Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 5:56 pm

Bill Hancock: Fiesta Bowl could lose BCS status

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In the wake of the Fiesta Bowl's investigative report released today -- and its immediate firing of CEO John Junker thereafter -- there's bound to be mountains of scrutiny on the Fiesta Bowl going forward. Today, BCS chairman Bill Hancock announced that the BCS would consider stripping the Fiesta Bowl of its BCS status.

"The BCS group takes this matter very seriously and will consider whether they keep a BCS bowl game, and we will consider other appropriate sanctions," Hancock told the Arizona Republic. "If the bowl does remain a BCS bowl its handling of thing [sic] will be closely monitored going forward."

There's no timetable for these sanctions, nor any indication that the BCS is actively pursuing that level of punishment as yet, but the fact that it's even on the table should be terrifying for Fiesta Bowl officials. This isn't an idle threat, either; George Schroeder of the Register-Guard is reporting that the BCS will establish a task force and is asking the Fiesta Bowl to demonstrate why it should remain a BCS bowl .

The obvious beneficiary of this uncertainty is the Cotton Bowl, which is currently located in Jerry Jones ' otherworldly Cowboys Stadium and has been looking to re-establish its former glory. A BCS bid would be enough to make that happen. The only major barrier to that bid, if the Fiesta Bowl does indeed have its bid stripped, is television; the Cotton Bowl is currently televised by Fox, while the BCS has a contract with ESPN . That can likely be negotiated away, though.

There's also the issue of what would happen to the Cotton Bowl Classic in its current state -- as in the January 7 game pitting the Big 12 No. 2 and the SEC's No. 3, No. 4 or or No. 5 against each other -- but that's about 12 steps down the line, and we're still waiting for step two.

Posted on: March 14, 2011 12:10 pm

The Big 12 bails out Oklahoma

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Over the last couple of weeks we've learned about the financial windfall that a trip to a BCS bowl game can be for a school. Just take a look at schools like UConn, who was lucky enough to lose $1.8 million on a trip to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl. Just to prove that such treasures weren't limited to smaller schools from the Big East, both Auburn and Oregon -- the two teams playing in the biggest game of the season and for a national title -- returned home from their trips to Glendale with less money in their pockets as well.

Just further proof of what a wonderful system the BCS is.

Of course, not every school came home from a BCS berth poorer. No, there's Oklahoma, who faced UConn in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners returned to Norman with money in their pockets, but only because the Big 12 was willing to absorb their losses.

Thanks to the Big 12's policy of absorbing much of a school's unsold tickets, Oklahoma only had to eat $337,080 worth of tickets. The conference took on 10,402 unsold tickets, eating $1,884,250. Which means that at the end of the day, Oklahoma returned home with a whopping $9,350 profit

What a wonderful system the BCS has put together for everybody!

Seriously, think of the BCS this way. With March Madness in full effect right now, a lot of you are no doubt joining bracket pools. Well, if the BCS was running the bracket pool, it would work like this.

Say 120 people entered the pool, paying $10 each. That would bring the total prize pool to $1,200. If you had the best bracket and won the pool, the BCS would then demand you pay them another $1,200, while giving everybody else their $10 back. Does that sound like the kind of pool you want to join?
Posted on: March 4, 2011 1:12 pm

Auburn and Oregon lost money with BCS trip

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Earlier this week we wrote about the $1.8 million that UConn lost with its trip to the Fiesta Bowl. The largest portion of UConn's loss came from the number of tickets the school wasn't able to sell. Of course, UConn only lost money because it's a smaller school without a great football tradition, and just didn't have the same number of fans available to buy up tickets.  Surely a larger school wouldn't have such a problem with the BCS system, right?

Wrong. Not even Auburn and Oregon, the two teams playing for a national championship, could escape their postseason trips with a profit.

According to the Birmingham News, Auburn returned home from Glendale short over $600,000, while Oregon lost $261,132. Combined, the two schools ended up paying $875,238, with the biggest culprit once again being ticket sales. Auburn had to eat $781,825 in tickets, while Oregon took a $555,575 hit.

Granted, I'm pretty sure if you told Auburn it could win a national championship every year for $600,000 -- insert Cam Newton joke here -- it would take the deal in a heartbeat. Besides, the odds are that Auburn will make that money back through the sale of merchandise related to its BCS title. That being said, the fact that even the teams playing in the biggest college football game of the year are losing money to do so tells you an awful lot about the BCS system.

Sure, the BCS is around to help both the schools and the student-athletes. Just as long as you replace "schools and student-athletes" with "BCS" anyway.
Posted on: March 2, 2011 3:15 pm

The Fiesta Bowl cost UConn $1.8 million

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It's a good thing that UConn and booster Robert Burton were able to hug things out, because the last thing the school needs right now is to have to refund a $3 million donation. You see, according to a story in the school's newspaper, The Daily Campus, the Huskies trip to the Fiesta Bowl was pretty costly. Not only did it cost them a head coach, as Randy Edsall used the rise in profile to capture his "dream job" at Maryland, but it turns out that the trip to Arizona cost the school $1.8 million.

And that's including the money the school got from the BCS.
The UConn athletic department lost nearly $1.8 million at the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, according to bowl documents obtained by The Daily Campus.
The university incurred total expenses of $4,280,998 at the Fiesta Bowl while only receiving a payout of $2,523,200 from the Big East.
By far the largest expense the university incurred came from absorbed ticket sales. The university sold only 2,771 out of an allotment of 17,500 tickets, resulting in the university absorbing 14,729 tickets worth $2,924,385.
The official figure of 2,771 tickets sold is substantially lower than the previously reported amount of 4,600 tickets sold.
The school has not commented on the amount it spent for the game, though the paper did get its hands on a survey the Fiesta Bowl gave to the school. UConn responded to questions about ticket prices and ticket commitments with a "neutral" to both. Though UConn did leave this in the comments section.

"We recognize the total ticket commitment associated with this BCS bowl game, but selling 17,500 tickets is a challenge for a school from the east whose fans incur significant travel expenses."

Seeing as how the school was stuck with 14,729 tickets, that does seem to be quite the challenge.

Here's a breakdown on what the school spent for its trip to Glendale.
  • Travel - $685,195
  • Food and lodging - $460,941
  • Entertainment, promotion, etc - $210,477
Those three things alone total $1,356,613.

But the current bowl system works both for the students, and for the schools. Don't forget that, kids.
Posted on: February 26, 2011 2:03 am

Rarity: West Virginia turns a non-BCS bowl profit

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's not exactly news that the bowl system is not set up with the invited teams' best financial interests in mind. Every year, there are numerous stories from the teams invited to minor bowls about how the athletic department actually lost money (or, at the very least, made a few thousand dollars), and the story is so commonplace that it doesn't make national headlines.

In fact, the West Virginia Mountaineers recently announced that the program made a $144,750 profit on its trip to the Champs Sports Bowl back in December. And as non-BCS bowls are concerned, in actuality, that level of profit is actually pretty solid.

And yet, at the same time, the question has to be asked: how in the world does under $150,000 qualify as an unusually positive outcome for a bowl invitation? The Charleston Gazette wondered exactly that, and it wasn't exactly impressed with the answers:

Considering the current bowl setup, West Virginia officials did well. They were thrilled.

"The interesting thing," said WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons, "is our ticket sales didn't meet what we've had in the past, but we still turned a profit."

It's a point of pride, as it should be. According to [the book Death to the BCS], "nearly 60 percent of schools spend more money to participate in bowls than the games offer in payouts."

Consider the situation. WVU's athletic department funded this expensive football team. It took that team to another city to make money for that city and ESPN; it entertained the nation; and it walked away with $144,750. There are incentive bonuses in coach Dana Holgorsen's new contract that pay more.

But there was also the expense of unsold or, as Parsons said is more correctly, "absorbed" tickets.

The bowl cartel, in this instance, persuaded the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences to agree that their representatives would be "responsible for" 12,500 tickets each. Parsons said his school sold but 4,700 tickets. It had to buy around 500 tickets for the band. (You read correctly. Not only do the schools' bands provide halftime entertainment, they have to pay to do so.) Schools are allowed to, and expected to, provide tickets for players' families. Parsons said that accounted for over 800 tickets to the Champs bowl. (Odd to me for 85 scholarship players, but ... ) He said 200-400 tickets are for the department's staff.

I suspect the reason the bowls are allowed to continue offloading the risk of running a bowl onto the participants is that going to a bowl is a near-universal bonus for a football team. And that's not from a prestige or financial perspective; donors barely care about minor bowls and as the aforementioned book pointed out, most schools lose money by going to bowl games. No, the primary benefit is one codified by the NCAA, which states that teams with bowl bids are allowed several extra weeks of practice in preparation for the final game.

Such a rule makes sense, of course; a 4-8 team has no immediate athletic task in front of it in the middle of December, after all. But it's not as if there's no incentive to keep throwing its kids out into full-contact practice without an opponent to prepare for; all time a coach can get organizing practice helps his team improve, regardless of when in the year the practices happen.

If non-bowl teams were allowed the same practice time as bowl teams, then, it would remove one specific and unfair incentive for teams to accept bowl bids and allow the teams to evaluate whether going to a bowl game or not is in the athletic department's best financial interests. In these tough economic times, it's only fair to afford schools that opportunity without what amounts to an institutional mandate that the teams accept the bowl bid, is it not? Thus, we totally expect the NCAA to reverse course, rule in favor of its schools instead of the bowls and their sponsors, and decide that member teams will not be coerced into losing money by agreeing to ticket guarantees just to attend a bowl game. That's who the NCAA works for, right? The member schools?


Posted on: February 17, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 11:35 pm

Mark Cuban's quest for a playoff continues

Posted by Tom Fornelli

In December Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban let it be known that he wanted to help implement a playoff system in college football, and it turns out that these were not just empty words. Since announcing his intentions last December, Cuban has been taking steps to make his vision a reality, including starting a new company with the sole purpose of bringing a playoff to the college game.
The billionaire entrepreneur has formed a limited liability company called Radical Football “to impact college football so that the last two teams playing are the best two teams,” Cuban said in an e-mail.
Radical Football was registered in Texas on Dec. 28 and already has at least one person working for it:Brett Morris, 40, a Los Angeles-based digital media consultant. Morris previously served as president of a national marketing agency focused on sporting goods and has worked in the Notre Dame athletics department as promotions coordinator.
When asked why he felt the need to start an LLC to get this done, Cuban said "because that is what the lawyers told us we should do. I pay, I listen."

Essentially, what Radical Football is doing is figuring out a way to create a playoff system that would appeal to both the fans, and to the schools. There have been contests amongst business students at schools all over the world as they attempt to create such a system. For instance, the winning team from a group of students at Oxford will be meeting with Cuban to discuss their ideas later this year.

The list of schools being used in the company's research include USC, Notre Dame, Texas, San Diego State, Florida, Georgetown, Duke, UCLA and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Of course, coming up with a good idea will only be half the battle. Finding a way to convince the powers that be in college football to adopt the playoff system will be the biggest challenge.

Even if Cuban's company can come up with a great idea that makes more money for everybody, there's no guarantee that the BCS or NCAA will listen. After all, they've been presented with plenty of ideas in the past, but don't seem all that interested in change. For the most part they say their concern isn't as much making more money as it is preserving the tradition of the bowl games and the importance of the regular season.
Posted on: January 28, 2011 1:45 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2011 2:49 pm

Thompson tells bottom of MWC to shape up

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It was just yesterday that UNLV's reported upcoming stadium announcement gave us an excuse to look at the Runnin' Rebels' sorry 2010 season, one that finished at 2-11 with zero victories that didn't come at home against Wyoming or New Mexico, Vegas's partners in mediocrity at the bottom of the Mountain West standings. Between the three of them, the Rebels, Cowboys, and Lobos combined to win just one game against the rest of the conference, Wyoming's season-ending blowout of Colorado State, a team that itself won just one game against teams that weren't MWC bottom-feeders.

All together, the bottom four teams in the Mountain West went a staggering 2-34 against all other FBS competititon, the only victories Wyoming's five-point win at Toledo and Colorado State's two-point escape against Idaho.

So it's no surprise that as his conference scrapes and claws for a BCS automatic bid, with every game its members play either helping or hurting its argument, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson isn't real pleased with how his bottom three teams are performing. He said as much in an interview yesterday with ESPN's Andrea Adelson , where few words were minced (emphasis added):
It’s never been an issue at the top. We’ve been in the Top 10. We’ve played in BCS games, but I read a recent Q&A with John Swofford of the ACC. Their strength is 12. I am not badmouthing any of our teams, but we need to have our six, seventh and eighth finishing teams have better seasons, period.
Well, no offense Commish, but that seems like you kind of are badmouthing those sixth, seventh, and eighth teams (i.e. CSU, UNLV, and Wyoming). (Why the No. 9 Lobos are spared, we're not sure, unless Thompson has joined the rest of the country on simply giving up on the Mike Locksley's train wreck of a program.)

But that's fine; their 2010 efforts deserve some badmouthing, especially when -- as Thompson's Q&A makes clear -- they're such a major stumbling block to a BCS bid that for now looks just slightly out of reach. The MWC needs to come in at sixth or better in the BCS polls and the BCS computer rankings to qualify for the bid, and in the 2008-2011 evaluation period, Thompson says they've hit that bar in the polls but don't have the computer juice (finishing seventh). Where the 2010-2013 period is concerned, they've cleared it in 2010, but just barely--and how much better will things get without Utah, BYU or TCU?

Without the necessary rankings, the MWC would have to apply for a waiver from the current BCS conferences, and though Thompson doesn't dismiss the possibility the guess here is that such a waiver will be granted when pigs rule the skies. The league's best bet is to put together a smashing 2011 that puts them in the top six for 2008-11, and they simply can't do that if the bottom four teams can't pull some tiny measure of their weight.
Posted on: January 19, 2011 5:51 pm

MWC may move Frogs vs. Broncos to Boise

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

One of the unfortunate end results of TCU's jump to the Big East just as Boise State arrives in the Mountain West is that what ought to be the biggest, best rivalry in all of college football mid-majordom will last for just one season: this fall's, when the Broncos are scheduled to travel to Fort Worth for a rematch of the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.

But those travel plans could change, according to this report from the Idaho Statesman's Chadd Cripe , in which MWC commissioner Craig Thompson acknowledges the league is considering changing the venue for the one-and-only conference meeting between the Frogs and Broncos to Boise. The decision will be made by a vote of MWC presidents--a vote from which TCU, by virtue of their Big East defection, will be forced to abstain.

But why bother with such major alterations to the league's slate -- one of Boise's current home dates would have to become a road game to accommodate the change -- at such a relatively late date? You guessed it: your favorite scapegoat and mine, the BCS:
Moving the game to Boise would make sense for the future of the Mountain West. As the league chases an automatic bid for the Bowl Championship Series, it gets to count results from Boise State and TCU for the evaluation period that ends in 2011 (2008-11). But for the next period, which runs from 2010 to 2013, the Mountain West gets Boise State’s results and TCU’s results carry over to the Big East. The Mountain West and Big East could be competing with each other for BCS positioning in that cycle.
No, offering TCU this kind of a kick in the pants as they head out the MWC door wouldn't be particularly sporting. But the Frogs' choice to bolt the conference just as it geared up for its big push for a BCS automatic bid wasn't too gentlemanly, either. When (speaking in the long term) the MWC's very survival could be riding on joining the BCS boys' club, they can't afford to gain every possible advantage they can.

It's not nice. But it's the right decision. In the brave new world of conference expansion, realpolitik is the only guideline that matters. Now, if the Broncos will just do their new conference home the favor of winning ...


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com