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Mountain West Stable, For Now

The Mountain West appears to have won a large victory with the recent additions (or not losses if that’s how you choose to look at it) of Boise State and San Diego State.  That may in fact be the case.  However, there is also the possibility that in its quest for stabilization and increased stature, the Mountain West endangered itself by giving away crucial member equality in order to re-acquire Boise State.

Reports indicate the Mountain West has or will (among other things): 1) re-negotiate its television contract with CBS Sports Network which will allow teams on national television (i.e. Boise State) to make more money through bonuses, 2) sell Boise State’s home games in a separate package, and 3) allocate half of BCS (and future equivalent) bowl game revenue to the participating team (i.e. Boise State) before splitting it among the remaining conference members.

From the quotes of Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, it sounds as if Boise State wanted to stay in the Big East if it would match the Mountain West’s offer.  Smartly, Mr. Aresco and the remaining Big East schools’ (bonus points if you can name them) presidents said thanks, but no thanks.  In a time when it must feel like everything is crashing down around them, the Big East brass found a line they wouldn’t cross.  Good for them. Let’s face it, Boise State to the Big East wasn’t exactly the perfect mix of chocolate and peanut butter.  So for the Big East to grant unprecedented perks to a school 2,600 miles removed from the conference office didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck even went public with his disdain for the proposed deal, saying:

“What Boise State wanted was outrageous and unprecedented. It was not palatable to any of the other Big East institutions,” Gladchuk said. “In the final analysis, Boise wasn’t worth it. There is zero television interest in Boise along the Eastern seaboard. What it tells me is the Mountain West was desperate. Clearly, the Mountain West was willing to make whatever concessions necessary to keep Boise in the fold.”

But surely it made sense for the Mountain West to do whatever was necessary to bring Boise State back under its tent, right?  Maybe, maybe not.  The money grab that is conference realignment also has an undercurrent of trying to create and/or maintain stability and long-term viability.  As mentioned earlier, the Mountain West seems to have stabilized at 12 members.  But when gross member inequality is part of a league’s structure, there can be problems.

Example:  When the Big 12 was formed in the mid-90s, its structure was similar to how the Mountain West is currently proceeding.  Most notably, it did not share bowl and television revenue monies equally among the members.  Rather, the participating teams were first entitled to a larger share.  This obviously funneled most of the revenue toward the traditionally successful programs, and smaller amounts to everyone else. (Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wrote about this structure in 2010.) As time passed the Big 12 and its membership experienced the difficulties of operating a conference successfully when there’s a sense that a few schools are driving the bus and collecting the checks, and the rest are just passengers along for the ride.  Ultimately, that and other issues led to the departure of 1/3rd of the Big 12’s schools (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M), and a near collapse of the conference entirely.

Whether the Big 12 leadership decided the original structure was a mistake, or that times had changed and therefore the structure needed to change with it, the powers that be agreed to a more (though not completely) equal distribution of revenue in the summer of 2011.  It also put a stake in the ground on stability by having each member grant its television rights to the conference for a long period of time (initially six years, but recently extended to 13), essentially removing the largest incentive to other conferences who may wish to come poaching in the future (the importance of this “grant of rights” was well articulated by Mat Winter in a BusinessofCollegeSports.com post last month).  I have not read or heard anything along the lines of Boise State or the other Mountain West schools making similar commitments.

So while the Big 12 (barely) escaped the inequality trap and the Big East has avoided it for now, the Mountain West may have fallen right in it.  Sure, Utah State and San Jose State are excited to be new members in a league which just got considerably stronger.  And the other Mountain West schools no doubt see the tremendous value Boise State brings to all of them.  But give those non-Boise State presidents and athletic directors a few years of conference meetings looking over financials, and watching the revenue flow into the conference and out to Boise State.  Give them a few years of conference meetings observing how decisions are made.

The camaraderie that exists today may not continue very long.  And without a grant-of-rights or similar level of commitment, Boise State is for all intents and purposes a perpetual free agent, available to accept the next best conference offer that comes along.  The Mountain West’s current and future members no doubt wanted to make decisions which ensured stability over the long-term.  And while the league certainly got immediately stronger with the addition of Boise State, it may be that the deal they made guarantees the long-term will be anything but stable.

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielHare

Fan Rewards Go Social

Rewards programs are not new. Whether for pumping gas, swiping your credit card or booking a flight, companies have long sought to incentivize consumer loyalty. Think about it: between commercials, people in booths at the airport and internet pop-up ads, rewards programs are becoming ubiquitous.

College athletics fan rewards programs, where athletics departments give out prizes based on attendance at various sporting events, are also nothing new. Recently, a new trend has developed in this arena, one that seeks to combine the rewards concept with social media. Social media fan rewards programs have been popping up around the country, including schools like Oregon, Florida State, Duke and Penn State, among many others.

The premise is simple: fans are already interacting via social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram, often immediately before, during and immediately after athletic contests. Schools utilizing this technology are now providing a platform for fans that makes it easy for them to interact and engage (and spread the good word of the athletics department), while also garnering points to be used for free swag (and who doesn’t like free swag?).

One of the earliest adopters of these programs was Baylor, whose Baylor Bold Rewards program kicked off at the beginning of the 2011 academic year. At the time Associate AD John Garrison stated that, “With so much of our communication moving to social media, we felt this rewards program would be the way to get beyond our ‘friends’ to our friends’ friends.” The program has generated over 22 million social media impressions over the course of a year. That ability to expand a fan base is a big reason these programs have themselves gone “viral”. It’s about rewarding fans for spreading your message about your brand to their friends. Now, not only are more and more schools getting into the act, but conferences are as well, with the Big Ten Network, Horizon League and SWAC all launching their own iterations recently.

Two of the leaders in this burgeoning industry are Row 27 and Lodestone Social. Row 27 was responsible for Baylor’s groundbreaking program and also offers a number of other social marketing tools through their Fanmaker App Suite. Each company boasts long lists of clients from major programs, and each promises to galvanize a fan base through social media while dangling the carrot of the potential monetization of those social media initiatives. Lodestone Social’s pitch is to, “unite the void between social media efforts and revenue, connecting the passion of the crowd to the power of your team.”

One recent example of this “unity” is when Ole Miss and Mississippi State jointly announced in September that C Spire Wireless had signed on to become the official wireless partner of the universities’ social media rewards programs. The sponsorship will allow fans who participate in the Ole Miss Social Rebels and Hail State Social Rewards programs to interact with C Spire Wireless and earn additional rewards and giveaways, and also allow both universities to better engage their fans during games through their smart phones. It is believed to be the first program of its kind in the country, but is not the only way to make money from social media efforts. For example, in 2011 the University of Michigan made $376,478 in revenue from Facebook referrals alone.

Not everyone is impressed with social media fan rewards programs, however. A recent post on the digital and social media blog Digital Hoops Blast questioned if social media rewards programs are necessary at all. The three arguments made to support this notion are: 1) that these programs cause schools to lose focus on creating and sharing amazing content by focusing instead on points, 2) these programs dictate what social networks are better for fans to engage in by skewing the point scheme (more for a like on Facebook than a retweet on Twitter for example), and 3) the automation that totals up points to decide who your best fans is impersonal, which is counterintuitive to how you would want to connect with your best fans.

Those are great points but ultimately these programs are not going to go away. If Michigan, Ole Miss and Mississippi State were able to monetize their social media efforts, you can bet others across the nation with similar or even larger social media footprints are in the process of forming similar partnerships. Rather than the latest tech trend these programs appear to be an extension of what athletics departments have been doing with “traditional” fan rewards programs for years. For this reason look for companies like Lodestone Social, Row27 and others to continue to saturate the market, and for a social rewards program to come to a university near you (if it hasn’t already happened).

BCS Payouts vs. March Madness Payouts

Quite frequently in the debate over the BCS there are comparisons to March Madness. Proponents of moving to a playoff system point to the approximately $771 million a year (beginning in 2011) March Madness generates in television alone (previously an average of $545 million). Meanwhile, the BCS bowls will generate just $125 million beginning in 2011 (previously$96.4 million per year ).

While it’s true March Madness generates more television revenue overall, that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for each athletic department. A total of $452,200,000 was distributed by the NCAA in 2010-2011, and less than half of all monies distributed went back into the athletic department with no strings attached (via the Basketball Fund). Here’s the breakdown:

Basketball Fund ($180,467,000): Monies are distributed based on a six-year rolling period. Institutions receive one unit for each appearance, not including the championship game. Each unit was worth $239,664 in 2010-2011.

Academic Enhancement ($22,461,000): Each Division I institution gets $66,000 to use for academic support service for student-athletes.

Conference Grants ($8,115,000): Each conference receives $261,744 less an agreed upon amount remitted to the regional officiating advisors program. Funds must be used to improve officiating, enhance conference compliance and enforcement programs, drug abuse education, enhancement of opportunities for ethnic minorities, and development of gambling education programs.

Sports Sponsorship Fund ($60,155,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of varsity sports sponsored. Points begin with the 14th sport (the number required in Division I), and $30,091 is distributed for each sport above thirteen. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Grants-In-Aid Fund ($120,309,000): Each school’s share is determined based on the number of grants-in-aid awarded. These monies may be directed to individual institutions or to the conference for distribution, as decided upon by each conference.

Student Assistance Fund ($59,738,000): This fund also consists of the Special Assistance Fund and the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund. For the Student Assistance Fund, all athletes are eligible to receive these funds, even if they have exhausted eligibility or no longer participate due to medical reasons. These monies are distributed to the conference who decides how to allocate. This fund is to be used to assist student-athletes with financial needs that “arise in conjunction with participation in intercollegiate athletics, enrollment in an academic curriculum or that recognize academic achievement. The Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund is distributed by conferences based on the formula used for sports sponsorship and grants-in-aid. The Special Assistance Fund is to be used to meet student-athlete financial needs of an emergency or essential nature for which other financial aid is not available.

Supplemental Support Fund ($955,000): Used to support campus-based initiatives designed to foster student-athlete academic success at eligible limited resource institutions.

At the end of the day, most conferences receive larger payouts from the BCS than March Madness when it comes to money going back into the athletic department with no strings attached. Below is a look at the payouts for the past four years. Totals in red reflect conferences who received a larger payout from basketball than football for the given year. You should also note the football payouts indicated for the non-AQ conferences (Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt, C-USA and Western Athletic) are based on the payout from the BCS before the agreement between the conferences to split BCS money equally between all non-AQ conferences kicks in. Also, these numbers do not include payouts for non-BCS bowl games.

ACC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,149,120 $15,090,053 $15,863,538 $18,220,902
Difference  $3,939,555 $3,234,939 $2,809,187 $1,566,156
         
Big 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $13,561,946 $13,803,338 $15,332,222
Difference $9,500,739 $9,263,046 $9,369,387 $8,954,836
         
Big 12 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,325,984 $15,663,093 $16,275,578 $17,109,871
Difference $3,762,691 $7,161,899 $6,897,147 $2,677,187
         
Big East 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,725 $19,787,058
Basketball $14,856,576 $16,618,160 $19,365,880 $23,109,436
Difference $3,232,099 $1,706,832 ($693,155) ($3,322,378)
         
Pac 10 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $18,088,675 $18,324,992 $18,672,743 $19,787,058
Basketball $11,849,888 $12,606,880 $13,391,298 $14,665,604
Difference $6,238,787 $5,718,112 $5,281,445 $5,121,454
         
SEC 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $22,588,675 $22,824,992 $23,172,725 $24,287,058
Basketball $13,087,936 $14,708,026 $15,657,518 $15,110,015
Difference $9,500,739 $8,116,966 $7,515,207 $9,177,043
         
Mountain West 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $3,529,600 $3,724,000 $9,788,800 $9,878,710
Basketball $3,183,552 $4,011,280 $4,120,399 $3,999,710
Difference $346,048 ($287,280) $5,668,401 $5,879,000
         
Mid-American 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,964,800 $1,508,000 $2,094,400 $2,139,355
Basketball $1,945,504 $1,910,133 $1,442,140 $1,333,237
Difference $19,296 ($402,133) $652,260 $806,118
         
Sun Belt 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $1,443,200 $2,062,000 $1,529,600 $1,559,570
Basketball $1,061,184 $1,146,080 $1,854,180 $2,222,061
Difference $382,016 $915,920 ($324,580) ($662,491)
         
C-USA 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $2,486,400 $2,616,000 $2,659,200 $2,719,140
Basketball $7,782,016 $8,213,573 $9,064,879 $8,507,523
Difference ($5,295,616) ($5,597,573) ($6,405,679) ($5,788,383)
         
Western Athletic 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Football $9,008,000 $9,170,000 $3,224,000 $7,798,925
Basketball $3,006,688 $3,247,227 $3,090,300 $3,110,886
Difference $6,001,312 $5,922,773 $133,700 $4,688,039

I think it’s interesting to note that AQ football conferences are bringing in more from March Madness than non-AQ football conferences. Some of that has to do with the smaller size of some of the non-AQ conferences, but it’s still rather sizeable disparity. Nonetheless, I imagine people still find the March Madness system more digestible because it is a playoff system and because payouts are based on number of appearances.

Special thanks to my research assistant Eric Heckman for helping me compile the data.

School-Specific Broadcasting Revenue

Yesterday I showed you how each conference’s television contracts compare in terms of first and second tier rights fees. I didn’t cover third tier rights because they’re so hard to track down. Some third tier rights are bundled by the conference as a whole and sold to regional networks while others are retained by each individual school and sold to a local or regional network.

What I can show you is what each school is showing as revenue for broadcasting rights (television, radio and internet) through their responses to open records requests. This is separate from the money they receive from conference distributions, so it shouldn’t include any broadcasting money received from conference-wide media rights contracts.

The chart below is every school for which I have a value and represents the 2009-2010 school year. Those not listed either showed $0 or did not have to respond to open records requests (either because they’re private or protected by state laws).

1 University of North Carolina $11,171,458.00
2 University of Alabama $8,444,674.00
3 University of Kentucky $7,743,327.00
4 University of Florida $7,450,000.00
5 University of Kansas $7,276,988.00
6 Louisiana State University $7,012,730.00
7 Oklahoma State University $6,395,000.00
8 University of Tennessee $6,293,621.00
9 Oregon State University $6,267,671.00
10 University of Georgia $6,231,392.00
11 University of Wisconsin $5,547,740.00
12
Auburn University
$4,637,605.00
13 University of Nebraska $4,393,529.00
14 University of Missouri $4,081,549.00
15 Virginia Tech $3,769,583.00
16 Kansas State University $3,263,941.00
17 Iowa State University $2,608,896.00
18 North Carolina State University $2,470,750.00
19 Penn State University $2,362,500.00
20 Ohio State University $2,329,462.00
21 University of South Carolina $1,829,000.00
22 University of Connecticut $1,749,796.00
23 University of Louisville $1,675,000.00
24 University of Mississippi $1,658,650.00
25 University of Iowa $1,500,000.00
26 Georgia Tech $1,254,876.00
27 University of Washington $1,248,599.00
28
University of Illinois
$1,175,065.00
29 University of Cincinnati $1,000,000.00
30 University of Arkansas $950,000.00
31 Clemson University $920,000.00
32 Michigan State University $660,025.00
33 University of South Florida $588,298.00
34 Washington State University $562,098.00
35 West Virginia University $404,284.00
36 Florida State University $349,869.00
37 University of Texas $338,171.00
38 University of Minnesota $324,000.00
39 University of Oklahoma $317,361.00
40 University of Colorado $155,528.00
41 University of Oregon $108,452.00

Because I know fans enjoy arguing about which conference is better, here are the averages for each conference (keep in mind, however, each conference has one or more schools whose numbers aren’t available):

SEC: $4,750,091

ACC: $2,848,077

Big 12: $2,620,997

Big Ten: $1,389,879

Pac-10: $1,169,546

Big East: $902,896

Don’t give these averages too much weight in terms of comparing conferences. Tough to really compare the conferences, because the third-tier rights left for each school to sell individually varies greatly by conference based on what third-tier rights have been packaged by the conference as a whole.

If you’re interested in seeing a conference-by-conference breakdown, follow the jump…

Read the rest of this entry

Televison Contract Breakdown

UPDATED INFO AVAILABLE: Kristi has posted an updated breakdown of the television contracts on ESPN.com (5/10/12).

My search for details on all of the current television deals for each conference in one place failed. Which must mean BusinessofCollegeSports.com needs to compile all the details in one easy-to-find place, right?

To understand the chart, you first need to understand the types of rights available. Here is a very general explanation. First-tier rights are for football and/or basketball games broadcast nationally. Second-tier rights are for football and/or basketball games not selected by the first-tier rights holder. Third-tier rights are any games not selected by the first or second-tier rights holders and rights for all sports other than football and basketball. These rights are often sold on a per-school basis (not negotiated by the conference as a whole) and often go to regional networks (like Comcast Sports Southeast, Raycom, or SportsNet New York) or can be reserved for networks like the Big Ten Network and the Texas Longhorn Network.

All that being said, deals are now being done for multiple tiers. For example, the Pac-12′s new deal with ESPN and Fox covers first and second tier rights. Meanwhile, the ACC’s new deal that begins this fall covers football,  men’s and women’s basketball, Olympic sports and all conference championship games. Basically, it’s an all-inclusive package with a sublicensing arrangement in place with Raycom for games not broadcast by ESPN.

First-Tier Rights Term of First-Tier Rights Second-Tier Rights Term of Second-Tier Rights Total Per Year Average
Big 12  $480,000,000 (ESPN) 8 Years $1,170,000,000 (Fox) 13 Years $150,000,000
08/09-15/16 12/13-24/25
Pac-12 $3,000,000,000 (ESPN and Fox) for first and second-tier; 12 years (12/13-23/24) $250,000,000
ACC $1,860,000,000 (ESPN) for all-inclusive; 12 years (11/12-22/23) $155,000,000
SEC $825,000,000 (CBS) 15 Years $2,250,000,000 (ESPN) 15 Years $205,000,000
09/10-23/24 9/10-23/24
Big Ten $1,000,000,000 (ESPN) 10 Years $2,800,000,000 (BTN) 25 Years $212,000,000
06/07-15/16 07/08-31/32
Big East $200,000,000 (ESPN) 6 Years $54,000,000 (CBS) 6 Years $42,333,333
06/07-11/12 7/8-12/13

Some caveats are in order now that you’ve seen the chart. Keep in mind that the per year number is an average. It is not necessarily what each school gets each year. A number of these contracts have escalator clauses, including the new Pac-10/12 contract. In the early years of that contract, it will be $180 million per year (or $15 million per school) and in the later years it escalates, according to Larry Scott via conference call on Wednesday following the contract’s announcement.

Though it doesn’t fit in the chart, you can’t forget the money Texas is receiving for The Longhorn Network. They’ve been guaranteed $300 million over the next 20 years from ESPN. Similarly, the amount listed above for Big Ten Network revenue is a projected amount which could grow if the network exceeds expectations.

Deals for third-tier rights are too cumbersome to cover here. Some third-tier rights are bundled by conferences and sold to regional networks while others are retained by schools and sold individually to local or regional networks. More on that in a future post.

The next contract we expect to hear about is out of the Big East. Rumors of a new deal have been circulating lately and reports have it that they were close to a deal with ESPN but considering shopping on the open market. Numbers floating around for a deal with ESPN were in the $110-130 million range per year, which would more than triple their current contract. With the SEC, ACC and Pac-12 now all on the ESPN family of stations, can the Big East get a deal with enough exposure from them?

And what will happen with the Big 12′s first-tier rights? I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between their recent deal with Fox and the Pac-10/12′s  new deal announced yesterday with ESPN. I think it’s comparing apples to oranges. It should be no big shock that the Pac-10/12 would receive more money for their first tier rights than the Big 12 received for their second tier rights. Let’s wait and see what kind of dough the Big 12 commands when their first tier rights are up for grabs in the next few years.

UPDATE: I’ve posted school-specific broadcasting revenue from third tier rights sold individually here.

Special thanks to Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias for helping me track down the elusive value of CBS’s contract with the Big East!

Which Programs Rely on Student Activity Fees – Pt 2

This morning we took a look which athletic departments in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 rely on student activity fees. The big recipients, however, are in the ACC and Big East. Before we get to them, however, let’s take a look at the Pac-10:

Pac 10 Dollar Amount Percent of Revenue
University of California – Los Angeles $2,750,481.00 4.45%
University of California – Berkeley $2,146,402.00 3.10%
Oregon State University $2,142,702.00 3.85%
Washington State University $1,862,522.00 4.73%
University of Oregon $1,544,344.00 1.26%
University of Washington $0.00 0.00%
University of Arizona $0.00 0.00%
Arizona State University $0.00 0.00%
Stanford University N/A N/A
University of Southern California N/A N/A

In terms of average amount of student fees received, the Pac-10 comes in at $1.3 million, which puts it ahead of the Big Ten and Big 12. As we saw in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12, top football revenue generators in the Pac-10 didn’t rely on student activity fees, namely Washington and Arizona State. In addition, Washington turned a $2.4 million profit (according to Department of Education data) without reliance on these types of fees.

Two of our top five student activity fee recipients come from the ACC, where all schools who reported receive these fees to supplement the athletic department’s budget:

ACC Dollar Amount Percent of Revenue
University of Virginia $12,160,103.00 14.86%
Florida State University $6,919,449.00 9.30%
University of North Carolina $6,859,868.00 9.42%
Virginia Tech $6,533,756.00 10.27%
Georgia Tech $4,643,368.00 8.39%
North Carolina State University $4,200,610.00 8.49%
Clemson University $1,585,556.00 2.75%
Duke University N/A N/A
University of Maryland N/A N/A
Wake Forest University N/A N/A
University of Miami N/A N/A
Boston College N/A N/A

University of Virginia ranks second both in amount and percentage of total revenues. If you’ve read the piece on the finances of ACC football programs and overall athletic department finance, you’ll remember UVA led the conference in overall athletic department revenue even though they were below the midpoint for football revenue. That prompted me to call their athletic department and ask a few questions, wherein they revealed the high dollar amount they receive in student activity fees. Upon finding out that conference opponent Georgia Tech only received roughly a third of that amount, I decided to begin work on this piece.

There does seem to be some correlation between the average student activity fee received by schools within a conference and where that conference falls in terms of average football revenue. Before we look at that, however, here’s how the Big East stacks up: Read the rest of this entry

Money Not As Big in Big East Football

After writing about the football finances of the SECBig Ten, ACCPac-10 and Big 12, it’s time to turn to the Big East.  The numbers are drawn from schools’ reports to the U.S. Department of Education on the state of their athletic departments’ finances for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. See the note at the end for more details on the data.

  Football Revenue
West Virginia University $29,467,612.00
University of Pittsburgh $22,513,336.00
Rutgers University $19,494,261.00
Syracuse University $19,152,691.00
University of South Florida $16,562,391.00
University of Louisville $15,537,276.00
UCONN $14,400,371.00
University of Cincinnati $13,325,304.00

Not surprisingly, money isn’t as big in Big East football as the other BCS conferences. In fact, the biggest earner doesn’t even make as much as the average in the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12:

Football Revenue:

SEC ($49.9m)

Big Ten ($40.6m)

Big 12 ($35.4m)

Pac-10 ($24.6m)

ACC ($20.9m)

Big East ($18.8)

Despite the Big East’s overall average being the lowest amongst BCS conferences, there are several schools from other conferences making less than the lowest revenue generator in the Big East: University of Maryland ($11.5m), Wake Forest ($10.2m) and Washington State ($12.8m).

We’ll see the same when we take a look at expenses, as a number of schools from other conferences spend less than the most conservative spender in the Big East. The biggest surprise to me when looking at expenditures on football was how far down the list top-earner West Virginia fell.  Read the rest of this entry

Did Texas Tattle on Oregon for Suspicious Recruiting?

Thursday night, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported that University of Oregon expense records show money going to two men who are tied to “multiple recruits who signed letters of intent with the school.”

For those unfamiliar with how this aspect of recruiting works in college football, scouting services are run all over the country by people who are not affiliated directly with any one school, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.  They act as outside scouts for programs who can’t send their own recruiters to see the athlete in person. Often, they put together tapes and other information on recruits and provide it to colleges who might be interested in the player.

According to Oregon coach Chip Kelly, “Most programs purchase recruiting services.”  This in itself is not against NCAA regulations.

What is against NCAA regulations is paying someone to influence a player’s decision on where to play. These are the allegations now surrounding Oregon’s relationship with a man named Willie Lyles.

Oregon financial documents show a $25,000 payment to Lyles just days after highly-touted recruit Lache Seastrunk signed a letter of intent with the school. The payment was made for recruiting services, but far exceeds the $5,000 a handful of football coaches polled by ESPN yesterday say that recruiting services typically charge. In the previous two seasons, Oregon paid Lyles $16,500 or his recruiting services.

Perhaps most surprised by the news was Lache Seastrunk’s mother, Evelyn. She told ESPN, “Willie said he was a trainer. Now Oregon says he’s a scout? Is he on Oregon’s payroll? If Willie Lyles collected $25,000 off my son he needs to be held accountable. The NCAA must find out for me. I don’t know how to digest someone cashing in on my son.”

New information made available today on ChuckOliver.net from a source who used to be a business associate of Lyles suggests Lyles has a habit of preying on athletes with single  mothers, like Seastrunk.

Ingram Smith, author of the ChuckOliver.net story, makes an interesting point about the origin of the story. Last night the story broke on Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated, leaving Smith to wonder if the same source didn’t tip off all three media outlets.

Smith has sources who tell him that the University of Texas has been growing suspicious of Lyles for awhile. Says Smith, “Inside the Longhorn’s program there is tremendous suspicion regarding Lyles’ influence on some of the state’s top talent and how many of the state’s best players that were associated with Lyles, like Seastrunk, are leaving the state at an historically high rate and under fishy circumstances.”

There seems to be a growing number of instances where schools are rumored to be “tattling” on other schools. Remember that both Mississippi State and University of Florida were rumored to have pointed the finger at Cam Newton initially. Instead of being like a fraternity who protects its members at all costs, it appears college football is splintering as schools battle for top recruits and championships. Given the number of coaches and assistants who move around each and every year, taking with them inside knowledge of their former programs, look for this phenomenon to continue to grow.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients.  Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

In a League of Its Own: the SEC Championship Game

Is the SEC Championship Game the most elite of the conference championship games in college football?  It is if you weigh the economic impact, secondary market ticket prices and overall ticket demand.  Oh, and in recent years, it almost always produces a contender for the national title.

Just how much more succesful is this game than the other conference championship games?  Before I spoil the ending any more than I already have, let’s take a look at the championship games in the other AQ conferences:

ACC

For the past five years, the ACC contenders have played before some disappointing crowds.  In three of those five years, less than 60,000 attended the game, which was played in Jacksonville in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and in Tampa in 2008 and 2009.  There were no sellouts during those years and the average ticket price was just $94.

Charlotte insists it can do better, however.  So far, they are making their case.  As of yesterday, 70,000 of the 73,000 seats for this weekend’s ACC title game were sold with a sellout expected to happen today.  Charlotte is hoping for a $15-20 million total economic impact on the city.

Big 12

Fairing better than the ACC title game, the Big 12 title game does see sellouts with crowds of over 70,000.  However, it is trumped by the annual Texas – Oklahoma game every year.  Dallas estimates that game has an economic impact of $20 million.  Last year, the CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau seemed skeptical that the Big 12 Championship Game could equal the economic impact of the State Fair game.  The average ticket price for that game on the secondary market ended up being $191.

SEC

Then there’s the SEC Championship Game.  According to StubHub, the SEC title game is the highest grossing college football game of the year (followed by the State Fair game).  The game has been played in Atlanta since 1994 and only failed to sellout in 1995.  Currently, there is a waitlist each and every year with 20,000+ names vying for a ticket.  Unfortunately, only around 200 tickets become available each year, since those with tickets in previous years are allowed the right to renew.  With each person on the waiting list buying two tickets, only around 100 people a year make it from the waitlist to the stands without having to go to the secondary market. 

That’s where this game truly sets itself apart.  The average ticket price to the SEC Championship Game last year was $583!  This year, a suite at the game sold for $22,500 on eBay.  On top of all that, the game has an economic impact upwards of $30 million in Atlanta. 

Next year, the PAC-10 and Big Ten will roll out championship games of their own, hoping to rival the SEC.  They both certainly have better brand power in college football than the ACC and Big 12.  If they have any sense, they’ll be studying the SEC model, because it runs like a well-oiled machine in Atlanta the first weekend of every December.  I hope they’re watching; I know I will be. 

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.

What’s Next in Conference Realignment?

This week could very well mark a turning point in college football.  Is the Pac-10 becoming the Pac-16?  Will the Big-12 still exist?  And the newest and most interesting question…will USC be banned from postseason play for the next two years?

For weeks we’ve been hearing about the possibility of expansion in the Pac-10, Big 10 and SEC.  Now it appears that at least some of the rumors are manifesting into reality.  Colorado has already been invited to join the Pac-10, and sources say invitations will be extended to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.  Sources are also reporting that Nebraska will be moving to the Big Ten.  That leaves Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State behind in the former Big-12.  All indications seem to be that if that were the case, the Big-12 would dissolve.  So who will step in to scoop up what remains?

There have been rumors for weeks now that the SEC was considering extending invitations to four new teams.  Those rumored to be possibilities were Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M and Clemson.  If the SEC did extend four invitations and several of those went to ACC teams, what would become of the ACC?  The rumors on the expanded SEC have died down, but the possibility is still interesting.

Does anyone else wonder if all this realignment is in response to the heightened scrutiny on the BCS?  If nothing else, it would at least provide the perfect timing for a redesign of postseason play.

Speaking of postseason play, the most interesting news with regards to college football is coming out this morning.  It seems college football powerhouse USC might be absent from postseason play for the next two years.  Sanctions are expected from the NCAA today, and sources say the punishment will include a reduction in scholarships, a forfeiture of wins from at least the 2004 season, and being banned from postseason play for the next two years!  The sanctions are in response to violations by both the men’s football and basketball programs.  USC will have a chance to appeal the decision.

The NCAA is clearly looking to make an example of USC, a perennial contender in the BCS.  No BCS team has been banned from postseason play in the past seven years.  The combined effect of the conference realignment, the possible dissolution of the Big-12, and the absence of USC from postseason eligibility for the next two years, sets the stage for a complete BCS overhaul.  The biggest question remaining for most fans, however, is if the BCS will take this golden opportunity to revisit its system and make some important changes.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.