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The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee Meeting: Questions Presidents Must Ask

Today, the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee is meeting in Washington, D.C.  At the meeting, FBS conference commissioners will present the new post-season model, which they endorsed last week, to 12 university presidents.  The BCS has acknowledged that the proposal involves a four-team seeded playoff.  Other reports indicate that the four teams would be selected by a committee and would face-off in already existing bowl games.  Additional reports indicate that the site of the national championship game would be determined by a bidding system.  While the commissioner’s proposed new post-season model marks clear differences from the current BCS system, university presidents should ask the following questions and require sufficient answers before signing off on the plan. 

1.  Term of the Agreement

The first question presidents must ask, is how long of an agreement must they enter into if they approve the proposed plan?  The current BCS system has been in place since 1998.  While it was adopted to thwart previous criticism of the NCAA football post-season model, the current BCS system has attracted a large amount of criticism. 

Recognizing the amount of criticism that seems to befall any college football post-season model, university presidents should suggest that the term of this agreement be long enough to work any kinks out of the system, but not so long that changes cannot be made if it turns out to be an imperfect system.  In that regard, a five to six-year agreement would likely be the most beneficial term.

The elephant in the room when it comes to the length of the term, is arguably television contracts.  The expiration of the BCS’s current agreement coincides with the expiration of its television agreements.  Thus, there is the possibility that the BCS and conference commissioners believe that a lengthier agreement will benefit network negotiations.   Arguably, the longer that the BCS and conference commissioners can say that the new deal is in place, the more that networks will be willing to spend on deals. 

However, by shortening the term, the conferences and universities take away some of the negotiating power from the networks.  Shortening the term essentially requires networks to re-negotiate their television contracts at the end of the term.  Understandably, this opens up the possibility of conferences and universities obtaining more money from multiple television contracts.

2.  The Selection Committee

As noted above, it appears that conference commissioners propose that the teams that participate in the four-team playoff be selected by a committee.  This is arguably the least controversial proposal brought by the commissioners.  Most notably, a selection committee is used to seed the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Although it is an imperfect method, it works.  Nonetheless, the presidents should question how the committee will be made up, and what safeguards will be in place to ensure that the nation’s top-four teams play in the playoff.

3.  Costs

The biggest issue university presidents should have with the proposed system, is its cost.  For all intensive purposes, under the proposed model, a team that makes the national championship game would be playing in two bowl games.  Playing in two bowl games understandably involves significant costs.

Before approving the proposed model, university presidents must rest assured that they understand the extent of these costs and who they will be borne by.  Under the current BCS model, teams playing in BCS bowl games are required to purchase a certain amount of tickets.  If they do not sell these tickets, they eat their cost.  This can cost a school hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Additionally, there are large travel costs associated with playing in bowl games.  Under the proposed model, these costs will now have to be borne twice.  This is because teams will have to travel to a bowl site to play in the playoff and then again to whichever city bid the highest to host the national championship game.

For contractual reasons, it is unlikely that the commissioners will sway away from hosting the playoff at a bowl site.  Thus, university presidents must request that the BCS or conferences pay some portion of their travel costs, in order to make this an economically feasible solution.

Overall, in presenting this proposal, the conference commissioners have answered many questions and addressed many of the criticisms of the current BCS model.  However, it is clear that issues remain that must be addressed before it is adopted as the new college football post-season model.

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