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A college football playoff officially arrived Thursday afternoon when the eleven conference commissioners and Notre Dame sent out a press release announcing a coming four team playoff.
Quoth the release:
“We will continue to meet and review the exact structure for what a new post-season could look like. We are making substantial progress. We will present to our conferences a very small number of four-team options, each of which could be carried out in a number of ways.
“We have discussed in detail the advantages and disadvantages of in-bowl or out-of-bowl games. We have discussed in detail the advantages and disadvantages of campus sites or neutral sites. We have discussed in detail the advantages and disadvantages of various ways to rank or qualify teams.”
So at long last a playoff is here.
But what does that mean for college football fans?
Now the devil is in the playoff details. And those details remain to be worked out.
The most important, and probably next, detail to be determined is this one: will the bowls be involved in the three team playoff or will they not be involved?
If the bowls are not involved then there are only two options: neutral site games or on-campus games. Just about everyone I’ve talked to about on-campus games does not believe this is a viable option.
So really what you have is two options: will the bowls host the games or will neutral site cities host the games?
I’d say this is close to 50/50 right now.
Why do I say even odds?
Because the Rose Bowl is being obstinate and ornery. Meanwhile I’m told the other three BCS bowls — the Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange — are all open to working with the commissioners to fashion a plan that works. Each of these cities is also open to the idea of hosting the semifinals in its bowl and also open to bidding to host a college football championship outside of the bowl structure.
The Rose Bowl is not.
So will the Rose Bowl eventually buckle or could it withdraw entirely and just go back to matching a yearly Pac 12 vs. Big Ten game? Basically, would the Rose Bowl really take it’s Pac 12 and Big Ten football and go home?
If the Rose Bowl refused to play the playoff game that could actually make things easier — then the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange could theoretically host the playoff every year and rotate the title game.
But I keep coming back to this question — why keep the bowls involved when college football could make much more money by setting up its own games and auctioning off neutral site hosting? Already the leagues make a ton of money off their own conference title games.
Why let the bowl structure pocket the added profits from a playoff when the individual leagues have proven themselves adept at hosting title games and pocketing massive profits?
That just doesn’t make any sense unless the bowls are included to keep this plan politically palatable.
Because if it’s all about maximizing the money that can be made then there is no reason to involve the bowls in a three game playoff at all.
That’s why every other detail that must be decided going forward will unspool from the decision of whether to play neutral site or bowl playoff games.
Interestingly, and this is important, I’m told that there will not be a hybrid system. That is, there won’t be a combination of the bowls and a neutral site location. Therefore, much to my chagrin, the Travis Compromise is dead. The bowls will either host games or they will stand alone from the playoff.
After it’s decided where the games will be played there are two main issues still to be determined:
1. How will the four playoff teams be selected?
There are three real options for this:
a. Take the four highest ranked BCS teams per the current or tweaked standings
b. Take three conference champs and one wildcard team
c. Allow a committee to select the top four teams
I think option a. wins out.
2. How will the massive yearly television dollars be distributed?
Get out your calculators.
My bet is that each of the 11 conferences and Notre Dame will receive some money to divide evenly among themselves and then a formula — much like the NCAA basketball tourney formula — will be applied based on the number of teams from a given conference that are actually competing in the playoff.
Conferences would receive initial money for reaching the playoff and then receive additional money for advancing to the championship round.
My best guess on what those percentages woud look like?
40% evenly distributed to all 11 major college football conferences to keep everyone treated “equally.”
50% evenly divided to the four conferences that advance to the playoff.
10% evenly divided to the two conferences that advance to the title game.
Assuming a figure in the neighborhood of $500 million a year in TV revenue then you’re looking at $200 million — about $18 million a year — to each of the 11 major conferences.
Then $250 million to the four conferences that advance to the playoff — that’s $62.5 million to each team.
And 10% or another $50 million total — $25 million each — for the two conferences that win and play another game. (Should it advance Notre Dame’s take would be lower and a conference that sends two teams would take a smaller share as well.)
This math could be completely wrong — and it’s predicated on my prediction of $500 million as a playoff television value which could also be high — but it gives you a sense of how much money is at stake here.
College football’s about to hit the lottery, y’all.
And by 2014 college football’s playoff will be the second largest sporting event in America.
Only the Super Bowl will be bigger than college football’s title game.
Everything else will pale in comparison.
It’s a brave new college football world we just entered.
And I can’t wait for 2014 to get here.
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