College football is at a historic crossroads. Its leaders currently have the opportunity to move toward the fair and open playoff that everyone wants. Or they can continue to cater to the bowl system and offer a plus-one that would still work within the old framework. Unfortunately, all signs point to the latter direction.
We know that there will be a plus-one or “final four” playoff format. Two semifinals and a final. We know that there are several unresolved questions.
1) Where will the semifinal games take place? On the campuses of higher seeds (unlikely)? At a neutral site (likelier)? Within the existing bowl structure (likeliest)?
2) How will the teams be selected? Top four regardless of conference or automatic berths for conference winners? (This is a tricky one since the power conferences are divided on it.)
3)) How will the revenue be distributed? (This is the billion-dollar question that no one seems to be asking.)
In all likelihood, we will have two semifinal games that work within the existing bowl structure and a final game that is at a neutral site in one of the new gargantuan NFL football stadiums. College football will thus earn revenue from bidding out its final game but nothing for the two lucrative semifinal games that it will just hand to the bowls. No attempts to maximize profits of what will be the most anticipated college football games likely ever. Instead, they’ll let the bowls alone profit off these games. Why? Seriously, WHY?
Keep in mind that these are public institutions, not private businesses, who are opting out of generating greater profits. It may be legal, but it’s certainly unethical, especially considering that the conference commissioners and athletic directors have received gifts from the bowl organizations.
Bowls have been horrible partners – unless you were an athletic director who received free Caribbean cruises or complimentary scotch and cigars on the 19th hole of the Arizona Biltmore. Of course, those were paid with what was college football’s money in the first place.
There isn’t a single bit of financial sense in outsourcing your most valuable product. None. Federal tax filings show that when BCS bowls have hosted the title game, they pocket between $10 million and $12 million in profits – even after all the high salaries and strip club tabs.
Now the commissioners want to give the bowls the semifinals, two games which each should be worth more than the current title game? When you extend it over an eight- or 10-year period, then college administrators will be handing over an estimated $300 million (and likely more) in profits to their already well-greased friends in what essentially is a no-bid contract.
That’s $300 million-plus that should stay with the schools.
Congress should demand answers before college football signs the contracts and once again outsources its most valuable commodity to the bowls….
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