BYU Caught in the Crosshairs as BCS Future Debated
No less than the fate of college football may be decided this week in south Florida, and BYU is caught squarely in the cross hairs.
From Tuesday to Thursday, all eleven conference commissioners, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, BCS officials and TV executives will descend upon Hollywood, Fla., for three days of meetings that will decide what the BCS looks like in 2014 and beyond.
Boldly, nobly and independent, BYU could be in for some potentially rough waters depending on what emerges.
The committee has two objectives in Florida. The first is to decide how to choose a national champion. The second is how to make the post-season more appealing to participants and fans.
A playoff of some form or another appears to be on the way, but what that looks like could make it easier or harder for BYU to earn a second national championship.
The stakes are even higher than they seem. The committee will also decide how to dole out the vast windfall a playoff would generate, assuming that’s the direction they move.
The new money could make the BCS’ current cash flow seem downright miserly.
Consider that the BCS is currently raking in around $150 million (depending on the source you look at) and by 2014 a playoff could be generating a minimum of $350 million and you can see just how important this is for everyone involved.
According to a memo circulated by the media earlier this month, there are four options being floated, though BCS executive director Bill Hancock said just last week, “there’s no leader in the clubhouse on this.”
The Big Ten’s idea to preserve the Rose Bowl’s importance on the post-season scene is just absurd and nobody seems to favor the “plus one” format. Here’s a look at the two most viable options.
When the BCS talks about minor tweaks, what it really means is each team would only play one postseason game. There are several variations of what this plan could entail, but the rest is hardly minor:
- Scrap Automatic Qualifier Conferences
- Eliminate limits on the number of participants from each conference
- Play the games nearer to New Year’s Day
Under the “minor tweaks”, the Rose Bowl would still be around, but it would be just like any other bowl, a contracted game between two leagues.
However, the BCS would not be going away. It would field its own set of games without any limits on the number of teams from any given conference that could participate. In other words, if the BCS wanted to invite three SEC schools, it could.
Of course, there’s still the possibility they’ll look to integrate the current BCS bowls into some new scheme without AQ leagues.
Four Team Event
This is where things really get interesting.
After this year’s championship game debacle, the scales finally seem to have tipped in favor of a playoff. However, the BCS has been careful to avoid any reference to the word “playoff”. Instead, they call this option a “four team event” with seeded semifinals and a championship game.
Sounds like a playoff to me.
This plan has four options:
- Semifinals and championship in bowl games.
This would help maintain the current bowl structure and the prestige of the Rose Bowl while allowing for a playoff. But what if the Rose Bowl is just a stopping point on the road to the Orange Bowl? Or how about the Sugar Bowl leading into the Fiesta Bowl championship game?
- All three games at neutral sites. Sites wishing to host a game could bid on the right to do so. None of the games would be branded as bowls.
This could help solve the problem of which bowl gets the title game. It could diminish the importance of the Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, and Orange bowls since they wouldn’t necessarily be contests between conference champions any more.
- Semifinal games in bowls, with sites bidding to host the championship game.
This option is similar to No. 2, and could prevent fighting about which bowl gets top billing. However, with four teams involved, there would still only be room for two bowls, meaning a couple would be muscled out.
- Semifinals at campus sites, likely hosted by the higher seeded team. Again, the championship game would be at a neutral site.
The SEC is reluctant to send its teams to harsh winter climates in late December, and Slive argues fans would rather head to warmer winter vacation spots. It would help preserve meaning for the regular season though, since the higher seed would have a tangible benefit.
Another issue is whether schools would have the infrastructure to handle a large influx of fans late in the season. Salt Lake City has the hotels but Utah’s 45,000-seat Rice Eccles Stadium isn’t equipped to handle the massive crowds BCS organizers hope to generate.
The BCS is in the business of making money, and even 64,000-seat LaVell Edwards Stadium probably lacks the luxury boxes BCS organizers would want to maximize profits. That’s saying nothing of a team like TCU or Boise State making it to the big dance. And if the unthinkable happened, well, can you imagine Utah State or any number of other smaller schools trying to host a major college football playoff game?
When this week’s meetings wrap up, college football’s format will likely come down to how the commissioners decided to divvy up the large bounty of cash the BCS will bring in.
Right now, the six automatic qualifier conferences receive approximately $22.3 million each while non-AQ leagues cash $13.2 million together. Notre Dame gets $6.1 million when it makes a BCS game and $1.8 million even when it does not.
Unfortunately for BYU, it doesn’t have a voice at the Florida meetings. It might not matter anyway.
The Big Ten, flush with cash from the incredibly successful BTN, is emerging as one of the major players. The SEC, commonly thought of as college’s premier conference and bolstered by new additions Missouri and Texas A&M, is ready to fight as well.
Those two titans clashing makes the MWC-CUSA merger talks and the revamped Big East seem laughable. The Big XII, ACC, and Pac-12 will attempt to weigh in, but the final format will be largely determined by the SEC and Big Ten.
Everyone will receive more money in the end, but the final format will likely favor the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, and Pac-12. The Big East will likely be pushed aside, and everyone else will be largely forgotten. The current non-AQ conferences will simply rubber stamp whatever is decided, what other choice do they have?
The possible upside for BYU is the Cougars do have a national fan base, historical success, solid media deals and some national cachet. Whatever formula is concocted to justify giving certain leagues higher revenue will likely center on market share and TV ratings. That should benefit BYU far more as an independent than it would if the Cougars were still part of the MWC.
Some form of a 4-team playoff will emerge, with bowls remaining as consolation prizes and alternatives to the four teams that don’t participate in the BCS “event”.
Even after this week, the plan won’t be official until it is ratified by each league, probably by the end of June.
Improving the Post Season
This week’s meetings are also looking at college football’s post season in general.
The BCS is not the only item being discussed in Florida. The commissioners are also taking a hard look at how to enhance the bowl experience for participants and fans.
One plan is to adopt a committee that would “create bowl opportunities” for anywhere from six to 16 additional teams. The new committee’s goal would be to line up games that would be, “evenly matched and attractive contests that make geographic sense for the participants.”
That could be fantastic development for BYU if it is approved. BYU is slated to play bowls in San Diego in 2012 and San Francisco in 2013. When the new deal starts in 2014, BYU’s large fan base and solid TV ratings would certainly help it continue to find a comfortable post-season home.
NCAA Out of Control
In a separate meeting, the NCAA looks ready to cede even more control of college football’s post season to others.
The NCAA board of directors will discuss a proposal to discontinue licensing bowl games but establish minimum standards on April 26.
If adopted, conferences would decide if 6-6 teams will remain eligible, which could put some of the current 35 bowls in jeopardy. Teams often lose money by participating in less prestigious, sparsely attended games and many speculate that conferences would opt out if given the chance.
GoDaddy.com’s racy commercials have also raised questions about regulating title sponsors. As a result, some new regulations on bowl names could emerge from Thursday’s NCAA board meeting.
Hopefully that could put an end to some of the ridiculous bowl names. It would be nice to see the return of names like Copper, Peach, Cherry and Tangerine.
Right now, what college football’s postseason looks like at the end of the week is anyone’s guess.
”I want a decision that will benefit the game for the next 10 to 15 years, whatever it is. Whatever decision we make, there will be people who don’t like it when we work something out,” Hancock said. ”That’s just part of the game. But I want to come away thinking, `You know what, we did the best thing for college football.”’
Leaving the BCS to do the right thing for college football is a hopeless prospect, but with any luck, whatever emerges will be better than the current status quo.