Group of Five league schools could see $1M-per-year revenue cap

Non-BCS commissioners are in discussions to cap per-conference base revenue at $12 million per year in the playoff era, multiple sources have told

The so-called Group of Five -- MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt -- continues to finalize the distribution of their annual $86.5 million slice of the playoff pie. reported the details of the split in January.

What's new is the $12 million base that essentially caps per-school distribution at $1 million per year. Any Group of Five conference with fewer than 12 members would get only $1 million per school. (10 schools = $10 million, 11 schools = $11 million, etc.)

However, no Group of Five conference is expected to be at fewer than 12 members when the leagues are fully realigned in 2015. The playoff era begins in 2014.

Group of 5 members in 2015
Conference Schools
Conference USA 14
Mid-American 13
American Athletic 12
Mountain West 12
Sun Belt 12

The idea, essentially, is to get better, not necessarily bigger. The conference with the team that snags the playoff bowl spot reserved for the No. 1 Group of Five school could max out at $25 million to $26 million in any given year.

The power conferences already have decided their revenue distribution with each of those five conferences earning an approximate base of $90 million per year. Group of Five conferences would earn an average of approximately $17.3 million per year beginning in 2014 when the playoff era starts.

Those Group of Five commissioners hope to have their revenue split decided in the next 30-60 days.

Conference USA, with 14 members, would split the same $12 million as the Sun Belt, Mountain West and AAC, each with 12 members by 2015. (The MAC is at 13 members.) Two sources said part of the decision was based on conference realignment. The equal split, in theory, deters conferences from raiding each other because that distribution number isn't going to grow with more teams.

One person close to the process said, "The recommendation is to cap it so people won't think, 'Let's keep adding people and we'll keep picking up dollars.'"

Also, the cap makes it more unlikely that mass FCS schools (previously Division I-AA) move up to FBS (previously Division I-A). The total number of teams in the Group of Five -- 63 in 2015 -- likely won't fluctuate much because of the revenue limitations.

In fact, virtually the only way more FCS teams could move up is if BCS leagues poach downward to the Group of Five. Even then, FCS entry to the Group of Five would be a trickle because of the likelihood of the number remaining at 63. A further Big Ten raid could theoretically start the realignment merry-go-round that could reach all the way to the Group of Five.

The Sun Belt has added FCS members Georgia Southern and Appalachian State beginning in 2014. However, those schools won't qualify for the Group of Five revenue split until 2015 because of NCAA transitional requirements for FBS. (Liberty and James Madison have been mentioned as possible Sun Belt members in the future.)

Conference USA is in the process of adding Old Dominion in 2014 and Charlotte in 2015 from FCS.

If any current FCS program does not declare its intention to move up to FBS by June 1, it could not gain full FBS membership until 2016, according to a source.

As mentioned, details have yet to be finalized. However, here are the approximate numbers and how Group of Five revenue distribution would work:

 Pool A of the Group of Five distribution includes $60 million ($12 million multiplied by five conferences.)

 Pool B will be divided based on a ranking system of the five conferences. reported in January that the number to be split would be $20 million. The highest ranked conference will get $7 million. The lowest ranked conference would get an extra $1.5 million. That $20 million figure likely will grow, according to a source, because the $86.5 million is a four-year rolling average. Revenue is expected to escalate in the future.

 That would leave approximately $6 million left over for Pool C. Whatever that number ends up being, it will stay fixed over the four-year period and accounts for the amount earned by the Group of Five participant in a playoff bowl. The highest ranked team from those 63 schools is guaranteed a spot in one of the six playoff bowls.

"What you end up [with] is a single bucket of money that you end up dividing to three different pools," a source said.

If a Group of Five school finishes in the top four, it will participate in the four-team national playoff. Teams get a reported $6 million for participating in a national semifinal, nothing for playing in the championship game.

A Group of Five conference that finishes ranked No. 1 among the five and becomes the playoff bowl participant -- but not in the top four -- could earn the $25 million to $26 million this way:

 $12 million in base pay
 $7 million for finishing No. 1 in conference rankings
Approximately $6 million for playing in playoff bowl

The Mountain West will split that playoff bowl money 50-50 between the conference champ and other conference members if an MWC school qualifies, reported in January.

The new playoff is reportedly worth an average of $500 million per year.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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