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

BREAKING NEWS

May 27th, 2010
8:42 am

“You tell me.”

It’s all about money. Always has been about money. It’s no coincidence that ESPN slobs the knob of Ohio State, Oklahomo, USC and Notre Dame.

It took Alabama beating the snot out of everyone for ESPN to even acknowledge them as a contender. Yet, if Ohio State beat up on Ohio Community Women’s College, ESPN would hail them as the greatest team ever.

Most big money football schools like USC etc are scared of a playoff system because little lowly teams like Boise State, TCU etc would come in and embarrass them. Utah embarrassed Alabama 31-17 a few years ago.

The fair thing to do would be to have a playoff series. Then and only then would a true champion be crowned.

Max Sizemore

May 27th, 2010
8:51 am

The NCAA basketball tournament allows each Div. I member a chance to win. It has nothing to do with “institutional advantages.” I believe that’s called fair. So NCAA basketball is fair and football is not, and that’s OK, Tony? I believe that’s contradictory.

SAKA

May 27th, 2010
8:51 am

Regarding the Mountain West and WAC, I say “so what?” Americans’ idea of “fair” is generally whatever benefits them. Maybe the WAC and Mountain West should remember what existed before the BCS. The major bowls had their contracts with the major conferences, and any open slots were also filled from the major conferences. The WAC and the Mountain West have received a good bit more money from the BCS system than they did before ($0).

To be fair… « Get The Picture

May 27th, 2010
8:59 am

[...] be fair… Jump to Comments Today, Tony Barnhart asks the musical question “Where is it written that the BCS is SUPPOSED to be fair?” [...]

Chris

May 27th, 2010
9:00 am

Take the 6 AQ conferences out of the bowl games and what do you have? Nothing worth watching. Those 6 conferences are responsible for the tradition of college football. Yeah, Boise State’s been good and so has Utah. But the fact of the matter is, those schools don’t have national appeal of any kind, and none of the schools in their conferences do either. If we’re gonna give these conferences an equal share of the pie, may as well give all of their students free health care….it’s the same arguement.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
9:07 am

While Im all for a playoff of some sort. I have a real problem with the government wasting tax payer money on this. I have an even bigger problem with the fact that the Utah representative only took interest in this with congress after his state university was not given an opportunity to play for the national title in 2008, which isnt even what he is debating. His debate is that the schools outside of the big six conferences are not given an equal chance to earn the same money in the BCS, despite the fact that Utah was actually in the BCS that year. In the end the reality is that the SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 10 on a yearly basis will have multiple teams better than the WAC, Sunbelt, MWC conferences ect…champion. Im all for the little guy getting a chance, but Im still one of those who believes Boise State or Utah in a SEC or Big 12 loses 3 or 4 a year.

CalGatorBrotha

May 27th, 2010
9:09 am

Tony, the problem with a playoff of 4 teams will piss off the 5 ranked team so in any equation the team left off a 4, 6, or 8 team playoff will gripe…so the argument will never end. ..

UTalum

May 27th, 2010
9:10 am

I am a physician in Nashville. I have been here for over 10 years and through sweat and toil have built a successful practice. We have a strong referral base because of lots of money and time spent building a strong brand for our practice. I have reaped many rewards because of this. Should a new physician right out of residency be given the same rewards from day one, even though he hasn’t had any role in what the practice has become? Tony’s questions apply in daily life as well.

The WAC getting a piece of the pie just because they win a game here or there is socialism at its finest.

Tomsjeep88

May 27th, 2010
9:12 am

Bowl games are a reward for a team and their school. No way, no how will any bowl committee, from the Rose Bowl to the Pinstripe Bowl, ever allow their bowls to be any sort of “stepping stone” to a bigger and better bowl game. The “plus one” model can work, and work well if the games (Top 4 BCS in the final poll) are simply played the week after the conference championship games (somewhere around Dec 15th). Losers move on to their respective (BCS?) New Year’s bowls and the winners move to a championship game. It satisfies the powers-that-be who don’t want a real “playoff” and would not extend the season past the first week of January, and would satisfy the fans who want a true “championship game.” My two cents.

Bradley G

May 27th, 2010
9:14 am

I would be curious to see how the ratings were generated. What were the ratings when a MWC/WAC team played against each other versus one of those teams playing against one of the Big 6 conference teams? Does Boise State/Hawaii get near the ratings as Boise State/Georgia? I think not.

If Boise State or TCU is playing against a conference foe, those college football fans outside their respective markets don’t care. That’s just the way it is. It ain’t fair, but life ain’t fair folks.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:16 am

If it was fair, UGA would have played in 07 with losses to South Carolina and Tenn or should I say choked.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:25 am

Dos XX, I guess it wasn’t a choke, the refs must have cheated jawja again, or it might of been the Dancing with the stars episode in Jax that year.

Reptiles Rule

May 27th, 2010
9:26 am

Tony, here’s the core problem with ANY playoff system in college football…to some extent, it will be always be based on some kind of poll and some “opinion”. Take for example your 4 team playoff…which four get in?? Why not number 5 or number 6? Who’s to say they are not as good as # 3 or # 4? In another words, there are still going to be ALOT of unhappy people crying foul. Yes, you could go to an 8 team playoff, taking the 6 big conference champions as automatic bids with two “at large” bids but still #7 and #8 will have to be dertermined by a poll… ie an “opinion”. . And someone’s still gonna be mad at #9 and #10 and soon there will be a movement afoot to go to a 16 team format. You see, this is NOT the NFL where you have but 32 teams divided up into 2 conferences and 6 divisions and can have a “true” playoff system but that’s what alot of people have created in their minds could work for college football. Not with numerous conferences and 100+ teams. Won’t. Because some “opinion” will always have to be involved and because of that, someone’s always gonna be left out in the cold….

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:27 am

Tony, did you delete Dos Equis?

Dos Equis

May 27th, 2010
9:28 am

You can’t say choke now or they will delete your comment?

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:29 am

For those concerned about voting; do it the same way as D-2 or basketball; have a committee select the teams involved.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:30 am

Sorry Dos XX that you got deleted, it was funny.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
9:31 am

Bring on the playoffs. That way the Gators have more chances to play for the ring. The way the BCS is set up we’ll get there anyway. Thank you UCLA, you’re the best.

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
9:32 am

Tough call here. I agree that the 6 conferences’ teams did build it, develop it, negotitate it. So is it “fair” that the other 5 that did nothing to build the BCS reap the same benefits as the 6 that did? That would not be fair, either.
Nothing short of a playoff is ever going to resolve this. If you add the MWC and WAC then the other conferences will cry foul.
I say it’s the best we have at the moment until the university presidents change thier outlook about a playoff.
Besides, no one EVER told me life would be fair.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:32 am

back to work; stay thirsty my amigos

Dos Equis

May 27th, 2010
9:32 am

ME too. Got to have a little fun before you die, don’t you?

Kid Ray

May 27th, 2010
9:34 am

The power conferences are the ones creating this money…so why are they required to share it? In a related story, Joes hamburger stand has a “revenue discrimination” lawsuit against McDnalds.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:34 am

One last question Tony that I’ve never heard addressed; Is there anyreason on earth why Notre Dame should get any kind of guarantee just because they are in the top 12 teams ranked. I believe in separation of church and government and also separation of church and football.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
9:36 am

Reptiles Rule….

I think the only way you would ever satisfy everyone is to have a 16 team playoff where every conference champion gets an automatic bid. (I believe there are 11 conferences total) and then 5 at large bids based off of the highest ranked non conference winners. At that point if you didnt get in its because you werent a conference champion or ranked high enough, so your not national title material anyway. For example, if that scenario was in place last year, the first team out would have been BYU who finished #14 in the BCS, but allowing non conference champions Florida, Iowa, Virginia Tech, LSU and Penn State in.

Spelling is FUNdamental

May 27th, 2010
9:36 am

If life was fair, Florida fans would know how to spell “their”.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
9:38 am

The Gators would make the playoffs every year if it was a 16 team field.

Joseph F Foster

May 27th, 2010
9:39 am

NO, spelling is not “fundamental”. It is relatively trivial.

CalGatorBrotha

May 27th, 2010
9:41 am

Tony of course it’s about money, money, money for the top dogs in this game and they will continue to get the lion’s share of the spoils. Do you think that any of these non AQ conference schools are going to fill stadiums in the bigger bowls. Most of the non AQ schools play in 50k or less seat stadiums and that doesnt cut it against the big boys. Why do you think Notre Dame is the only independent school with a arrangement of winning 9 games to secure a spot in the BCS. Money, money, and money. Notre Dame brings in dollars, fans, name brand which the non AQ schools don’t.

JJ MD

May 27th, 2010
9:42 am

Can I just start a phone company today and then complain that I don’t make as much money as AT&T? Can I just start a power company today and then complain that I don’t make as much money as Georgia Power? Can I just start a newspaper in my garage today and then complain that I don’t make as much money as the AJC? Maybe Uncle Obama will just give me the same revenue…it’s only fair.

Frank

May 27th, 2010
9:42 am

Very well written article. It is always nice to read something that isnt blatently slanted in the authors view on a matter, or written in a way that you can read it and choose to disagree but still not be offended.

I must say I have not always felt that way about your articles, I am a Boise State fan and it is in my best interest as a fan that they get a share of the pie. However, I do feel that earning a share of the pie is what is important. Life, and the BCS are certainly not fair and or not ment to be fair. The schools that get most of the money generally have earned it. There are some real free loaders in some of the BCS conferences though.

How about distributing the money on a performance basis rather than on a conference basis? You can bet that if Boise State had the opportunity to join a better conference that they would.. The west coast is limited for power conferences though. I really like what the Mountain West Conference is doing, there really needs to be another good conference for schools on the west coast, I think it will help improve competition in that region. But that is a whole other subject.

I just wanted to say great article, thanks!

Bill Brasky

May 27th, 2010
9:42 am

Tonyu, Have you ever asked yourself why the presidents are so much in favor of the bowls? I can tell you..The bowls treat these guys like royality for a week or more , picking up the tab for basically every expe3nse they incur. Who in their sane mind would want to screw that up. Who would not want to have an all expenses paid vacation in (fill in the blank)…It is all about getting greased..and the ones getting greased the most don’t want to change….Court’s adjourned

Dostoyevskiy

May 27th, 2010
9:43 am

No it’s not fair. There are at least 50 schools that you would have to tell a kid who you are recruiting that “you will never have a chance to win the NC during the four years you are here, even if we win all of our games, and in fact, even if we have the best team in the country.” Now in the NCAA BB tourney, every team that makes the tourney has a chance to win the who thing. Not in FB. So if your school wins the NC, it wasn’t won on the field.

Reptiles Rule

May 27th, 2010
9:45 am

Man, the LAST thing we need to do is to turn this into the NCAA basketball format. Next stop…96 teams. It’s no wonder the CBB ratings during the season are significantly down from a few years ago. Does anybody really care about the regular season and who wins their conference anymore?? If so, only because they then know they are in the tournament. CBB has sadly been reduced largely to three weeks in March and early April….and December and January are soon forgotten. God, please don’t ever let that happen to our magical Saturdays in the fall!!!

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:46 am

Dostoyevskiy, but not everyone gets in the B Ball tourney either. Why should some lousy play in team get in when a last place team from a power conference gets left out?

Black Coffee & Bourbon

May 27th, 2010
9:49 am

The BCS is not supposed to be fair. College football is an odd duck when it comes to NCAA sports in that the conferences, rather than the NCAA proper determine its postseason champion. The 6 BCS conferences represent programs that have the most money, tradition and power. These conferences have worked to build their brand and the payoff has been large television contracts and a seat at the BCS table.

I understand that the teams not in BCS conferences feel they are being treated unfair and ultimately I think there will be some conference shake-up and the MVC will be made a BCS conference once the BE is absorbed disolved by the Big Tenleven and ACC.

Once this happens I expect the BCS conferences will ultimately leave the NCAA to do their own thing. Teams in the Sun Belt, WAC and MAC can then have a playoff to determine the NCAA champion while the big boys play by their own rules.

BREAKING NEWS

May 27th, 2010
9:49 am

“The Gators would make the playoffs every year if it was a 16 team field.”

Doubt that.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
9:50 am

Know it to be fact.

The Most Interesting Man Alive

May 27th, 2010
9:51 am

More often than jawja Mr. Breaking News.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
9:54 am

I can’t remember the last time Florida finished outside the top 15-20 teams in the nation.

sugarpikegang

May 27th, 2010
9:55 am

Worrying about the BCS may be passe in 2010. Sure the MWC should jockey for position (in their best interests). However, with conference consolidation and networks television/information becoming the new revenue generators to come, I would encourage our western cfb counterparts to focus on the basics and get with the 21st Century.

MWC – continue to put a good product on the field, work to improve your conference and see the entrepreneurial realities that the Big10/SEC are emerging upon.

kgator79

May 27th, 2010
9:58 am

Florida last finished outside the top 15-20 in Ron Zook’s last year, 2004.

Sean

May 27th, 2010
9:58 am

Where was the Mountain West & WAC in 2002 when their teams sucked and they were still getting million dollar paydays for doing nothing??

If it wasn’t for the BCS, Boise State would be playing in the Humanitarian Bowl every year without a chance in heck of playing in a New Year’s Day bowl. The BCS has OPENED things up….it’s made Boise State a national name…and, if they beat Virginia Tech, they will have a very LEGIT shot to play for a title this year.

beans

May 27th, 2010
9:59 am

Someone (perhaps you?) wrote about this recently – I think it was in wake of Delaney’s comments – and pointed out that the non equity conferences may feel slighted, but they are making a TON more moolah now than they would have without the existance of the BCS. Not only that, but those conferences and their schools get a lot more recognition now than they did pre-BCS. Their time will come if they’ll let it.

Beast from the East

May 27th, 2010
10:00 am

New Gator Fan,
We finished outside the top 16 in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Let’s be realistic. We are usually in the mix, but certainly have had our share of down years, as well.

New Gator Fan

May 27th, 2010
10:02 am

I guess the rings made me forget those years.

DawginLex

May 27th, 2010
10:03 am

Boise State’s President made a bunch of comments today that are getting a lot of headlines as well. He has somewhat of a beef and him using Butler’s run in basketball as an example is dead on correct.

I would like to see a playoff of 16 teams utilizing the current bowl system and keep the number of bowls overall the same.It can be done and the money can still be huge and all the bowls and conferences could benefit.

It is not socialism. What have the big conferences done that makes them greater than the smaller conferences except be around longer? They play it out in basketball and baseball. What is different about football?

speerio

May 27th, 2010
10:04 am

Tony B. the 6 BCS equity conferences did not have to do much marketing as college football was already a multi-million dollar (semi-pro) sport without any competition on Saturday TV. Tradition and location hasn’t done a lot for Rutgers Football and they have been playing college football from Day 1. Those leagues such as the SEC and Big X+1 succeed because they are able to exclude competitors more so than producing the best student-athelete football programs. Utah started playing football in the same year as Alabama, 1892. Stop trying to defend the Greedy Few and stick up for the principle of open and fair competition. Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Montana, Delaware and many other fine Football Championship Series schools win NCAA Championships through a playoff system.

Lemonade Gravy

May 27th, 2010
10:05 am

Does a bear poop in the woods?

Reptiles Rule

May 27th, 2010
10:06 am

kgator79…but there will STILL be opinion involved with a 16 team playoff with those last five teams in your sysytem. And I would submit to you that there is probably LESS difference between the #15 and #16 vs the #17 and # 18 team in a 16 team format than there would be between #7 and # 8 vs #9 and #10 in a 8 team format. So what’s next?? A 24 team or a 32 team format?? Then what about #33?? You see, as long as a “ranking” or a “poll” or a committee or whatever has to be involved, there can be no true playoff system in the logistical setting with the sheer number of teams and conferences involved in college football.

Gator Mike

May 27th, 2010
10:07 am

The folks in the Mountain West are complaining because they are in that area which is understandable. TV generates the majority of the revenue, and the networks want to televise games which have the most interest in their markets in orders to maintain high dollar sponsors. That is why the SEC landed a great deal with ESPN. For example, the Big Ten is no longer a powerhouse conference these days, but their TV market is enormous because of the population and football tradition in their footprint. The same can be said for the SEC, Big 12, PAC 10, ACC and Big East Conferences. Games such as UF-UGA, BAMA-LSU, Ohio St.-Penn St., USC-UCLA, FSU-Miami, etc. simply genrate more interest on the national level than a Mountain West Conference game. Notre Dame is another example of national interest. ND has a medicre team at best, and they could not win the Mountain West Conference title were they a member; however, they generate national interst for their loyal fans and those of us who love to watch them loose. Thus, they have a sweet deal as an independent. The TV market and the greater number of fans would be in revolt if games such as Ohio St.-Michigan, UF-BAMA, etc. were not televised so a Mountain West Conference Game could be shown in the SEC and Big 10 footprints.
Economics play a huge role in the equation regardless of what idiot politicians (Orin Hatch and company) say.
Go Gators and Go SEC!