt it?

Washwave

May 27th, 2010
11:31 am

The problem with the BCS is that it creates a system where the “have nots” do not have a “fair” chance to close the gap. By branding the big 6 conferences as BCS or AQ, they have so many inherent advantages over the others that the non-AQ school that is able to compete is the huge exception. In addition to the $’s, which serve to perpetuate the inequity because of the massive facility and recruiting budgets, there is the stigma of being non-AQ. How many top recruits say that they want to go to a BCS school? All of them.

What is not fair is having something called Division 1 FBS and having 11 conferences in it, when really only 6 conferences have a realistic chance year in and year out of even getting to the big stage. At least in basketball, every conference qualifies for the NCAA tournament. If you aren’t going to invite them to the party, create another division for the non-AQ conferences and call it what it is.

[...] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Tony Barnhart does a tremendous job of explaining that the BCS was never designed to be “fair.”  A must read, even if you’re a fan of the little [...]

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:39 am

“But Im sure the line of great NFL QBs from Auburn is extensive isnt it?”

Well, considering one is starting right now. Auburn’s NFL greats are usually running backs. They don’t call Auburn running back U for nothing.

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:46 am

Enter your comments here

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:48 am

kgator79

I have tried to post a rebuttal to your comments but for some odd reason it won’t post. Oh well.

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

May 27th, 2010
11:53 am

If fans want a playoff system, they should skip the first home game. It is usually against a ” Cream puff ” , anyway.

Keep America strong-build more submarines.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
11:54 am

One is starting? Uh yeah Jason Campbell is something worth bragging about at the NFL level.

Auburn 04

May 27th, 2010
11:56 am

“One is starting? Uh yeah Jason Campbell is something worth bragging about at the NFL level.”

Oh, so Grossman, Leak AND Weurfal are worth bragging about? LOL

It’s ok ma’am, we all know that Florida players don’t pan out all that well in the NFL. Last great FL player I can remember was Emmit Smith…….

Ted

May 27th, 2010
12:05 pm

Fair? Why can’t states like SC, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky have NFL teams and share the $ that the NFL is splitting between 32 prevledged cities and states? Its about a free market and years of building conferences and teams (brands) and nothing about it will be fair. Is it fair that ND gets more money than any other team? I say let the 6 confernces form their own elite league and shut out any other conference from joining. Only allow bowl games (or playoffs)amoung those conferences. If the MWC, Wac and USA want to form there own league no one will stop them.

Anti-alternative

May 27th, 2010
12:08 pm

Washwave, I see your point, but the gap isn’t created by “branding” 6 of the conferences AQ…those conferences took the action that made the BCS and in return were gauranteed automatic bids. It also just so happens that they are made up of the most established teams backed (for the most part) by athletic associations built over a century by football.

If it looks like a tough game to play your way into it is, but it’s not impossible. Ask South Florida. Wasn’t it only 11 years until they were in an AQ conference? Yes, it takes some politics to get it done, but business is that way. I’m sure if Boise or TCU keeps up a dynasty of a program then it’ll catch one of a couple breaks. One – it could go to the MWC which would then have a great case for an autobid. Two – it could be asked to join the Pac-10. Or Three – it could just go independant, play whomever they wished, go undefeated, play on the big stage, keep the money for themselves, and position themselves as a college football island outside the AQ leagues. I bet if option three worked out for them, they’d get an autobid deal similar to ND. It’s not like they don’t have options.

Anti-alternative

May 27th, 2010
12:12 pm

Why couldn’t all of these schools making noise just go independent? How much more respect would they earn playing tougher schedules (if they chose to) independently like ND? I bet an independent Boise playing a mostly-BCS schedule and winning 11 games gets in a realistic title hunt. I’d even bet an AQ conference would come calling for them after long enough.

gcs

May 27th, 2010
12:19 pm

That is a right purdy chart, Mr. Fishel. However, you combined MWC and WAC into one bar. How about splitting those two up and then try again?
And while you are at it, how about adding a strength of schedule chart?

.