Friday, January 05, 2007

"Playoff? We don't need no stinkin' playoff!"

That's not what he said but it might as well be coming out of the mouth of Jim Delany the commissioner of the Big 10 ten. Josh Peter has written a very interesting article for Yahoo Sports about Delany, his power, and his staunch opposition to a playoff for Div. 1A college football.

I won't reprint the whole thing here because it's long but a couple of excerpts caught my attention:

But as he has done with the public outcry, Delany has largely ignored the coaches' call for a playoff. He readily admits a playoff could be good for Division I-A football at large, but quickly adds, "I don't work for college football at large."...

Disregarding the howls for change could test Delany's power. For now, he stands positioned to battle not only the likes of Paterno and Carr, but also the force of public will.

Polls show more than 50 percent of college football fans favor a playoff. Those percentages figure to spike now that undefeated Ohio State will play in the BCS title game against one-loss Florida rather than Boise State, which improved to 13-0 after its remarkable, highlight-heavy victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Eventually the consumer will get what he demands, Delany said. But he cites TV ratings and attendance figures as evidence that the consumer has yet to truly demand change.

Defending his assertion, Delany said revenue from college football has grown to $900 million from $200 million since 1990; average attendance for Big Ten games has increased to 71,000 from 58,000 over that same period; and the rising TV ratings and sponsorship dollars suggest the game is as healthy as ever...

"If the public walks away from our games during the regular season and walks away from television during the regular season and walks away from the bowls, they're saying, We won't support this anymore. We want something else.' But I don't see them walking away from anything."
Here's what I don't get from these people who oppose the playoff: Just because you are making gobs of money under a certain system doesn't mean that you can't make more by making changes. I would argue that the "nationalization" of college football along with the baby steps that the BCS has taken toward crowning a legitimate champion is what is driving the popularity of the sport among the masses. Having a tournament to crown a champion will only make the sport more acceptable to many who are dissatisfied with the bowls and polls system.

Also what strikes me is the arrogance of the idea that the players and coaches don't matter in this. In other words as long as they get their money it just doesn't matter who gets screwed. Hear that Jared Zabransky? Jim Delany doesn't give a flying fuck about whether your Boise Broncos are the best team as long as he gets paid!
Studies indicate the slightest step toward a playoff – seeding the teams in four BCS bowl games and pitting the two top-rated teams emerging from those games in the national championship – could generate another $50 million. But with a new system, Delany and the commissioners of the other BCS conferences could lose control of the knife that guarantees them a huge slice of the financial pie.

The so-called BCS conferences – which include the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC – outnumber the less powerful conferences six to five. Thanks to that slim majority, the six conferences grant themselves automatic bids to the five BCS bowls and this year will take in more than three-quarters of the estimated $120 million the BCS will generate.
So there you have it. Playing hardball to keep the "have nots" from having some. If I were the commissioner of a non BCS conference I would rally my colleagues and tell the big boys that until a playoff system is implemented (and thus a more equitable distribution of the spoils) that they won't have any non-conference opponents from the non-BCS conferences anymore.
"There's no doubt in my mind that there's far more money out there than what we have," Delany said. "But there's also no doubt in my mind that there would be a huge sucking sound coming out of the regular season towards the postseason because I know, as a fact, that there is a consumer dollar, there is a marketing dollar, there is an advertising dollar and it's not an unlimited dollar.

"It's a migratory dollar. And the dollar tends to follow those areas of those elements of a competitive season that are most attractive. And right now what I would say is that we're at some sort of equilibrium of a bowl system and a championship game on the one hand. There's some gravitas from an economic perspective, from a public interest perspective in the regular season. I see there being a balance."

Others see a huge imbalance. The importance of the regular season drives up fees networks pay for the TV rights to regular-season games, and conferences like the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 sign multimillion dollar deals while the Western Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference and other non-BCS conferences fight for table scraps.

By Delany's reasoning, increased playoff money that would be shared by all conferences would reduce the non-shared revenue from regular-season TV deals. And that's a big concern.

Citing estimates that the BCS would generate 30 percent more money if it adopted the Plus-One model, Delany said the risk doing so outweighs the potential reward. At least for now.
I think this guy is narrow-minded and underestimates the appeal of college football. I have heard the argument that a playoff will decrease the importance and therefore the viewership of the regular season. I say hogwash! Just take a look at college's professional cousin, the NFL. Nobody is going to argue that attendance, viewership and revenues have gone down for the NFL even when they have expanded the number of playoff teams, despite the fact that you could argue that more playoff teams lessens the importance of each regular season game.

The Superbowl is the most watched sporting event in America. Nobody disputes who the NFL Champion is at the end of the year but there is still plenty of talk-show fodder, and interest in the league. The idea that you need contoversy to generate interest in college football is insulting to the game itself.

After reading this piece it's become obvious to me that it's assholes like Jim Delaney who are holding college football back rather than moving it forward. Thanks for nothing, jerky!

1 comment:

Senator Blutarsky said...

Henry, when you write "...despite the fact that you could argue that more playoff teams lessens the importance of each regular season game", you make it sound as if that's a minor thing.

I've got to tell you, from this dinosaur's perspective, it's anything but. College football is the unique creature it is because, unlike any other major sport we watch, the regular season isn't a means to an end.

You mention the NFL playoffs as a good thing to emulate. Let me give you an example of what concerns me with a D-1 football playoff. On the second play of their last regular season game this year, Andy Reid and the Eagles learned that they had clinched their spot in the playoffs. Since that made the game they were playing in essentially meaningless, Reid did the sensible thing: he pulled his starters for the remainder of the game.

How would you feel if Meyer did the same thing in a Florida-FSU game? I know that if a head coach made that decision in a Georgia-Georgia Tech game, I'd walk out of the stadium.

You are right about one thing - Delany is an asshole... he just happens to be on the side of the angels (in my opinion, of course) on this for selfish reasons.