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College Football Insider

Big East stands to lose most in new playoff revenue format

As numbers from the playoff revenue distribution in 2014-15 begin to trickle out, it's becoming clear the Big East has much to win -- or lose -- in the new model.

It all depends on whether it can convince the other four small conferences it deserves a bigger share than them, a point to which the conference has been vocal in recent negotiations, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. The Big East has had the highest-ranked team among the five conferences several times in the last decade, but not this year: Northern Illinois from the MAC (No. 15 in the BCS) holds that honor.

The other conferences might not be willing to give the Big East, which needs some good news after a tumultuous last few months, exactly what it wants.

The Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt (known as the smaller conferences or "Group of Five") will split roughly 25 percent of the revenue pot, according to a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations. This is in line with what a source told CBS Sports last month about the increased pot for smaller conferences.

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The five smaller conferences have not finalized plans to split that percentage.

The rest goes to the power conferences, and ESPN reported the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC will earn an average of at least $91 million annually including contract bowls.

That leaves the "Group of Five" with an average split if $17.25 million, less than the $20-plus-million the Big East got annually as part of the BCS.

In the playoff system, there's one access bowl spot -- and inevitably a sweeter pot -- for the best team among the Group of Five. No. 21 Louisville, the Big East's best team, ranked six positions lower than NIU in the most recent BCS rankings.

In the current BCS, the non-automatic qualifiers share base payouts, and extra revenues are rewarded based on conference rankings. This has been a starting point in playoff revenue negotiations that haven't progressed beyond broad strokes among the Group of Five.

From realignment defections to an uncertain television revenue future to its basketball schools discussing a break-off from the conference, the Big East could use a win.

So could core members such as UConn, USF and Cincinnati, who have plotted ways to join a bigger conference in recent months.

But UConn remains optimistic, at least publicly, that the Big East can produce.

"Commissioner [Mike Aresco] is doing a great job putting us in a position of power," UConn athletics director Warde Manuel said last week in New York while attending a IMG conference.


Jeremy Fowler is a national college football insider with CBSSports.com. Fowler joined CBS in 2012 after covering the Minnesota Vikings for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for two seasons and covering the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel for two years. Fowler is also a contributor to the CBS Sports Network.
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