How to divide bigger pie becomes focus of BCS groups

by | Senior College Football Columnist

The Rose Bowl remains a difficult piece in the postseason puzzle. (US Presswire)  
The Rose Bowl remains a difficult piece in the postseason puzzle. (US Presswire)  

The BCS buried the lead.

In the two-page BCS status update document obtained first by USA Today on April 4 that outlined the four proposals for determining the national champion, BCS executive director Bill Hancock saved the best for last.

The final sentence of the 708-word status report said: Revenue Distribution -- The commissioners have appointed a small sub-group to consider the appropriate distribution of revenue and report back to the full group.

Forget what the playoff will look like in 2014 -- a four-team field with semifinals on campus or at neutral sites; or a plus-one model after the bowls. What potentially will determine which format will be used is the revenue distribution.

The distribution of at least $350 million, more than double what the current system earns.

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Not only is it likely one of the most significant factors in determining what playoff model is selected, but it also is easily the most complicated piece of the puzzle.

That's because, while no official decision has been reached, conference commissioners have told that the BCS automatic qualifying status will not exist in 2014. All 11 conferences -- in theory anyway -- will be viewed as "BCS conferences" or whatever they call them.

However, the reality is that the conferences will not receive equal revenue distribution.

In the current system, the BCS bowl revenue is $146.5 million. The six BCS AQ conferences receive $22.3 million per conference and the non-AQ conferences receive $13.2 million if it doesn't qualify for a BCS bowl. Notre Dame receives $6.1 million if it makes a BCS bowl and $1.8 million if it does not.

Estimates on what the new model would earn start as low as $350 million, but could end up substantially higher, sources said. But how would the piles of money be divided?

One source said "market size" will determine how the money will be divided. Another thinks they'll use "historical participation."

Exactly what factors would determine a "market size" model? Certainly it would mean the leagues with the biggest markets that pull the biggest television ratings would earn more, such as the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC.

It's no surprise the Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt and Western Athletic conferences wouldn't fit that description.

The Big East? That's a tough one.

Including the league's non-football members, starting in 2013, the Big East will have 14 conference members located among the top 30 television markets. However, the Big East's vast markets haven't been a selling point to the BCS bowls. In the past eight seasons, the Big East champion has been the last team selected by the BCS bowls six times. The only two times the Big East champion wasn't the last team selected was in 2006 and 2007 when it was the second-to-last team picked ahead of Boise State (ironically a Big East member starting in 2013) and Hawaii.

Another unknown concerning the new playoff system is what happens to the Rose Bowl.

Before next week's BCS meetings in Hollywood, Fla., the Rose Bowl Managing Committee will meet about how college football's future could impact the Rose Bowl. The RBMC consists of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, some Rose Bowl executive members and an athletic director representing each conference.

One of the proposals in the April 4 document was the Four Teams Plus. That model allows the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to play in the Rose Bowl, while two national semifinals also would be held (without the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion). After the three games are played, two teams (no one is sure how) would be selected to advance to the national title game.

Not many individuals are taking that model seriously. "You can guess who proposed that one," a source said.

Another source said the Big Ten proposed that model to appease the Rose Bowl to show them that they were making an effort to keep the game from losing its champions to a playoff. But, the reality is, that's exactly what will happen in a four-team model, whether it's the four highest-ranked teams or four conference champions.

"This says 'we tried,' but why would any other leagues go for that," an industry source said. "The other leagues would have to play ranked teams in the semifinal, while the Pac-12 champ would play 8-4 Illinois. That's a worse deal than we have now.

"The bottom line is that in any four-team [playoff] the Rose Bowl becomes a consolation game."

For the past few weeks, the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick have been assigned to groups of three to discuss specific elements and evaluate various strategies for what college football's playoff will look like beginning in 2014.

The four groups were split up as follows: Chuck Neinas (Big 12), Larry Scott (Pac-12) and Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame); Britton Banowsky (C-USA), Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Craig Thompson (MWC); Karl Benson (WAC), Jon Steinbrecher (MAC) and John Swofford (ACC); and John Marinatto (Big East), Mike Slive (SEC) and Wright Waters (Sun Belt).

The groups were assigned specific proposals that they necessarily might not in favor of so they could get balanced opinions from each group.

"There is a lot of chess being played," said one source regarding the different models and strategies that have been shared publicly and privately.

"There will be some intended consequences [with whatever playoff model is selected] and non-intended consequences."


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