Still, the constant churn of conferences isn’t healthy for the sport. No fan wants to be left wondering what league his school will be playing in next year. And the reason schools are so antsy and eager to leave traditional alliances is because they want to make certain they remain eligible for college football’s broken postseason.
The answer, then, is to fix the bowl setup. Doing so, as Yahoo! columnist Dan Wetzel has written, would generate more money. Lots of it.
“College football defies all business logic by outsourcing its most profitable product to third-party bowl games. The Bowl Championship Series not only fails to capitalize on the enormous potential of a multi-week tournament, it sucks hundreds of millions of dollars out of college pockets,” he wrote last month. Under the BCS, a chunk of revenue goes to bowl games.
Those include the Fiesta Bowl, which spent some of its money on “adult entertainment” (a strip club) and $33,000 on a four day birthday party for the bowl’s CEO. The bowls are certainly fun and lucrative for those lucky enough to work for one. But the rest of us would prefer to see a championship tournament to crown a real champion. This would also increase revenue for NCAA schools.
“Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has acknowledged a playoff is worth three-to-four times what the BCS delivers. Based on bowl revenue from 2010-11, that’s about $1 billion. And Delany made his prediction long before the current explosion in live television rights fees,” Wetzel writes. “A single playoff share (earned by each game appearance) could easily top $30 million per game, each round adding to the total only without all crippling costs of attending a bowl. Successful conferences could make hundreds of millions. Everyone could get some big money.”
It’s too late to go back to the conference structure that existed in the 1980s. As Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim explained, two things have driven the consolidations: “Money and football.” Ironically the Big East, the conference that made Boeheim a champion, was launched to maximize basketball revenue for a bunch of northeastern schools and is now being destroyed in favor of football revenues.
Still, it’s never too late to unleash the power of the free market. Doing so would bring more money, and eventually more stability, to college sports.