Thursday, January 12, 2012

College football is messed up! Sound familiar?

College football is messed up! Sound familiar? Seems like we have been hearing this argument for years. Lack of a playoff system, boosters paying players and Universities making millions of dollars. So what are we going to do to fix the system?

First lets examine what is really at the heart of the issue. College football is a big business. That's right, you may think college football is about tradition, supporting your team and giving students an education, but you're wrong. College football is all about making money for the Universities and the big TV Networks. If you want proof, you need not look any further then the payouts from the bowl games.

Bowl games pay Universities and the conferences they represent money to play in the games. The money varies from bowl game to bowl game. The Beef O' Brady Bowl had one of the lowest payouts at $500,000. Compared to the National Championship game, which paid $18 million dollars. So where do the bowl games get the money to pay the Universities? You know the answer, sponsors. From Beef O' Brady to Allstate, corporate sponsors pour millions of dollars into college sports. And it's not just the bowl games, TV contracts pay billions.

The most recent TV contract was reportedly worth $10.8 Billion dollars. Working in Television I can tell you that TV Networks like ESPN and Fox would not pay that kind of money if they could not make a return on their investment. Again, this is a business. Cable affiliate fees, where your cable or satellite company pays the network for the right to air the network and sponsor dollars more then make up the $10.8 Billion dollars.

So what is my point? The Universities and TV Networks will be more then happy to go to a playoff system if, and only if they can make more money. Forget the talk about wanting a true national champion. The Presidents and Boards at your favorite University don't care who the national champion is in any give year. They care about how much money is being brought in by their football team. The networks don't care who wins the national championship, they only want to maximize the dollars brought in by airing the games.

Second is the issue of boosters paying money. Boosters, unlike the suits at the University, really want to win and win every year. College football players get a free education, room and food, but not much else. An athlete cannot get a job in most cases, because his time is filled with going to school and going to practice. I am not condoning the action of boosters who pay student athletes, I am simply stating the facts. While the Universities make millions, the players do not get paid.

Let me be clear, I am okay with college football being a business. The local impact to the economy can be huge in cities like Austin, College Station or Waco. Money from TV rights helps fund other sports and beyond money it helps market the University. Nothing wrong with making money. We just need to understand the heart of the issue and why after years of talking about fixing college football, we are still talking about fixing college football.

I do think there is a solution, or at least a compromise being discussed. You may have heard about the "plus one" system. Not exactly a playoff, but I think it will quiet down the critics for at least a couple of seasons. The idea is that you play the season and the bowl games as normal. Let the corporate sponsors payout the millions. The difference being that the national championship game would not be determined until after the bowl games are played. So, for example, Oklahoma State would have played Alabama for the national title a week following the bowl games. Of course LSU and Alabama would not have played each other in a normal bowl game, but you get the idea. Have the number one team play the number four team in a bowl, and the number two team play the number three team in a bowl. The winners play in a national championship game a week later.

I like this idea of a "plus one." You are not adding any games to an already long college football season. You also have the added benefit of seeing the top two teams having only a week to prepare for the game. Not knowing who will play until a week before will also increase the hype before the game. Kind of like Super Bowl week in the NFL.

We all agree something needs to be done. Lets just all recognize that the real driving force behind the discussion is not a national championship, but how much money can be made.

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