Power conferences likely to receive most of playoff revenue

by | Senior College Basketball Columnist
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Texas A&M's recent success in the Big 12 could enhance the playoff take for Mike Slive's SEC. (Getty Images)  
Texas A&M's recent success in the Big 12 could enhance the playoff take for Mike Slive's SEC. (Getty Images)  

CHICAGO -- When (if?) the new college football playoff format is finalized by the Presidential Oversight Committee in the next few days, weeks or months, potentially the most important element is the one that has been discussed the least: revenue distribution.

Conservative estimates project the new playoff model to be worth $360 million annually -- or double the current total BCS payoff -- and it could fetch as much as $400 million.

With all that booty raining down, the question is how do you divide nearly $400 million among 125 FBS schools? One answer is: not evenly.

But how? One proposal that the BCS commissioners are considering, sources told CBSSports.com, is dividing the revenue based on the league's past performances, specifically Top 25 finishes in the final BCS rankings since 1998, the first year of the BCS.

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The reason for this model, said an industry source, is the commissioners "don't want to go against the foundation of who brings the most [as a conference]. This provides justification for who gets the lion's share of the revenue."

The more successful conference teams would earn their leagues more money. However, the key factor is that the cumulative rankings of the schools would be based on their conference membership in 2014 and not the conferences they were in the season they were ranked.

In other words, the SEC gets credit for Missouri and Texas A&M's past BCS rankings; Big 12 gets credit for TCU and West Virginia; ACC gets credit for Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse; Big Ten gets credit for Nebraska; Pac-12 gets credit for Utah and Colorado and Big East gets credit for Boise State, Houston and UCF. The Mountain West and Conference USA also would get credit for their new members.

Using the final BCS rankings of each season since 1998 -- one of the proposals the commissioners are considering -- CBSSports.com compiled the rankings by conference based on 25 points for a first-place finish, 24 points for second place, through one point for a 25th-place finish each season.

The SEC and the Big Ten rank first and second in total points and number of top-25 teams since 1998. The Big 12 ranks third in total points, followed by the ACC and the Pac-12 while the ACC ranks third in top-25 finishes ahead of the Pac-12 and Big 12.

After the Fab Five (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC), it's a huge drop to the Big East, which ranked sixth in total points and number of top-25 teams.

Here are the cumulative points per conference (based on 2014 membership) compiled by CBSSports.com for the top 25 final BCS rankings since 1998. Each first-place finish is worth 25 points down to one point for a 25th-place finish.

1. SEC 1,054
2. Big Ten 860
3. Big 12 816
4. ACC 673
5. Pac-12 671
6. Big East 240
7. Notre Dame 73
8. C-USA 49
9. MWC 48
10. BYU 45
11. MAC 21
12. Sun Belt 0
(tie) WAC 0

Here are the number of teams per conference (based on 2014 membership) compiled by CBSSports.com in the top 25 final BCS rankings since 1998.

1. SEC 78
2. Big Ten 66
3. ACC 57
4. Big 12 56
5. Pac-12 49
6. Big East 24
7. MWC 6
(tie) BYU 6
9. C-USA 5
(tie) Notre Dame 5
11. MAC 3
12. Sun Belt 0
(tie) WAC 0

It's no secret the Fab Five conferences will get the biggest chunk of the revenue. It's unknown, however, how the remainder will be divided.

The current model gives each of the AQ conferences (SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Big East) about $22.3 million and the remaining non-AQ conferences each receive $2.64 million. Those numbers increase by conference if an AQ conference receives a second BCS bowl bid or a non-AQ conference gets a BCS bowl bid.

But with the AQ and non-AQ distinction going away in 2014, all leagues -- at least in theory -- will all be equal. They obviously won't receive equal payouts, though.

CBSSports.com reported in April, the Knight Commission proposed three radical payout models, based solely on graduation rates and not on-the-field success. Simply put: The higher a school's graduation rate, the more of the $400 million it would receive. Schools with lower than a 60 percent graduation rate would receive nothing.

To sum up the Knight Commission's proposal: it ain't ever happening.

While that's a certainty, there are still several unknowns with the revenue distribution. One unknown isn't whether the Big East will get an equal share as the other AQ conferences -- the Big East won't -- but rather will the Big East get the same share of the other former non-AQ conferences, or somewhere in the middle between the former-AQ and non-AQ leagues?

"It's possible the 'Big Five' get treated in one manner, the Big East in another manner, and the remaining conferences in another manner," a commissioner said.

Another possibility is the commissioners will recommend some sort of floating "units" that conferences or schools would earn, similar to the NCAA men's basketball tournament based on top-25 finishes. The commissioners also are considering awarding each school the same minimum amount (as opposed to the conferences the same amount), which would slightly benefit the conferences with more members.

Almost everyone agrees there are still are many more questions than answers -- including when those questions ultimately will get answered by the Presidential Oversight Committee.

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