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The final games of the 2014 regular season were about more than rivalries and bragging rights. For several schools they were about securing a spot in the new College Football Playoff. With that spot, those teams would have earned millions for their conferences and themselves. We think three teams cost their conferences some major dough when they blew it on the field on Saturday.
There was a plausible scenario where the CFP committee could have placed three SEC teams in the playoff and its associated access bowls. Best case scenario for the SEC, Alabama and Mississippi State could have ended up in the playoff, and Georgia could have been placed by the committee in an access bowl (Cotton, Fiesta or Peach). Each team in the playoff receives $6 million for the conference and each team in an access bowl earns $4 million for the conference, so the SEC could have been looking at a $16 million payday.
With Mississippi State’s devastating loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, however, we’ll never know if the CFP committee would have ranked the Bulldogs in the Top 4 without a conference championship game berth and win. Now Alabama is the SEC’s only hope for the $6 million playoff spot, and the Bulldogs will likely drop to an access bowl and earn the conference $4 million. Georgia’s hopes of an access bowl were effectively extinguished with its loss to Georgia Tech, so no $4 million payday there.
There is, of course, a chance Missouri makes an access bowl with a win over Alabama next weekend in the conference championship game and banks $4 million for the conference. However, that would also mean Alabama wouldn’t be earning the $6 million paycheck for the playoff, and it seems doubtful that both Alabama and Missouri would wind up in access bowls in that scenario, so it would mean just one SEC representative in an access bowl earning $4 million.
At this point, the best case scenario is the SEC sends Alabama to the playoff and Mississippi State to an access bowl, earning $10 million total for the conference. Not chump change, but not the $16 million that could have been either.
Each of the Power Five conferences is expected to earn a base of $50 million this season. The SEC won’t receive any contract bowl revenue this year since the Sugar Bowl is hosting a CFB semifinal, so its final paycheck from the CFP would be approximately $60 million if Alabama is the only team in the playoff and Mississippi State is the only SEC team in an access bowl. For comparison’s sake, the SEC’s payout from the BCS last year was approximately $27.897 million.
Another program whose loss over the weekend hits its conference right in the wallet is Marshall. The highest ranked team from the Group of 5 conferences is guaranteed a spot in the playoff or an access bowl. Before Marshall’s overtime loss to Western Kentucky, the Herd was set to go to an access bowl and earn C-USA $4 million.
Instead, it looks like Boise State will earn the money for the Mountain West and Marshall will have to settle for splitting the approximately $75 million being provided to the Group of Five. Reportedly, those conferences will split $60 million evenly and the rest will be distributed based upon how the conferences rank against one another. (Note: some numbers in that article differ from those provided by the College Football Playoff, so it’s being referenced only for its discussion of the Group of Five distribution formula.)
Conservative estimates still have C-USA receiving approximately $15 million under the new CFP system. That’s a pretty significant raise from the $2.9 million the conference earned from the BCS last year.