The Real Economic Reason for NCAA Tournament Expansion: Avoiding a Pay Cut

Posted: April 1, 2010 in Big East, Big Ten, College Basketball, Illinois Fighting Illini, Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

Let me preface this blog post by saying that I personally loathe the idea of the NCAA Tournament expanding to 96 teams.  I believe that it will ruin the pace of the event and render an already devalued 4 months of the regular season into a pure seeding exercise like the NBA or NHL.  When NCAA Tournament expansion has been suggested before, I quickly put it down as a short-sighted CYA measure for coaches.  Uber commenters Richard and Adam have provided some good points in support of NCAA Tournament expansion, but it still makes me want to vomit at an emotional level.  I’d rather have Hue Hollins officiate my pickup basketball games or watch the final scene in LOST consist of Jack, Locke, Kate and Sawyer sitting in a diner with Journey playing in the background.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who has been an outspoken critic of NCAA Tournament expansion, stated yesterday that a super-sized tournament in the future was “probable.”  The NCAA followed that up with confirmation today that it felt that a 96-team tournament would be the “best fit” for the event and then proceeded to outline a clusterfuck proposed schedule with the first round still starting on Thursday but the third round would be played on the following Tuesday and Wednesday.  Exactly why the first round wouldn’t start on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday and then keep the same scheduling for the rest of the tournament as it is today is apparently beyond my pay grade.  There is only one possible explanation as to how a group of presumably well-educated people could come up with this completely illogical scheduling format: the chronic.

The common perception and what I had long thought is that this is purely a money grab by the NCAA, which can’t wait to fold the ho-hum NIT (which my Illini failed to win this year) that it now owns into a new first round of the NCAA Tournament that will draw a lot more revenue.  Certainly, I can appreciate the potential financial aspect of an expanded tournament.  Most of the readers of this blog know that I’m a “follow the money” type of guy almost to a fault when looking at sports decisions.  Still, I was perplexed by how the NCAA seemed to be jumping at the chance to risk killing the proverbial golden goose with such a drastic and almost uniformly unpopular change.  There just seemed to be no good reason for it other than another network like ESPN coming in with an offer to the NCAA that was over-the-top to the point where the organization would whore itself.  Then, as I was eating an Al’s Italian Beef sandwich (which you should always get dipped) at lunch today and perusing a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times that was left on the table, I came across the following quotes from a prominent college basketball voice that finally illuminated a legitimate and justifiable financial reason (other than just trying to make more for the sake of making more) why the NCAA would be doing this:

On the proposed expansion of the tournament: ”The expansion has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of basketball. It has to do with the economics of the NCAA and its broadcast partner CBS. Because this multiyear contract was backloaded at the end, CBS is looking at losing probably a billion dollars during the remaining years [2010-13] of the contract.

”Surprisingly, the way the contract was written, the ‘out’ for that last three years belongs to the NCAA, not CBS. I can assure you if it was CBS’ ‘out,’ they’d be long gone. The reason it was the NCAA’s ‘out’ was because everyone assumed the rights fees would continue to increase. So the NCAA said, ‘OK, we’ll make it a long-term deal but in 2010′ — which seemed like 100 years from when the deal was signed — ‘we want the right to opt out and see what the financial landscape is like.’

”Now they’re finding out that what CBS is paying this year and will continue to pay through 2013 is far more than any other suitor would pay. The only way the network can possibly offset those losses is to have more inventory to sell. So the expansion of the tournament would allow the rights-holder to cut down on the losses.”

On ESPN taking over the tournament: ”They’re the one guy who wouldn’t have to be covered by all of [the conventional network revenues] because of the monthly [cable-share] charge they get from viewers. Obviously, it would be an enormously prestigious property for ESPN to hold. But they have no reason to take CBS off the hook financially.”

On the NCAA and future rights fees: ”The basketball championship generates over 90 percent of the total gross revenue of the NCAA, which has 86 other championships to fund. If they were to take $300 million less for the men’s tournament, how would they afford to pay for those other championships and maintain the reimbursements back to the schools that participate? That’s why tournament expansion is being discussed. This has nothing to do with the betterment of the event.”

Those quotes came from an interview with former CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer.  Now, I personally think that Packer is a first-ballot member of the Douchebag Sportscaster Hall of Fame, but also believe that he’s a straight-shooter and on point here.  It suddenly all made sense to me.  The NCAA isn’t really expanding the tournament in order to make more money.  Instead, the NCAA is expanding the tournament because it’s the only way that it can continue to make the same amount of money that it’s making now.  This is all about avoiding a reduction in TV rights fees in the next round of contracts if the NCAA maintains the current 65-team format.  Other news stories have noted that the current NCAA/CBS deal is backloaded where there are escalating payments starting this year through 2014.  It was also believed from the very beginning of the current contract in 1999 that CBS had wildly overpaid for the rights to the NCAA Tournament.  No one can be surprised that CBS is losing a lot of money on the NCAA Tournament, as well.  Almost all sporting events on over-the-air networks, even the highest-rated ones such as NFL games, are “loss leaders” where the networks lose money on the games themselves but use them as vehicles to promote other more profitable shows.  That’s a huge reason why sports programming continues to move en masse to cable networks like ESPN since they are able to take advantage of the dual revenue stream of cable subscriber fees on top of traditional advertising (as Packer noted in his interview).

So, I’m buying what Packer is arguing: the NCAA knows that CBS is paying way over market price for the tournament and losing a lot of money, meaning that expansion is necessary in order to simply maintain the level of revenue that the NCAA receives now.  Such revenue is critical since it funds virtually everything else that the NCAA does.  If the NCAA could come out and say that to the public, then I think that sports fans might at least have a better understanding of the situation and not believe that it’s completely about greed.  Of course, the NCAA can’t do that because it would compound the very problem that it’s trying to avoid – the last thing that it would want to do is admit that CBS is overpaying for the tournament since that would guarantee that no one else would ever pay anything close to that level in the next contract cycle.

I still don’t like it, but if the NCAA Tournament expands, at least I’ll understand why it had to happen.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)

(Image from al.com)

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Comments
  1. Madison Hawk says:

    The flaw in this argument is that the NCAA has the option of continuing with the existing agreement and then going to the open market in three years, when presumably the financial landscape will be better. The base case scenario that I heard is that the NCAA basketball tournament will expand to 96 teams in 2014, when the current CBS contract expires, at which point the NCAA will expand to maximize revenue (whether it be to maintain as you indicate or increase).

    The bottom line is that the NCAA will likely expand to 96 teams to maximize revenue, but they will only opt out of the CBS agreement and expand next year if the NCAA can make more money next year by doing so rather than staying with the current CBS agreement.

    • @Madison Hawk – I agree with that – the NCAA wouldn’t opt out of the CBS agreement this year unless it can garner an increase. It does make sense, though, that the NCAA is concerned that the current 65-team format might experience a decrease in rights fees if left as-is even in the rosiest of projections 3 years from now. Maybe the sense of urgency is to establish a virtual price floor for the 96-team tournament as being at least a bump up from the current contract as opposed to risking having a rights decrease even with that expanded tournament 3 years from now. Packer described an expanded tournament as “cutting the losses” for CBS as opposed to actually getting it into the black (which would likely be the case for any over-the-air network).

      • Justin says:

        Huge news dropped by Tony Barnhart. Barnhart is one of the most well-connected college media guys out there.

        In his column today, he suggests the Big 10 is looking at 3 options.

        1) Stay at 11

        2) Add ND –

        3) Add ND, Uconn, Rutgers, Cuse and Pitt

        He says there are no plans for 14 team. Its either 12 teams or 16, and that this is the buzz out of Indianapolis.

        Here is the link

        http://blogs.ajc.com/barnhart-college-football/2010/04/05/what-happens-if-the-big-ten-goes-to-16-teams/?cxntfid=blogs_barnhart_college_football

        • Richard says:

          Number 3 is just his speculation. It’s possible, though I’d prefer ND, Maryland, BC, Rutgers, & ‘Cuse.

          If not BC, then Pitt.

          • @Richard – I’m not convinced of this 16-school chatter, but if we’re going to lock up the Northeast, then that would be my suggestion for a 5-school combo, as well.

          • Justin says:

            You need Connecticut with Syracuse to lock up the NYC market for basketball.

            Uconn-Syracuse has been the Big East’s signature basketball game for the last 5 or 10 years, and they are consistenly rated the two biggest bball draws in NYC.

            Further, the Uconn’s women bball team is sort of a national draw — could potentially get women to watch the Big 10 network.

          • @Justin – In terms of priority, I think that UCONN would be lower on the list. Would UCONN help in NYC? Sure. However, if the Big Ten determines that a certain combo (i.e. ND, PSU, Syracuse and/or Rutgers) is enough to deliver the NYC market for the BTN, then there’s no need to add anyone else in the area and the conference would be better served either adding a new market (i.e. Boston with BC, DC with Maryland) or another national football name (i.e. Nebraska). It would be like the SEC adding on Florida State and/or Miami. While that would lock up the state of Florida in its entirety, is that necessary for the SEC when it already has the most popular school in that market in UF? Or, in the Big Ten’s case, Penn State is strong enough in the Pittsburgh market that Pitt doesn’t really bring in new households.

            IF the Big Ten were to go up to 16 schools (and I’m VERY skeptical of that happening in this round of expansion), then I believe that ND, Rutgers and Syracuse are the closest things to locks in that scenario. The other 2 schools are the ones that are up in the air – BC and Maryland would make the most sense for a pure East Coast play, while Nebraska would be a very nice national play on the western end of the conference.

          • Pat says:

            Sports writer in Sunday’s Boston Globe says “no B10″ for Boston College. Article is mostly about the search for a new basketball coach.

            BC officials have said the answer to any Big Ten inquiry would be, “NO, NO, NO.’’ But the Big Ten could take a bite out of New England and New York by grabbing Rutgers, Syracuse, and Connecticut, as well as Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, which would give the Big Ten network coverage from New England through the Midwest and, if Notre Dame were included, across the nation.
            http://www.boston.com/sports/colleges/mens_basketball/articles/2010/04/04/bc_spinning_its_webs_but_wont_snag_spider/?page=full

          • greg says:

            Think like a university president. UConn’s endowment is a quarter of the worst in the Big Ten. Their research is low. They come from a low-population state. They’ve been D-I in football for less than a decade (I think).

            The ONLY reason they are considered attractive is they are currently good at hoops. In 5 years, they could be a bad hoops team with absolutely NOTHING else to offer.

            Texas has been looking to leverage its sports into upgrading its academic profile. I think they are still in play. If they want to join another conference to increase their academic profile, the Big Ten is the best way to go. PAC-10 does have the highly-rated schools, but also has some no-so-great.

        • m (Ag) says:

          He’s stating they are definitely looking at 16 teams, but that doesn’t mean they’re only looking East.

          “There is pretty serious speculation that The Big Ten would look to the Big East in its big master plan. Now I don’t know which teams are involved, but Just for fun, let’s say the Big Ten asks Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut and Rutgers to join.”

          It seems to me that Barnhart is ignoring the possibility of teams from the West being considered, not that he has any particular inside information on which teams are being considered.

          The most interesting thing in this article is that 14 is apparently not an option at all.

          • Playoffs Now! says:

            Yes, even with an eastern blitzkrieg to 16, the B10+ would likely add one western school to make easy and natural divisions. Such as taking ND, Rut, Syr, and UConn to join MSU, Mich, OSU, and PSU, while adding either MO or NE to MN, IA, WI, NW, IL, PU, and IU.

            Unless ND, Rut, and PSU are enough to guarantee a satisfactory cable deal in NYC, Pitt probably gets frozen out. At 16 Rut is a given and there are too many other compelling $ arguments for MD (strong academics and DC/Balt markets) or UConn (weaker in sports and academics but the state school in a NYC triad state) or Syr (private, low research, but NYC pull) or BC (private, low research, but Boston market, excellent undergrad reputation, and Boston is a hub of research.)

          • greg says:

            UConn and Syracuse don’t fit the profile, IMNSHO.

            I would guess: Texas, A&M, Nebraska, ND, Rutgers

            Take the East AND the West.

          • Richard says:

            UConn doesn’t. More importantly, Connecticut isn’t a populous state. Syracuse doesn’t have the research prowess but is at least AAU and has pretty good undergraduate academics.

            From what we’ve heard, it seems doubtful that Texas will want to join an essentially Northern conference, even if that means less money (and if they ever launch the Longhorn Network, staying where they are may not mean less money).

        • Playoffs Now! says:

          Huge news dropped by Tony Barnhart. Barnhart is one of the most well-connected college media guys out there.

          In his column today, he suggests the Big 10 is looking at 3 options.

          1) Stay at 11

          2) Add ND –

          3) Add ND, Uconn, Rutgers, Cuse and Pitt
          ———————————————-

          Regarding #3: Um, no. You reached an odd conclusion considering that in the same sentence he specifically states that he doesn’t know what schools are involved:

          “There is pretty serious speculation that The Big Ten would look to the Big East in its big master plan. Now I don’t know which teams are involved, but Just for fun, let’s say the Big Ten asks Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut and Rutgers to join.”

        • A take on this story from the always-entertaining Spencer Hall at EDSBS:

          http://www.sbnation.com/2010/4/5/1406135/big-ten-seriously-becoming-16-team

          • m (Ag) says:

            He seems to think a 16 team big 10 would prefer a college playoffs to the bowls because it would dilute the Rose Bowl profits. I think the opposite is true; the Big 10 will have a whole big lineup of well-paying bowls. It will make its money off of the regular season and will not want to dilute any of that regular season drama with a playoff system.

            Also, I don’t think other conferences will be in a hurry to go big unless they know they can make money off of any expansion.

          • Richard says:

            I agree; If the Big10 and Pac10 both expand to 16 (in the process, covering all the populated regions) outside the southeast between them, it would make the Rose Bowl, at worst, a de facto national semifinal game. I can’t see a 16-team Big10 endorse more than a Plus-1 system.

    • Dcphx says:

      You negotiate when you have leverage. You don’t wait for your current deal to expire and then see what kind of deal you can make. You have maximum exposure now, you use it.

      The NCAA, as much as I despise the weasels, aren’t stupid enough to wait for their contract to expire to make their next deal.

      I negotiate for a living and what I’d do is something along these lines.
      -Offer CBS shared rights ownership of the additional 31 games without any increase in the payout for the remainder of the contract.
      -Demand a contract extension that at least maintains the current payout with some reasonable increases.
      -Notice I said shared rights ownership of the additional games. I don’t think CBS can afford to put two more days of wall to wall games on. So you sell those games to ESPN and the additional rights fees are shared in some proportion between the NCAA and CBS. ESPN already has the play in game on Tuesday and the NIT games, so it would fit right into their current basketball buy.
      -For the extension, CBS still would have some rights for the additional games but it decreases every year. This is why the NCAA can afford to have a flat rights fee with CBS, because CBS is getting less & less of the ESPN fees which probably are increasing every year on top of the NCAA retaining a bigger share.
      -All opt out points belong to the NCAA, CBS wouldn’t have the ability to opt out.

      So why would CBS do this? The deal with sharing the rights fees for the additional games reduces their loss leader costs on the tournament and extending the deal at a relatively flat rate is going to be attractive way to keep one of their crown sports jewels.

      So why would the ESPN do this? They already pay for the NIT and play in game, I’m confident that they’d be willing to increase those NIT games if they were the first round games of the big tourney instead of the NIT. Additionally, they’d have their nose further into the tent for the time down the road where they can make a play for the entire tournament and their numerous channels are well situated to carry every game to the entire country without being limited to one main game at a time. They did a great job when they had the first rounds before. I’d be willing to bet that the day 1/2 ratings are through the roof.

      Why would the NCAA do this? Extend their contract plus more money.

      Why would Jim Delaney do this? So the BTN can bid on the tourney in 5 years of course…

  2. greg says:

    CBS signed the deal in the drunken late 90s, and partially got bitten by low inflation in the past decade.

    One thing that doesn’t make sense to me. The CBS contract is back-loaded. If the NCAA is looking to raise the rights fees, they are only trying to match the fees they haven’t even yet collected. They haven’t had a chance to get used to the fees, but they’re already behold to them.

  3. Jake says:

    You know, I’m not big on expansion, but mid-week tournament games would be pretty cool. I hate those four or five day waits between rounds. Although, wouldn’t Tuesday and Wednesday games cause the student-athletes to miss more class time? Isn’t it all supposed to be about what’s best for them?

    I think Dana O’Neil’s concerns about empty arenas are irrelevant – the crowds for the first four rounds really couldn’t get any smaller. Perhaps if they combined the early rounds with spring break by always having pod sites in Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans, or some other destination cities (Salt Lake or Denver for the skiers, maybe?) they could draw in some better crowds. If arena crowds even matter to the NCAA Tournament.

    As for the importance of the conference tournaments, if every conference champion is guaranteed a first-round bye (and there are currently 32 Div. I basketball conferences – serendipity, baby), that should keep those battles fairly heated. I’d hate to see a classic like the Big East tournament, or a fast-growing event like the MWC Tournament in Vegas, lose some of their meaning. I’m sure Delany is looking to make sure that the Big Ten regular season and conference tournament don’t lose any of their luster as well.

  4. M says:

    I just do not see why people are that upset about this expansion. There are already 30ish teams which cannot win that are in the tournament. All they are doing is adding another 30 teams that can’t win and having them play against each other. The argument about “devalues the conference tournaments” pretends that they currently have value. When teams can lose their first games and still get a #1 seed or #2 seed, it’s obvious no one cares. Furthermore, the conference tournaments themselves are a money grab.

    • greg says:

      I’m mostly ambivalent about expanding the tournament, but just picture the awesome “bubble” games featuring 15-12 (5-9) Iowa battling 16-11 (6-8) PSU for a final tourney bid. woohoo.

  5. Hopkins Horn says:

    A couple of questions about this proposed expansion from someone who loathes the idea as well:

    (1) Will this mean killing splitting first/second round games between different regions? This has been done for most of the last decade, with this year’s Oklahoma City games, for example, being split between Midwest and West Regional games to allow high-seeds Kansas and Kansas State to stay as close to home as possible.

    If I’m reading the proposed schedule correctly, the winners of the Round of 32 games on Tuesday will play their Round of 16 games on Thursday, and the winners of the Round of 32 on Wednesday will play their Round of 16 games on Friday.

    For that level of certainty, it seems as though there could no way to keep split regionals. So in a 96-team tourney, would KSU have been sent to San Jose or Spokane this year in order to ensure that they’d be playing on the right date in the Round of 16?

    (2) How in the world will the Round of 32 be televised on Tuesdays and Wednesdays? We currently get the quadrupleheader on Saturday and the tripleheader on Sunday. There’s no way that much basketball could be shown on Tuesdays and Wednesdays . . . unless those days replicate the prior week’s Thursdays and Fridays. I’m not sure American bosses, who often turn a blind eye to a couple of days of workers following hoops on a Thursday or Friday, would tolerate two additional days the following week.

    So much wrong with this…

    • Mike B. says:

      The proposed format suggests to me that they’ll be moving to 4 8-team regionals, with two playing Tue-Thu-Sat, and two playing Wed-Fri-Sun.

      The week prior to the regionals would be 16 play-in games each on Thu and Fri, and 16 second round games each on Sat and Sun.

      Coaches will love this because 32 teams make the regionals instead of just 16.

      • Hopkins Horn says:

        That’s one way they could do it. The other would be to keep the current format and stick the 9-24 games at the same site as the Round of 64 and 32 games.

        There are a couple of problems with detaching the Round of 32 games from the Round of 64 games. First, doing so would guarantee that the top eight teams in each region would only play one game at the first site. If you think attendance is bad now at some of the first round venues, just wait until you ask, say, the fans of a #1 seed Texas (I’m using Texas as an example as a school with a weak basketball fanbase) to travel to Kansas City and buy tickets to watch their team play only one game, against the 16-17 winner. Keeping the Round-32 games attached to the Round-64 games guarantees two games at the subregional site for each winner.

        Second, while less of a concern, you’d still have to figure out a way to divide tickets among eight schools with 48-72 hours notice instead of just four schools. As I type this, I realize this isn’t a huge issue, but a small issue nonetheless.

        Regardless of where the Round-32 games are played, I think the compressed schedules almost guarantee much more certainty with the schedules (i.e. West Regional games will be Friday-Sunday-Wednesday-Friday-Sunday), which will eliminate the flexibility of sending a Kansas State to Oklahoma City despite being in the West.

        • @Hopkins Horn – I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of the pod system that rewards higher seeds with locations closer to their fan bases since that’s one of the better ways for the NCAA to sell tickets in those early rounds. If the NCAA insists to continue to start the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, then it should just play the first 3 rounds straight from Thursday through Tuesday, which would preserve the pod system. They’d have to get rid of the pod system in the Thursday-to-Sunday/skip Monday/Tuesday-to-Sunday format since it can’t guarantee that a team that has to play on Sunday would need to turn around right away and play on Tuesday at a different site.

          • Thinking about this again, a team that plays on Tuesday could still end up playing on Thursday at a different site. Ugh. What a mess.

          • Hopkins Horn says:

            I don’t think playing the first three rounds at the same site could preserve the pod system either.

            Regardless of which site the Round of 32 games are played at, it would appear as though that the winners of the Round of 32 games played on Tuesday would play their Round of 16 games on Thursday, and those who play their Round of 32 games on Wednesday would play their Round of 16 games on Friday.

            Doing so would require all games in each regional to be played on the same days — i.e., all West Regional games would have to be either Th-Sa-Tu-Th-Sa OR Fr-Su-Wed-Fr-Su — unless the NCAA doesn’t care about a team having an extra day’s rest between the Round of 64 and Round of 32 games. And could you imagine Mike Mike Krzyzewski keeping quiet if his #1 Duke had to play Sunday and then against Tuesday against a #8 team which played on Saturday?

            To use OKC again as an example, if the West was on a Th-Sa-Tu-Th-Sa schedule, and Oklahoma City hosted gamed on Fri-Sun (or Fri-Sun-Wed, depending on the model), Kansas State could not have played games in OKC despite being a #2 seed.

          • Mike B. says:

            They’ll still preserve the pod system. Think of it his way: the top seeds with the first round byes will be guaranteed a weekend game. All the more reason for fans of those teams to travel to those sites. And even the first round games will have a lot of middle of the pack BCS conference teams that draw pretty well.

          • Richard says:

            This is why I think the proposed schedule is idiotic. To make a 96-team field work, I think you’d have to go Th-F for the play-in round, Sat-Sun for the round of 64, Mon-Tues for the round of 32, then Sat-Sun again for the Sweet 16 (Mon-Tues for the Elite 8, and maybe Sun-Tues for the Final 4.

            You need to have a break between weekends like you have now or else you’d have the ridiculous scenario where a school may be playing their 5th game in 10 days to get to the Final 4.

      • spartakles78 says:

        here’s link to a conjectured bracket for all of you to fill out. Some Spartan fans already have one slot filled for the Final Four :)

        http://enlightenedspartan.blogspot.com/

  6. Rich says:

    The NCAA ought to drop a few sports that they can’t fund. They currently stage a fencing championship in three divisions! Only about 40 schools in the whole country have varsity fencing. Come on. Do they really need three divisions in golf? I love college hockey but there are only about 60 or so D1 hockey schools. And I would guess that tournament loses lots of money. And please don’t tell me these lesser sports offer opportunities to ‘student athletes’. Most of these kinds of sports are played by kids whose families have means to send them to college. And many of the ‘Olympic’ sports don’t offer full scholarships to their athletes. A baseball team might have a total of five full rides to split among 25 guys, for example.

    Instead of expanding the tournament they should hold a lot of bake sales and silent auctions.

    • Well, then the NCAA would be admitting that it’s a pure business as opposed to an academic association, and we couldn’t let that happen, right? My understanding is that outside of the NCAA Tournament, the College World Series (baseball) and NCAA Hockey Tournament/Frozen Four are the only other events that make money.

      • Hopkins Horn says:

        Maybe the lacrosse final four is a money-maker too? That event gets 50K+ for the DI semis and finals plus has a couple of extra days of DII-DIII events as well.

        • Richard says:

          Yeah, those 4.

          Stuff like track, swimming, and gymnastics don’t. However, schools are loath to drop them because having more varsity sports (especially if the school is good at them) makes alums feel warm and fuzzy

  7. michael z. says:

    Hopkins, I’m with you. CBS already can’t handle the games that they presently have. It was frustrating to me to travel to a sports bar that supposedly had the NCAA tournament package only to watch CBS switch the games as they felt despite the fact that I was specifically watching a direct feed because I wanted to see a particular game? Increase the commotion by 50%, and this tournament will become unwatchable in the early rounds. And no, they could care less how many fans are in the stands. The real money is made through the idiot box.

  8. Just want to weigh in on Packer. I’m acquainted with a West Coast sports writer who shares your “douchebag” opinion of Packer, and said so in his column once, when a regional final was held in California. Packer called his paper and pressed the sports editor to fire him. True story.

  9. Hopkins Horn says:

    Two more problems:

    (1) All of a sudden, the most important seeding decision in the entire tournament is deciding which school is the 32nd best team in the country and which is the 33rd.

    With today’s tournament, the only difference between being an 8 seen and being a 9 is the color of the jersey a team gets to wear in the first round. Go to 96 and the difference will be whether or not a team receives a bye — a HUGE consideration.

    And to use two schools which were in the 8/9 pool this year — Texas (power conference) and Northern Iowa (mid-major) — does anyone have any doubt at all as to which school would receive the bye if they were the two schools in consideration for the 32nd seed? I know my Horns would get the bye 100 times out of a 100, but that still doesn’t make it right.

    (2) Insane travel demands on a team and its fanbase.

    Let’s say my wife’s alma mater, the University of San Diego, makes the tourney again. (They beat UConn a couple of years ago in the first round, remember?) Small school, small budget, down in the corner of the map.

    USD would almost certainly be one of those random 13-20 seeds if they made the tourney. (And a quick aside to another issue: when USD beat UConn, they had qualified for the tourney by beating Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, and received a 13 seed. If the tournament expands, today’s 13-16 seeds almost inevitable fall to the 18-24 range as more mediocre power conference teams qualify and grab those 12-17 seeds.)

    And as an 18 seed, the NCAA ships them to the east coast — say, Jacksonville. If USD got on a run and managed to make it to the Round of 16 in Syracuse, the logistics of getting the team, let alone its fans, from Jacksonville to Syracuse for games less than 48 hours apart are mind-boggling.

    • Richard says:

      Yeah, the proposed schedule is insane. You’ll still need the mid-week break to make this work, IMHO.

    • Mike B. says:

      Actually HH, I think they’d want Texas playing the extra game to draw the fans in the first round. I think the BCS conference schools are going to find themselves playing the extra game.

  10. spartakles78 says:

    maybe the b-ball expansion breaks up the Big East and not the Big Ten.

    Say that 32 conference regular season champs get the automatic bye. Then the next 32 seeds go to the conference tourney champs (if different) or co-champs or maybe the league’s second place team. Now lets say the 6 power conferences snap up on average 4 more slots to make 24. Then if you were the Big East’s 7th or 8th team, you would be competing against possibly the 3rd team from the A-10, MVC, MWC, etc. Let that happen a few years and you may be more interested in splitting off the b-ball only schools if you’re St. John ‘s, DePaul, Marquette…

    • Richard says:

      I doubt the power conferences would let the mid-majors get more than 1 automatic bid. NIT might be kept around (with a reduced field) just for those conference regular season champs that can’t make even a 96-team field.

  11. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Frank the Tank, Frank the Tank. Frank the Tank said: New blog post on the real economic reason for NCAA Tournament expansion – it's justified even though I hate it: http://tinyurl.com/ylbtyzm [...]

  12. Terry Wynn says:

    Frank,

    Bingo. The NCAA CBS contract was made right after CBS lost NFL and then Daytona to FOX. They weren’t going to lose March Madness so they put out a ridiculous contract. Which had a continually sliding scale. About 2 years ago the amount started to get silly and CBS started squirming. But the NCAA schools are operating now on half a billion + per year from CBS and it has 4 more years left. Everyone knows that CBS ain’t gonna re-up for 500-600 Large per, so the NCAA is making 96 to get more hours for TV, to put it on the table for a NEW LONG TERM contract of 600 or so with mild raises.

    p.s. The CBS cashcow running out was my last hope for the NCAA making a money grab of college football to do a playoff. With 96 a football playoff is gone for my lifetime.

    • Dcphx says:

      As an aside a football playoff will never happen exactly because the NCAA would make a money grab for the rights fees and then spread the money between not only the 120 fb schools but their own grubby hands in Indianapolis and some to all of the other schools in the NCAA.

      Who owns March Madness – the NCAA
      Who owns the Bowls – the conferences (the 6 BCS conferences primarily) not the NCAA

      March Madness money is shared between 340 schools. Bowl payouts are about 90% (if not more) shared by 65 schools in BCS conferences. I don’t think the NCAA sees a dime of bowl money and the conferences will make sure it stays that way regardless of how many sportswriters scream for a playoff.

      A football playoff will never happen because it’s will lead to the NCAA attempting to break up the power conference monopoly on bowl money. The best you can hope for is ‘plus 1′.

      • m (Ag) says:

        “A football playoff will never happen because it’s will lead to the NCAA attempting to break up the power conference monopoly on bowl money. The best you can hope for is ‘plus 1′.”

        You could accuse the BCS of being a cartel, but not a monopoly.

        If the NCAA grabs playoff rights, then it will have a monopoly.

  13. Terry Wynn says:

    BTW 96 will kill March Madness ratings, but for a non-obvious reason.

    More evenly matched games the first rounds will make more variance in the outcomes, which trashes office brackets earlier.

    I think most people are just figuring out that the number of “in play” brackets deeper into the tourney sets Week 2 ratings, and to some regard, Final Four.

    • Richard says:

      Actually, a 96-team bracket would mean _less_ upsets of the top teams (6 seeds or higher). Consider, right now, those top seeds get the same amount of rest as the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th seeded underdogs they’re facing. In a 96-team tournament, they’ll be better rested than those teams (and some of those teams would be upset, so they may face 20th, 21st, & 22nd seeds instead), plus those underdogs tend to have weaker benches.

      About the only games that may have more upsets are the round of 64 games of the 1 and 2 seeds. Right now, the 16th seeds are mediocre low mid-major teams that got lucky in their conference tournament. In a 96-team field, the 1s and 2s will actually be facing some decent teams.

      • Adam says:

        Richard’s observation is why I support expansion in theory. But I am with Frank: the proposed schedule is a disaster.

    • Jake says:

      Something to keep in mind is that upsets tend to hurt all brackets pretty much equally, so that won’t be a big concern. Bigger brackets might even make things more interesting, as more schools = more interested fans creating brackets in the first place. Also, I’ve been out of the running in my office pool for awhile, but I keep following the tournament because I care about who in the office will be receiving the prize money that is being kept in a Secure, Undisclosed Location (translation: it’s in a sweaty pile on my dresser). This prick I don’t care for was in the lead, but he was recently eliminated from contention, fortunately (thanks, Duke!). So, back on topic – bracket interest isn’t likely to be hurt by tournament expansion.

      Anyway, I was against expansion, but if this plan gets rid of the ridiculous 1-16 match-ups, then it may not be a complete failure. But yeah, the proposed schedule does seem a bit problematic.

      • MIRuss says:

        You guys are missing the opportunity: There will be a first round 96 team play in bracket followed by the traditional 64 team bracket…that’s the only way iit will work and make sense. It would be impossible or should I say, counterproductive and less interesting to pick upsets deep unless you are tremendously rewarded for picking upsets… As far as more fans gbeing interested when their team gets “in” as a 94 seed, well, I am not sure how interested I would actually be…

        • @MIRuss – I already find auctions more compelling for betting on the NCAA Tournament compared to traditional brackets and an expanded tournament would make that even more to be the case. The auction format effectively values each team and you get paid back as to how far they go in the tournament. Granted, this isn’t very accessible for the secretary at work who hasn’t watch a single college basketball game all year (which is kind of what makes the NCAA Tournament into a national across-the-board event as opposed to something only for sports fans).

  14. Terry says:

    @DCPHX

    NCAA owns ALL post season championships, by their charter.

    The bowls were an weird exception that grew up over a long time and because they always were an exhibition, not a championship, they didn’t fit under the NCAA umbrella.

    The 1980 ruling Oklahoma/Georgia v NCAA gave the TV rights to the regulars season to the schools/conferences and took it away from the NCAA, except for the Championships.

    It is not in the best interest of the 6 Power conferences to do a playoff. Thus only a power grab by the NCAA will accomplish a playoff.

    There is one other very sneaky way, but the main way is for the NCAA to grab back the football post-season.

    • @Terry – I’m glad that you mentioned the Oklahoma case because it needs to be brought up anytime that anyone tries to tie the BCS to antitrust claims. That Supreme Court case is a big reason why the NCAA likely isn’t ever going to try to grab the football postseason. In essence, the NCAA would be more likely to be found in violation of antitrust law if it attempted to do that than the BCS ever could. That’s why lots of politicians and state AGs love to threaten the BCS with an antitrust lawsuit in news soundbites but nothing EVER gets filed. Justice Stevens (dean of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court who one would think would be more protective of the “little guy”) wrote the Oklahoma opinion and was very clear that the more popular schools and conferences shouldn’t be impeded from taking advantage of the free market for TV rights during the regular season. The last thing that the NCAA would want to happen is to have a ruling where that could be applied to its championships, as well. There’s really very little difference in the legal reasoning from the Oklahoma case regarding regular season TV rights versus the postseason and the current Supreme Court (which is even more conservative than it was when the Oklahoma case was decided) would be more likely to side with the BCS conferences.

      As a result, the NCAA knows that it can’t mess with the football postseason. If it ever tried to, it could get hammered with an antitrust suit itself or, even worse, the BCS schools would simply leave the NCAA entirely.

      • Richard says:

        Not sure why you think a conservative court would be less sympathetic to the NCAA. Conservative jurists tend to be more tolerant of monopolistic behavior (in my observation), despite many of them professing to be pro-free-market.

      • Richard says:

        BTW, JP Stevens was appointed by a Republican (Ford). He’s stated that his philosophy hasn’t changed much over the years (it has changed a little, but I think he’s mostly honest with himself), and considers himself a judicial conservative, which really just underlines how much the meaning of “conservative” has changed over the years.

  15. 84Lion says:

    I have long been a proponent of playoffs for Division IA college football (or FBS, if you must). Seeing the NCAA pushing garbage like this 96-team college basketball playoff field is making me rethink that. NCAA has finally found a circus that makes the bowl system look desirable.

    What I am thinking more and more is a “better idea” is for the “Big Six” BCS conferences to split away from NCAA and just have their own tournaments in all sports. Doing that would probably emasculate the NCAA, which looking at their plans for the basketball tourney probably isn’t a bad idea.

  16. Jeremy says:

    I will hate basketball even more if they have to play another round on the first weekend. I dont like it becuase It would deminish the conference tourneys from the major conferences. Sure it helps mid-majors, but picture having 7 Bigten teams or 7 Big East teams. Why have a regular season if half of the Big East teams will get a bid.

  17. Hopkins Horn says:

    I only propose this half-flippantly.

    Perhaps the biggest problem we’re seeing with the proposed 96-team tournament is wedging the extra round of games into the same timeframe. Everyone seems to be focusing on adding the game between the first and second weekends.

    So, if a 96-team tournament is a fait accompli, why not turn the Final Four into a Final Eight and put the extra game between the second and third weekends? Perhaps have two of the national quarterfinals on Wednesday night (all of the teams who won the previous Saturday), and two more on Thursday (the four teams who won on Sunday), with the semis on Saturday and the finals on Monday, as before.

    This would solve the problem of getting teams moved around between the first and second weekends with potentially one travel day.

    More importantly, it plays to the coaches’ egos and job security. It seems clear that the coaches are all on-board since 32 extra coaches a year will get to claim that they guided their teams to the tournament.

    Well, with a tournament with eight twelve-team regions, four additional coaches a year will be able to claim that they led their teams to a #1 seed. Eight additional coaches a year will be able to claim that they guided their teams to a top two seed. Eight additional coaches a year could claim that they guided their teams to regional finals. Four extra coaches a year could claim that they guided their teams to the final weekend (more or less).

    Seems like a winner for all involved!

    • Hopkins Horn says:

      Two extra advtanges of this format, which I like the more I think about it (if stuck with a 96-team tourney):

      (1) Instead of having, basically, non-stop hoops for 10 days, with five days off before the Final Four, this allows for a few more days off between the first and second weekends, lessening the chance of hoops overkill.

      (2) This gives CBS (or whoever is broadcasting) eight games instead of four to show the second weekend. CBS could have a second straight Saturday quadrupleheader and another Sunday tripleheader.

    • Richard says:

      I think it’s a terrible idea to have the final weekend feature 8 teams instead of 4. Once 8 teams make it, making it to the final weekend will lose its significant, just as going to a New Year’s Day bowl doesn’t mean much any more in college football.

      To preserve days off between weekends, just go Th-F, Sat-Sun, Mon-Tues, then Sat-Sun for the Sweet 16 & Mon-Tues for the Elite 8. Final 4 can stay Sat-Mon or go to Sun-Tues.

      • Hopkins Horn says:

        Actually, we’re kind of saying the same thing — push the Elite Eight games, regardless of the venue, to sometime during the five weekdays leading up to the national semis on Saturday, rather than cramming up to five games in ten days for teams.

        Doing it this way, however scheduled, also helps answer the John Feinstein types of academic questions, as teams wouldn’t be going non-stop for ten days. In theory, teams could return back to campus between weekends one and two.

        • Adam says:

          Also, putting off some of the mid-week games reduces the academic impact. If athletes from 8 schools are missing class during the week instead of dozens, from a systemic point of view that seems acceptable.

  18. I also posted this in the “Notre Dame AD Runs His Trap Again” comments – The Kansas City Star has an overview of the 3 major economic issues in college sports: NCAA Tournament expansion, conference realignment and the BCS. Very interesting that Ohio State’s AD has some personal expansion favorites and is in support of the Big Ten expanding beyond 12 schools:

    http://www.kansascity.com/2010/04/03/1855194/money-will-inspire-changes-in.html

    • 84Lion says:

      Very interesting indeed. I’m not sure how much pull the AD’s will have, but I am very curious to know what Mr. Smith has written on his napkin.

    • I’m getting a lot of hits from NDNation again today because of this message board posting:

      http://ndnation.com/boards/showpost.php?b=thepit;pid=167410;d=all

      Interesting joke that Jim Boeheim made to Mike Brey (which I’m wondering can be confirmed elsewhere since the NABC awards are a public event) and then also Brey’s personal comments to the poster afterwards.

    • m (Ag) says:

      Interesting that he was with Iowa State when their conference joined with the Texas schools. He should have a good idea of the worth of the Big 12 schools, and how well they’d fit in to the Big 10.

  19. omnicarrier says:

    I’ve been told from someone supposedly within ESPN that ratings for the NIT actually help justify this expansion to 96 and that ESPN definitely wants in as either a partner or as sole provider.

    • Hopkins Horn says:

      If ESPN picked it up, what happens to televising the women’s tourney in its entirety?

      • Playoffs Now! says:

        If ESPN picked it up, what happens to televising the women’s tourney in its entirety?

        Someone actually cares about women’s basketball? Wasn’t ESPN forced to cover it as part of a package bid for other more lucrative sports? Anyway, there’s always Versus, or FSN, or Lifetime or Logo.

        • Hopkins Horn says:

          My unspoken point, regardless of whether “anyone” watches the women’s tourney, is that it could be a political black eye for ESPN and/or the NCAA if an unforeseen consequence the NCAA’s money grab via an expansion of the men’s tournament is a serious reduction in coverage for the women’s tournament.

        • The Baylor-UCONN Women’s Final Four game on ESPN actually beat the Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN2 in the ratings last night. Granted, the ESPN2 feed was blacked out locally in Boston and NYC.

          http://sportsmediawatch.blogspot.com/2010/04/baylorconnecticut-tops-yankeesred-sox.html

          Regardless, I don’t think that there ought to be too much conflict between the men’s and women’s tournaments if they both end up on ESPN. The NCAA has a vested interest in having both televised in their entirety, so I’m certain that it will move the women’s schedule around to accomodate.

  20. omnicarrier says:

    One aspect of the $$$ thing that isn’t getting much attention is what happens to the NCAA unit value with expansion of the NCAA tourney?

    If expansion of the tourney is being done basically to stay even for the long term, the end result would mean that increasing the number of units from 126 to 174 (32 more teams plus 16 more games = a net increase of 48) would result in each unit being worth only 72% of what a unit now is worth.

    That is a drop of between $4-5 million per power conference annually in revenue from NCAA units.

    A drop in the bucket, perhaps?

    • Richard says:

      Well, presumably, the power conferences would get more teams in to the tournament with expansion, so while the value of each unit drops, the power conferences would have more units. Expansion only hurts if you’re a top-heavy conference where all your teams either get in to a 64-team tournament or can’t even make a 96-team tournament, and I can’t think of any conferences like that.

  21. Well, there’s at least one ND alum out there that actually supports joining the Big Ten in a series of posts:

    http://www.irishroundtable.com/?p=1963

    http://www.irishroundtable.com/?p=1977

    The comments to this ND blog post opposing independence are also a little bit more realistic than most of the NDNation crowd:

    http://www.herloyalsons.com/blog/2010/03/31/why-we-must-stand-alone/

    • Mike R says:

      Interesting set of thoughtful non-vitriolic posts. They seem to make it clear that if the administration wants to go to the Big 10, the only way to sell it to the alums and students will be if it is part of an expansion to (at least) 14. It looks like there is little support for ND as the 12th member alone.

      From the tone of some of the posters, I do worry about whether ND will seek exemptions or special treatment within the CIC. The last thing we should want to see is ND alums making an issue out of a research project at, say, PSU’s Hershey Medical School that involves some ND biologists.

  22. Adam says:

    This year’s tournament reminds me (apropos of not a whole lot, but something I’ll throw out there) that I’ve been saying for a while that I wish the NCAA would move the Final Four up a week. The championship game is currently held on the first Monday in April, and I’d much rather it were the Monday prior to the first Monday in April. It would have the advantage of meaning that March Madness actually ends in March. It would hopefully mean that we lose a couple of those boring games teams play in early December (cutting games to make room for the season being 1 week shorter). And it would mean that the tournament would overlap with Easter slightly less often. Currently, the Final Four is the same weekend as Easter every 4.29 years; the Regionals are the same weekend as Easter every 4.89 years; and the first weekend is the same weekend as Easter every 34.99 years. Overall, one or another weekend of the tournament is the same weekend as Easter every 2.14 years (hey, it’s pi!). If you move the tournament up 1 week, you cut that frequency in half: a weekend of the tournament overlaps with Easter only once every 4.29 years (this match with the current Final Four overlap is a coincidence due to rounding).

    • Adam says:

      You know, I might be off on those frequencies a smidge. I might have been off 1 day in calculating those. But it’ll be about the same regardless.

    • Adam says:

      The difficulty is the size of the numbers. There are 35 different days Easter can fall on, and the frequencies for each date cycle every 5,700,000 years. At this time of night, I might have been a bit foggy.

  23. Playoffs Now! says:

    “I agree; If the Big10 and Pac10 both expand to 16 (in the process, covering all the populated regions) outside the southeast between them, it would make the Rose Bowl, at worst, a de facto national semifinal game. I can’t see a 16-team Big10 endorse more than a Plus-1 system.”
    ———————-

    Bingo, and if the P10 and B10+ can absorb the top B12 fb programs, the BCS system (if run post-bowls for a +1) will usually place the Rose winner in the top 2. A B16 and P16 dual expansion would provide balance and likely tidy up some of the current mess in picking a supposed nat’l champion, even if the SEC doesn’t go to 16.

    However, a fly could get into the ointment if the SEC pulled off the (albeit unlikely) expansion coup of nabbing UT, aTm, Ttech, and OU. I’ve made plenty of arguments why Texas won’t come close to going to the SEC, but due diligence suggests they consider it. An SEC West of those 4 plus AR, LSU, MS, and MSU is a nice geographic fit and a hard but not overly so path to the fb conf champ game (Texas has always had success at exposing those bayou frauds!) Could and would the SEC be able to renegotiate its TV contracts for such a power block addition? (Though again, UT would face the same equal revenue sharing issue but without the academic superiority/CIC and be constantly miffed at the ‘lack of institutional control’ many of those schools get away with.)

    If that did happen, would the P10 still go to 14 or 16? Utah, CO, NE, and KS would help the conference strength of schedule, but would that be financially justified? So it seems that if the B10+ does go to 16 and can’t lure in Texas, it might be in the B10+’s best interest to see the P10 land TX if they then also go to 16 (rather than the B12 remain separate or TX to the SEC.) Of course the B10+ might benefit most from adding ND, Rut, Syr, TX, and aTm. But the Northeast strategy and ND has a bigger potential payoff than a Texas strategy, so they would be unwise to give in if TX insists on bringing a 3rd team.

    A tidbit that isn’t necessarily relevant, but rumor has it that USC is attempting to schedule aTm for 2015-16 and TX for 2017-18. Good football, if nothing else.

    • spartakles78 says:

      some background on Jim Delaney.

      http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=jo-delany010507

      It appears if the risks were smaller a +1 might be something for the future but a full playoff system is very unlikely before 2014.

      http://www.bigten.org/genrel/102308aab.html

      • Mike R says:

        +1 is best for the conference because it preserves and protects the Rose Bowl Game as a match between the Big 10 and Pac 10 champions.

      • Playoffs Now! says:

        Hey spartakles78, many thanks for that excellent refresher article:

        http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=jo-delany010507

        People shouldn’t dismiss it because of the 2007 date, it has several gems that hint at where Delany is heading. Such as:

        Henry Bienen, president of Northwestern University, told Yahoo! Sports that Delany actually favored a playoff-type system that Delany decried in 2005, but that the Big Ten commissioner hadn’t built a strong consensus among the Big Ten presidents needed to approve it. In that system, the so-called Plus-One model, the two top-rated teams that emerged after the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl were played would advance to a national championship game.

        I had also forgotten this:

        That sentiment has frustrated the likes of DeLoss Dodds, athletic director at the University of Texas who fought for a playoff for 10 years. He finally abandoned his efforts in part because of Delany. Dodds said it became increasingly clear that the alliance of the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl would block his efforts or any others to implement the playoff.

        More on the Plus One:

        This year, such a model could have created an opportunity for Boise State to play for the national championship. Yet at the time of his congressional testimony, Delany warned the model would lead to a full-blown playoff and declared the Big Ten would abandon its BCS partners if they adopted such a system.

        “There probably was a level of poker or posturing on it,” Delany said of those threats.

        My guess is that Delany wants a new alignment in time for the post-2014 negotiations that incorporates the bowls in some form of a playoff, probably a Plus One, at least initially. Further, since all of the BCS bowls have migrated to ESPN, it is possible that the BCS agreement could be modified earlier. While of course protecting the interests of the Rose, B10+, and P10. The specter of a playoff dangled in front of ESPN might be enough to entice them into modifying their SEC agreement that would enable the SEC to expand. Same for CBS in exchange for a 96-team Bball tourney providing CBS an escape from their tourney cost albatross. Perhaps something like this:

        B10+ and P16 each go to 16 by gutting the B12 and weakening the BEast. Greatly diminishes the Fiesta Bowl, while enhancing the Rose. BCS conferences have more leverage over the bowls in this round of negotiations, and the B16, P16, and SEC now have majority vote until the B12 and BEast can reorganize back to at least 8 (if at all.) They agree to promote the Rose and Sugar Bowls as the first two games of a 4-team de facto playoff, with the Sugar keeping its tie-in to the SEC and taking the highest-ranked team that isn’t a P16/B16/SEC champ. Sugar becomes the permanent evening game for Jan 1. So basically the playoffs are the Big 3 champs plus a wildcard invite.

        Now what to do about the Orange Bowl and the ACC. the Orange is easier. In option A the Orange Bowl becomes the permanent championship game site a week or more later. BCS puts up for bid 3 BCS bowls (maybe 4) to keep a total of 10 (or increase to 12) BCS slots. Rules changed to allow a conference up to 3 (or even 4) BCS teams. Perhaps retain the Fiesta as a consolation, the JerryBowl probably tops the bidding, and then the next 1 or 2 highest bidding bowls.

        Option B keeps the ACC tied into the Orange, except when they qualify for the playoff wildcard, with the Orange, Fiesta (or a higher bidding bowl) and JerryBowl hosting BCS games (and maybe another bowl if the BCS goes to 12 teams.) Championship game rotated among BCS bowl sites as an additional game.

        Perhaps the above is too heavy-handed a power play by what would be the first 3 super conferences. But what happens if the ACC reacts fast enough and gets to 16 before the SEC? Simply matching the champs of the P16/B16/A16/SEC in a 4-team bowls playoff brings back the perception problems of minor conferences being completely shut out of any chance to play for a nat’l title. I don’t think the BCS conferences would take the political risk of going that route, so perhaps the backup plan is the original Plus One concept of just taking the 2 highest ranked BCS teams after the bowl games. That would work if the B12 and/or BEast were able to bring in enough new schools fast enough to maintain their AQ. It would still be an improvement, and as Delany admitted any Plus One will inevitably evolve into a full blown playoff, even if the first round is bowl based.

        • Playoffs Now! says:

          Dang, I forgot to close my Italians. The quote ends with the last bolded sentence. From then on are my thoughts, so I’ll repeat them below:

          My guess is that Delany wants a new alignment in time for the post-2014 negotiations that incorporates the bowls in some form of a playoff, probably a Plus One, at least initially. Further, since all of the BCS bowls have migrated to ESPN, it is possible that the BCS agreement could be modified earlier. While of course protecting the interests of the Rose, B10+, and P10. The specter of a playoff dangled in front of ESPN might be enough to entice them into modifying their SEC agreement that would enable the SEC to expand. Same for CBS in exchange for a 96-team Bball tourney providing CBS an escape from their tourney cost albatross. Perhaps something like this:

          B10+ and P16 each go to 16 by gutting the B12 and weakening the BEast. Greatly diminishes the Fiesta Bowl, while enhancing the Rose. BCS conferences have more leverage over the bowls in this round of negotiations, and the B16, P16, and SEC now have majority vote until the B12 and BEast can reorganize back to at least 8 (if at all.) They agree to promote the Rose and Sugar Bowls as the first two games of a 4-team de facto playoff, with the Sugar keeping its tie-in to the SEC and taking the highest-ranked team that isn’t a P16/B16/SEC champ. Sugar becomes the permanent evening game for Jan 1. So basically the playoffs are the Big 3 champs plus a wildcard invite.

          Now what to do about the Orange Bowl and the ACC. the Orange is easier. In option A the Orange Bowl becomes the permanent championship game site a week or more later. BCS puts up for bid 3 BCS bowls (maybe 4) to keep a total of 10 (or increase to 12) BCS slots. Rules changed to allow a conference up to 3 (or even 4) BCS teams. Perhaps retain the Fiesta as a consolation, the JerryBowl probably tops the bidding, and then the next 1 or 2 highest bidding bowls.

          Option B keeps the ACC tied into the Orange, except when they qualify for the playoff wildcard, with the Orange, Fiesta (or a higher bidding bowl) and JerryBowl hosting BCS games (and maybe another bowl if the BCS goes to 12 teams.) Championship game rotated among BCS bowl sites as an additional game.

          Perhaps the above is too heavy-handed a power play by what would be the first 3 super conferences. But what happens if the ACC reacts fast enough and gets to 16 before the SEC? Simply matching the champs of the P16/B16/A16/SEC in a 4-team bowls playoff brings back the perception problems of minor conferences being completely shut out of any chance to play for a nat’l title. I don’t think the BCS conferences would take the political risk of going that route, so perhaps the backup plan is the original Plus One concept of just taking the 2 highest ranked BCS teams after the bowl games. That would work if the B12 and/or BEast were able to bring in enough new schools fast enough to maintain their AQ. It would still be an improvement, and as Delany admitted any Plus One will inevitably evolve into a full blown playoff, even if the first round is bowl based.

        • m (Ag) says:

          If they went to a +1 system, the Big 10 and Pac 10 would simply withdraw from the BCS and play the Rose Bowl as normal. The other conferences could form their own Bowl alliance (this is how it was for a little while in the 90s), or perhaps they would form set matchups. If the Big 12 is left more or less intact perhaps you would see the SEC vs. Big 12 in the Sugar Bowl every year, and the Big East and ACC in the Rose Bowl.

          The interesting thing about this setup is that adding a ‘playoff’ game and ending large scale collaboration between conferences would actually make it harder for schools not in the current BCS conferences to make a title game (or any big bowl, for that matter). Which of course is one reason why its hard for smaller schools to show they’re ‘damaged’ by the BCS.

        • Richard says:

          I don’t think the Fiesta would take kindly to being killed off, and it doesn’t benefit the Big10 or Pac10 to kill them off either (or have an 8 team playoff). Nor would anyone want the Sugar to become the most powerful non-Rose Bowl bowl (the eastern teams in the SEC would prefer playing for a title in Florida, yet neither the Big10 or Pac10 would want the title game to stay exclusively in SEC territory).

          What’s more likely is that the JerryWorld Cotton Bowl gets promoted to make 5 BCS bowls. The Big10, Pac16, SEC, and ACC will all get automatic bids as well as a bid for a league containing the leftovers of the Big12, Big East, and strongest current non-AQs (to quiet the dissention and gain support for this setup). Leagues will be allowed up to 3 teams in the BCS.
          League tie-ins outside of the Rowl Bowl may go away because everyone would want the SEC champ (and other than the Fiesta, all the other BCS bowls are in or close to SEC territory). Plus-one title game based on BCS rankings after the round of bowls, so more than 2 bowls would be relevent. Title game rotated amongst the 5 BCS Bowl sites (plus maybe New York/Detroit/Indianapolis if the Big10 presses for it).

          • m (Ag) says:

            No bowl would get ‘killed off’. The current BCS bowls would get games of more consistent quality year in year out if they return to a free market. Of course, the conferences outside of the current BCS
            would not get a shot at the traditional bowls, but they would still get bowl spots. If the TCUs and Hawaii’s continue to get national attention, the bowl payouts for these bowls would increase over time.

            The Fiesta might get the #2 from the Big 12 and Pac 10. Without the BCS to take a 2nd team from those conferences, that will always be an interesting matchup. Often it will be more interesting than the BCS matchup they get now in years they don’t have the national championship. Or, perhaps, the Jerryworld Cotton bowl would get the SEC#2 vs. Big 12#2. Again, without the BCS grabbing a 2nd team from those conferences, that would be much more valuable than the current Cotton Bowl arrangement.

            In fact, its possible for the Bowl games that don’t get #1 teams to produce a team that goes to the Championship game. It’s not hard to imagine a year where a 12-0 Florida team loses the SEC championship game, then wins it’s bowl game against a good team (say the #2 Big 10 team) to go 13-1 and then get invited to the Championship game.

            The SEC has a long, long association with the Sugar Bowl. Partly to balance it out, Atlanta has been made the permanent home for the SEC title game. The Orange Bowl (the only other traditional big Southern bowl) isn’t really close to the 5 SEC East teams who aren’t Florida. It’s not a guarantee that the SEC wouldn’t move their champion, but I think the SEC is more attached to the Sugar Bowl than any conference is with its primary Bowl matchup outside of the Rose Bowl.

            If a championship game is created as a +1, I think the Big 10 and Pac 10 get more money and return to tradition by skipping out a bowl alliance. Also, the SEC would make money by re-instating its annual tie-in. It will be paid annually like a national semi-final, even in years when their champion isn’t a top 4 team. The Big 12 would also do well if it escapes expansion intact. The #2 teams from these conferences (except maybe the Pac 10) would get BCS-type payouts, because any given year that might be a team with a shot to go to the title game.

            I think these 4 conferences would get less money by returning to an alliance. Playoff proponents argue such alliances are anti-competitive anyway.

      • greg says:

        Delaney’s quote from the yahoo link:

        “I work for the presidents, and I work with everyone else.”

        I don’t see the Big Ten jump to 16 if its 5 “blah” schools. Even ND plus 4 “blah” schools isn’t going to happen. Its going to be a friggin home run, or its not going to happen.

      • Playoffs Now! says:

        One more thing, assuming a Plus One model has to include more first round bowls than just the Rose and Sugar, it is more likely to benefit the B10+ if it takes 2 winners from 3 BCS bowls than from 4 (or more.) That’s why effectively killing the Fiesta through gutting the B12 (or perhaps the Orange via BEast collapse) may be part of Delany’s strategy. So taking the top two of the B16/P16 Rose, SEC Sugar, and ACC Orange might be the tightest compromise that still allows the theoretical chance for non-BCS schools and doesn’t cause all-out war among the BCS conferences.

      • Playoffs Now! says:

        Or maybe this is where Delany is heading:

        Currently there are 6 BCS conferences of 65 teams, 6 AQ’s and 4 wildcard slots for the BCS. If the B12 and BEast disappear while the P10/B10+/SEC/ACC go to 16 teams each, you get 4 BCS conferences of 64 teams, 4 AQ’s, but still 4 wildcard slots for the BCS. Not only does this makes for a nice 4 bowl, 8 team playoff format, but more importantly (from their perspective) increasing the odds of a surviving BCS conference getting a second team in the BCS (or even 3 if the rules are changed.) The same pot of money (actually increased by playoff revenues) divided 8 ways instead of 10, among 4 BCS conferences instead of 6. And while in theory there are the same number of wildcard slots and chances for non-BCS schools to get in on the action, in reality it decreases the outsiders’ chances of raiding BCS money.

        So perhaps Delany’s endgame is a simple North, West, South, and East 4 superconference system with the P16/B16 Rose, SEC Sugar, ACC Orange, and complete wildcard Fiesta as the first round of an 8 team playoff. The top 2 winners (must be conference champs) then host on-campus round two playoff games, and the championship game is permanently in the JerryDome (That would prevent a USC, Miami, or LSU from conceivably winning the title with de facto home games for all 3 playoff games. Plus the revenue potential of 100K seats.)

        A bowl based playoff is either messy or extended with 6 BCS conferences, but much tidier with just 4 BCS conferences. But can they pull this off without the B12 or Beast reforming and keeping their AQ? The Mountain West Conference may be close to qualifying as a BCS conference, but if the P10 took Utah that would kill that for at least a few years. If the BCS kept at 10 teams and went to 5 bowls (or expanded) then this isn’t a problem, but it may not be as revenue enticing to the B10+ as a tighter format.

  24. Richard says:

    Possible Big East expansion thoughts:

    If the BE loses ND, Pitt, UConn, Syracuse, & Rutgers (to the Big10 and/or ACC), would the basketball schools decide to kick out WVa, Cincy, Louisville, and SFlorida and form a basketball-only league? If they add St. Louis, Xavier, and Butler to go to 10 teams, they’d have a presence in most of the major cities in the North, east of the Mississippi (NYC, Philly, DC, Cincy, Indy, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis). Only missing Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, and the Twin Cities. They could add Duquesne for Pittsburgh. If they want good basketball programs, they’d add Dayton & UNC-Charlotte (giving them another big city and a presence in that basketball-talent-rich state) to get to 12.

    Either way, with either 10 or 12 members, this would lead to a neat division between east & west.

    • Jake says:

      Can the Big East really “kick out” members (Temple notwithstanding)? Wouldn’t the basketball schools have to withdraw and form a new league? That would work, so long as they got an auto-bid to the NCAA tournament. They most likely would, but maybe not immediately.

      Then the question is whether the four remaining teams invite more C-USA-type schools (and basically become C-USA from 8 years ago, but with WVU) to reload or just pack it in and look for new homes. I’m not sure what the breaking point is there. It seems like if they only lost three football schools they could solider on, and losing five or more would be extremely difficult to overcome. But losing four? I don’t know what they do.

      • Mike R says:

        Temple wasn’t so much kicked out but rejected for across-the-board membership in the 16-team Big East, which took the position that it would not be continuing to offer associate members for football (which was TU’s only connection to the Big East). I know this is hair-splitting, but Temple was never a conference member with a vote, but an applicant. I think “kicking out” a full conference member would be extremely difficult. More likely a faction of schools might leave to form a new conference, a la the MWC.

        • Jake says:

          Is that what happened with Temple? I was never really clear on that. Anyway, yeah – if the basketball-only schools wanted to separate themselves from whatever football schools remained after a raid, they would have to do the leaving, I think.

  25. Arkstfan says:

    Frank 96 isn’t the only way to increase money.
    http://beltboard.com/?p=307
    Scroll down to “better way”

    You can increase the value by staying at 64/65 but extending the tournament by a week so there are more games in prime time and fewer during weekdays.

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