Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Nov 2010

TCU to Join Big East

Good, because, you know, I thought college conference names still made too much sense. So now we'll have a Big 10 with 12 teams, a Big 12 with 10 teams, a WAC that goes out to Louisiana and a Big East that goes as far east as Texas. Oh, and the Big East now has 17 teams for non-football sports. I'm sure that's doable.

Boy, I can't wait for that awesome TCU-Georgetown basketball rivalry. Catholic-Protestant SMACKDOWN!

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 29 Nov 2010

76 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2010, 12:30pm by Pat (filler)


by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:22pm

So I take it that this means the Mountain West was not going to be granted AQ status when the next evaluation came through? With Boise State (and possibly Hawaii) joining, I would have thought it was close. Losing Utah probably sealed it.

And wow, perhaps the Big East needed TCU to retain AQ status...

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:24pm

The BE wasn't close to losing AQ status, after 3 BCS bowl wins from 2005-2007 and a top-3 regular season team in 2009. I mean seriously, people.

by Eddo :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:33pm

Are BCS bowl wins factored in? I didn't know that.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:10pm

The Big East has AQ status automatically through the 2014 season anyway. The AQ-qualification is really just for addition of a seventh AQ-conference. The current 6 AQ conferences are kindof "grandfathered in" because they essentially 'donated' their bowl tie-in agreements to the BCS.

Of course, the fact that the 6 AQ conferences all happen to be the top 6 in all AQ-evaluation categories makes that point moot anyway.

I have no idea why the Mountain West didn't go absolutely crazy to keep at least one of TCU or Utah. Losing both of them basically torches any case they had to be an AQ conference.

by LookOut! (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:54pm

BYU left too, and they've been pretty good under Mendenhall. That can't help the MWC either.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:48pm

As far as I can tell, the MWC basically replaced their best teams with the best teams from the WAC. With BYU, TCU, Utah, and Boise State, the MWC was pretty much guaranteed an AQ-berth provided they didn't fall apart in 2011. They had the first category locked (Big East's top ranked team was #12/#9/~#20, MWC's was #6/#4/~#3-4), and the third category locked (12 total vs. the Big East's 6). Second category might've been harder, but they should've squeaked by.

The "new MWC" still should have the first category locked up (#9/#6/~#10) but they're obviously well behind in the third (now only 4 vs. the Big East's 6) and likely very behind in the second.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 8:43pm

There's a limited amount the Mountain West can do to keep teams even if they wanted to go "absolutely crazy" in their efforts to do so. Their dollars are small compared to the major conferences and it's doubtful the other member schools would have approved of an arrangement where TCU got the lion's share of revenue to itself. (In the Big 12, schools still make decent money even if Texas makes way more; that doesn't hold in smaller conferences.) If they thought they were on the verge of a BCS automatic bid, then maybe, but it's not at all clear that was the case

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:58pm

"If they thought they were on the verge of a BCS automatic bid, then maybe, but it's not at all clear that was the case"

Except they were. The three criteria for becoming a BCS AQ conference are on their website. You can calculate all three of them yourself. We don't know what would've happened in 2011, but barring a disaster, with Boise, Utah, TCU, and BYU, an automatic bid was a guaranteed done deal. With TCU it might've actually still been possible. Now, almost no chance.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:25am

But, again, what could they have done to make TCU stay? TCU's BCS shot is GUARANTEED by their going to the Big East. Same goes for Utah moving to the Pac 12. The Big XII was saved only because Texas became convinced their staying put could lead to them making more money AND having a better shot at BCS bowls every year. That scenario was never going to work for the Mountain West.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:18pm

Well, to keep TCU: nothing, really, since all of their leverage was gone when Utah/BYU left (and they've stated that's why they left). When Boise joined, and there was talk that Utah was leaving, if I was the Mountain West, I would've done something silly like say "OK, we'll split the BCS AQ money evenly between Boise, BYU, Utah, and TCU for the first 6 years because without them, we won't get it anyway." That's something like $4.5M/year, as opposed to the ~$1.5M year they'd get elsewhere. That wouldn't exactly close the gap between the money they'd get from the Pac-12 in terms of the TV money, but it'd be a good portion of it, and then the Mountain West could also split the lion's share of the next TV contract between those teams (because it'd be much larger as an AQ conference).

Really, I doubt most of the other schools would've complained much - with those teams gone, that money's gone anyway - the Mountain West is just the WAC now. But I would've been surprised if they couldn't've kept Utah/BYU by throwing money at them - the BCS spot was essentially guaranteed before Boise joined. With Boise, it was an absolute lock. Even after losing Utah, it probably was still a lock. Once they lost BYU... that's when it became unlikely.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 12:22pm

Eh. TCU in the Big East doesn't make any less sense than TCU in the MWC, and I don't think the 17 schools for all sports (or 18, depending on whether the 10th is 'Nova or someone else) is going to last long. By 2017 the football members will have split off. TCU will be in the 'South' division with the other CUSA imports; the old (pre-ACC raid) Big East schools (and UConn and 'Nova or Temple) will be in the 'North' division.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:02pm

I'd like to read an analysis of the BCS, by a recognized expert in antitrust law, in light of this latest move. When a cartel co-opts a competitor, thus leaving other competitors in a weakened position to obtain television revenues, does that raise the chance for successful legal action? If, say, the NFL had, instead of merging with the AFL, instead asked two or three teams to join the NFL, and excluded the others, would the remaining AFL teams have had a good basis for a successful lawsuit?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:17pm


All eleven FBS conferences are members of the BCS. All of them. Even the Sun Belt. They're all members. Go to bcsfootball.org. Look up at the top. See the conferences? That's all of them. They're all members of your "cartel." The only teams in FBS that aren't "BCS schools" are Army and Navy.

The "AQ/non-AQ" conference division was negotiated by all of the conferences involved, and it's determined basically by math, not by a group of guys in the shadows of a darkened room. The results are all available here for 2004-2007, and will be available for 2008-2011. The current AQ conferences also happen to be the top 6 in all three categories, by a large margin.

The Presidential Oversight Committee includes presidents from such luminary schools as Western Kentucky and Northern Illinois. There is no shadowy cartel. All the schools, except for Army and Navy, agreed to this format.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:30pm

(It should also be noted that although Army/Navy don't have any say in the governance of the BCS, they do get $100K each every year. And the FCS conferences split $2M/year, as well, although I have no idea why the heck they do that.)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:26pm

Sigh. the fact that all eleven conferences have joined in a cartel does not preclude the possibility that that a cartel is engaging in illegal behavior. You have employed the term "shadowy" to argue against an assertion which was not made.
This abstract....


written last spring, is pretty interesting, but in partitcular addresses the issue of what it means that 11 conferences partcipated in the negotiations....

"Finally, although perhaps not offering an absolute defense to a group
boycott claim, the BCS would also likely defend itself from such a charge
by emphasizing that the non-BCS Conferences have themselves been a
party to the BCS agreements ever since modifications were made to the
BCS in 2004.228 Thus, the BCS can argue that the non-BCS Conferences
have had an opportunity to participate in any decisions regarding the BCS’s
selection procedures and its methods of distributing revenue. However, the
significance of this argument is minimal, given that courts have regularly
entertained antitrust suits in the professional sports context by teams
challenging league-wide rules that they themselves had previously agreed to
either explicitly or implicitly (by buying a team previously consenting to the
rule).229 Moreover, critics can also respond to this line of argument by
noting that the non-BCS Conferences’ role in the management of the BCS
is marginal at best, given that they have collectively been given only one
vote out of eight on the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.230
Accordingly, the non-BCS Conferences still lack any meaningful ability to
alter the operations of the BCS."

Look, I's not arguing that it is a slam-dunk case of illegal behavior under antitrust law. I am arguing that one has to be an extreme partisan, to the point of being unreasonable or disingenuous, to argue that the behavior is plainly within the boundaries of antitrust law.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:04pm

Look, I's not arguing that it is a slam-dunk case of illegal behavior under antitrust law. I am arguing that one has to be an extreme partisan, to the point of being unreasonable or disingenuous, to argue that the behavior is plainly within the boundaries of antitrust law.

No, you don't. If you read that paper, the one argument they make that the BCS is supposedly susceptible to is "it distributes revenue unequally and without justification." This is blatantly false: it distributes revenue unequally, true, but it has perfect justification. The revenue is distributed equally to the AQ conferences. To become an AQ conference, you have to meet three mathematical qualifications. There are a maximum of 7 AQ conferences to retain one at-large bid for the remaining schools in non-AQ conferences (if you had 8 AQ conferences, the other schools would be screwed if the top 2 teams weren't conference champions).

If any of the 6 AQ conferences would've failed the qualifying criteria for 2004-2007, they would've been out. They didn't. It's just that simple. The unequal distribution of revenue is due to the fact that 6 conferences regularly put better football products on the field. Just look at the AQ criteria results, and it's really not even close.

It's plenty easy to criticize the BCS, and I can find tons of examples of people criticizing it. But most criticisms just don't understand the way it works (Believing that the POC makes decisions, rather than the conference commissioners, for instance, or that margin of victory should be used).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:18pm

As soon as a person claims that anything in the affairs of human beings is "perfect", they have revealed themsleves to be be an extreme partisan, to the point of being unreasonable or disingenuous. Choosing a mathematical formula is not an exercise performed by a Divine entity.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:43pm

As soon as a person claims that anything in the affairs of human beings is "perfect"

I never said it was perfect. I have serious issues with the statistical rankings used, and I really disagree with the fact that they just use the statistical ranks rather than attempting to combine the relative distances (like is done with the polls) - it wouldn't be easy, but it's definitely possible.

On a fundamental basis, I think the idea of trying to have a system which includes 120 teams whose budgets vary by orders of magnitude is absolutely ludicrous, and is guaranteed to appear to be cartel-like from the outside. The problem isn't the BCS, it's pretending that North Texas, with an endowment of $80 million and an athletic department revenue of $10M, should ever be on the same field as Texas, with an endowment of $18 billion and an athletic department revenue of $138M. This is the equivalent of an agreement between Walmart, Target, and Joe's General Store in Topeka.

Choosing a mathematical formula

If you want to criticize the statistical rankings used, go right ahead. Two of them are iffy: Anderson-Hester and Billingsley (who is insane). The others all are based on math that's decades or centuries old. There's no way you could claim that the choice of statistical rankings predisposed the rankings to maintain the six conferences in any way other than "they're better conferences."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:04pm

"This is blatantly false: it distributes revenue unequally, true, but it has perfect justification."

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:12pm

Oops, that was a typo. It should've been "perfectly fine."

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:27pm

Well, I'll avoid a pointless semantic debate. I think people tend to make a real mistake when they come to argue that issues like this, in the legal/political realm, have obvious answers. There is a reason why guys like David Boies charge more than a $1000 an hour. When Utah's AG travels to D.C. to discuss the topic, and tons of DOJ lawyers, lobbyists, and private litigators show up to hear what he has to say, I think it is a real mistake to think you can confidently predict the future, either in the courtroom or the legislative chambers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:15pm

Also, any formula which results in uneven distribution of television revenues will have the effect of lending strength to the status quo, for obvious reasons. It may not be possible any longer to have a system in which Texas plays North Texas which does not run afoul of antitrust law as currently written. I think the whole system begs for more detailed Federal oversight, and I'm not really sympathetic to the argument that institutions which receive massive amounts of Federal subsidies, direct and indirect, should avoid much more detailed oversight. I might start by capping compensation for coaching staffs, among other measures.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:30pm

I might start by capping compensation for coaching staffs, among other measures.

Yeah, I agreed with most of your post... until you hit that point. The federal oversight that'd be required wouldn't be something like that - how can you cap compensation for a coach when that compensation is donated from private donors? At that point the government's stepping in at way too low of a level.

Scheduling between schools would be a much more sane thing for them to look at; specifically, the way that revenue's distributed between two schools when the play.

My gut still says that's a really iffy topic, though, considering most schools operate basically at margin, and the dominant cost at all major schools is facilities - so saying to, say, Penn State, "you need to pay schools more when they come to play you" is a bit bizarre, since they could just say "we spend way more on facilities than they do; that's why we make more."

Maybe conference/network tie ins? That I could easily believe could use additional federal oversight. I could easily believe that deciding that conferences aren't allowed to collectively negotiate exclusive deals with major networks might be beneficial to college football in general: bringing something like "flex scheduling" (in NFL terms) would probably seriously help the revenue streams of some of the more minor schools.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:37pm

It seems to me that any institution which receives Federal subsidies can, as a condition of receiving those subsidies, can have their conditions of employement regulated in very detailed fashion by Congress. Limiting outside compensation is a part of many employment contracts.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:56pm

Sure they can, if you want the federal government (and its associated administrative cost) to balloon up to insane levels. Micromanaging costs money, time, and effort, and I don't see any reason why it would help at all. All schools basically spend about 10-20% of their athletic department's budget on coaches. The place where things are really unequal (and what prevents the small schools from competing) is the amount of money that's spent on facilities costs and maintenance - that's where the huge dichotomy is, where Auburn has a 2000% increase in spending over Ball State. If you cap coaching costs, the departments will just funnel that into even more improved facilities (the 200,000 person stadium!), which will just separate schools even more.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:14pm

Oh, the whole thing needs a lot of study. Slightly off topic, is there any buzz in Nittanyland about Al Golden being JoPa's repalcement in the next couple of years? He may be a candidate for the Minnesota job, but if it is just going to be warm-up, Lou Holtz to Notre Dame situation, prior to Golden going back to his alma mater, I think the Gophers should look elsewhere.

I think the Minnesota job could be an undiscovered gem for the right guy. The Twin Cities regularly supplies starters to Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and others, while teams like Ohio State, Boise State, Pittsburgh (Larry Fitzgerald), USC and other prominent schools have had recent starters who are natives of the Twin Cities. Obviously, if the Vikings move it would help the Gophers, but even an extended period of mediocrity or worse by the Vikings, which now seems likely, would open the door for the Gophers, especially now that the Gophers now have the far superior facility.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:49pm

Eh, some people have said it, but I don't think it's too likely. If they don't promote from within - which I really, really, really think they should do, given that absolutely no FBS coach has experience working in a similar environment - the main buzz has been around ideas like Pat Fitzgerald or Jim Harbaugh. Those two at least have experience in somewhat similar environments, although there the academic standards are pushed on them externally. If Joe's done his job right, though, they will be at Penn State, too, so, who knows. Harbaugh's really the most comparable, and if they had to go from outside, that's who I'm hoping for.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:38pm

To add on this point the zero schools that produce zero value to college football will still be at huge disadvante no matter how handicap general you go on them. They don't have the alumni bases, the locations, history and tradition, local fan basis, acedmics or well anything to offer. Is the next step going to force these kids into a draft to play college ball even if forced into a school that does not offer the major they would like to take?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:41pm

Golly, if they produce no value, maybe they should just stop playing football.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 10:00pm

Golly, that Little League team I used to play on - they should just kill that league entirely. It runs at a huge net negative cost!

Seriously, it's a game. The teams don't have to produce value other than letting the kids have fun representing their schools.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 10:34pm

If it is a game akin to what you played as a child, then there is no need to pay a coach a six or seven figure salary. Or to provide ahtletic scholorships. Lots of schools play football without them.

The reality is that it, at the level we are talking about, is an entertainment business operated by educational institutions. I think a reasonable case can be made that it serves the purpose of education. Having said that, the behavior of the cartel is legally questionable for reasons we have been discussing. If we are talking about a cartel with legally questionable methods, with members who receive giant federal subsidies, then it is eminently reasonable that their behavior be given great scrutiny by the government, and I think it a misstatement to say that some institutions proiduce "zero".

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:35pm

If it is a game akin to what you played as a child, then there is no need to pay a coach a six or seven figure salary. Or to provide ahtletic scholorships.

Of course there's a need to pay a coach a six figure salary. The amount of work they do is ridiculous - they manage a 20-30 person staff, travel a ton, and publicly represent the school. Regardless of the monetary value the team brings in, the program brings a ton of PR value to almost any school. Hawaii, for instance, has a football program that runs decently in the red almost every year. They pay their coach next-to-nothing (~$150K/year - that's a joke considering the amount of work, responsibility, and public scrutiny required). Yet they still play football because they need the visibility to maintain and increase their state funding.

Seriously, what permanent upper faculty-level employee at a university doesn't earn a roughly six-figure salary?

Having said that, the behavior of the cartel is legally questionable for reasons we have been discussing.

I don't agree. I don't think the 'unequal distribution of revenue' argument would hold water in any court. I have zero doubt that the conference commissioners have detailed documents regarding how they came to the determination of the money split and the justification of it. It's too balanced: there's no reason why they would push money to FCS schools if someone hadn't done an estimate of the relative value of FCS schools to college football, and therefore the BCS, as a whole.

Half the reason why they altered the non-AQ autoberth requirements was because of rumblings of antitrust investigations, and suddenly the number of non-AQ teams in the BCS jumped dramatically. If there was any worry about the revenue distribution, they would've fixed it a while ago.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:47pm

Pat, make up your mind, will you? If this is akin to a game you played as a child, then there is no need for the coaches to work like they do. The reality, of course, is that it is entirely specious to claim that football at this level recembles snything like a game you played as a child.

Yeah, I realize that you are confident in you legal analysis. My instinct tells me that when large groups of extremely well paid lawyers gather to discuss a legal matter, along with lesser paid but higly influential DOJ officials, it is not very wise to have confidence that the issue they are discussing is clear as a matter of law, and if it is not clear as a matter of law, it most certainly is not clear as a matter of politics.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:13pm

Pat, make up your mind, will you? If this is akin to a game you played as a child, then there is no need for the coaches to work like they do.

There needs to be a term for, in a debate, when someone misses the point of an analogy and extends it to an extreme that stretches it far outside of its original intent. It's kindof like a "transferred strawman," but not really.

Your original argument was that if the game doesn't produce value, why play it? I took the 'value' to mean direct value - if you intended indirect value, the argument's pointless, since there's no football program in the country that doesn't provide significant indirect value. The point of bringing up the Little League analogy was that athletics doesn't have to produce direct monetary value - it's entertainment for both students and alumni, and that provides plenty of indirect value to the University as a whole.

The amount of effort that's required to maintain that football program is really, really huge - which is why the head coach's salary is so large. But that's fine, because like I said, the indirect value to the University is similarly huge. The effective advertising that they get from having their team appear for three hours on television is probably worth enough to pay for the team multiple times over. But even excluding that, athletic programs are still worth having at a net cost because they keep alumni associated with the school.

Yeah, I realize that you are confident in you legal analysis.

I'm confident in my legal analysis because the BCS has been around for a long time, and any time someone in Congress chirps up, the system rapidly adapts and suddenly those chirps lose all their merit. I'm also confident because it's a drop in the freaking bucket. The BCS is not worth bajillions of dollars. Heck, it makes less money than the Big Ten Network. No one's going to challenge thirty or forty billion dollar institutions for a ~$150M pot.

by JonFrum (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:41pm

Detailed federal oversight? My head is exploding.

This is the same federal government that slept while our entire financial structure melted down, and you want them to straighten out college football? Seriously?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:38pm

Oh, I'd be happy if they ended all subsidies, or at least greatly curtailed them. Pigs who cram their snouts in the trough most of the time, however, cannot claim it is unreasonable to have their feeding behavior closely regulated by the people who fill the trough.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 7:02pm

Huh? How is an uneven tv deal against the sherman act? This is an argument I have to see.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 9:34pm

Click on the link, then read the pdf file.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:18pm

It's also worth noting that the paper's point that using MOV hurts non-AQ conferences more is actually really funny: it hurts the best teams in non-AQ conferences (sometimes), but it helps (dramatically) the non-AQ conferences as a whole in their criteria rankings: if they used MOV-based rankings to determine conference AQ status, the non-AQ conferences wouldn't have a prayer.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:25pm

It only takes one damaged party to prevail in a lawsuit.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:32pm

Except that the far bigger windfall to the best teams would be if their conference became an AQ conference. So the argument that using non-MOV hurts them financially doesn't really work, because it helps the conference (and thus the team) in terms of becoming an AQ conference.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:39pm

"If" is an important modifier.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:32pm

Isn't that essentially what the NFL did with the AAFC in 1946? I don't recall ever hearing of any antitrust lawsuits then.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:05pm

The fact that no lawsuit was filed in 1946 doesn't tell us much about today, especially in light of how broadcast revenues and contracts have changed in the intervening 64 years.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:35pm

The Big East died the day Miami, Boston College, and Syracuse decided to leave.

Until they can get some stability - which isn't going to happen any time soon - they're irrelevent.

by IsraelP (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:03pm

I think you mean Virginia Tech, not Syracuse.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:23pm

Unless he's referring to the original ACC expansion master plan where Syracuse was in and actively planning to leave. VT made enough noise that I think UVa couldn't politically endorse leaving VT in the Big East so the ACC swapped out Syracuse.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:30pm

What he said. I just made a short story long.

by Dean :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 2:30pm

No. I mean Syracuse.

The original invitee list from the ACC was the three schools I mentioned above.

For decades, Virginia Tech has coveted a spot in the ACC. When the ACC expanded and didn't invite them, they got their panties in a bunch and got the Virginia Legislature involved. The politicians in Virginia were horrified that the Atlantic Coast Conference wouldn't want a school that's 300 miles away from the ocean in some backwoods jerkwater town out near West Virginia somewhere, and worse, didn't represent any major television market. So they threatened to yank all the funding away from UVA unless the Cavaliers somehow convinced the rest of the ACC to invite Tech.

Meanwhile, Miami does a huge amount of recruiting in the northeast. Their student body comes first from Florida, then from the Northeast Corridor. Losing Virginia Tech is an non-issue to them because they don't recruit in Virginia anyway. Losing Temple and Rutgers would actually be a bigger deal to them, because that's a trip into a recruiting hotbed every year. The ACC doesn't expand without Miami, and Miami doesn't want to go without BC and Syracuse.

It takes a few weeks, but compromise is reached, and all of a sudden, Tech is in and Syracuse remains in the Big East. Miami still gets BC, and the ACC still gets 12 teams, and UVA gets the politicians off their backs, and VT kicked and screamed and threw a temper tantrum and held their breath until they turned blue in the face and eventually got what they wanted.

The irony is that it worked out much better for VT than it did Miami when it was all said and done.

Regardless, the day the Canes announced they were leaving, the Big East ceased to matter.

by dryheat :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:16pm

Well, after Miami and Virginia Tech jumped ship to make the ACC an 11-team conference, the ACC was still targeting Syracuse hard, as they're a very strong draw in NYC. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and BC got together and made a pact to remain in the Big East. I don't know why BC flipped, but they weren't the ACCs first choice.

Regardless, I don't think the Big East died.

by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 4:05pm

How tragic that Blacksburg, 300 miles away from the ocean, is represented in the Atlantic Coast Conference while noted seafaring cities like Syracuse are not. I'm sure the old salts in Winston-Salem, Clemson, and Atlanta are still lying prostrate in their shanties, trying to console themselves with whale songs from the Pacific Life commercials.

by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:23pm

you sound like one of the VT alum who dean said had their pantys in a bunch.

and not that it matters, but syracuse is at least near the great lakes.

by kzuke (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:27pm

i believe winston-salem is spanish for whale's vagina

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 6:47pm

No, San Diego is Spansih for whale's bagina

by RickD :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 5:59pm

Yes, Syracuse was invited, but did they ever "plan to leave"? As I recall the situation, the Big East defection was taking place at the same time Syracuse won their most recent NCAA hoops title. Jim Boeheim was adamant at the time that Syracuse should stay in the Big East.

I know Miami had burned their bridges by then, and I think BC had done so too, but I thought Syracuse was still involved in a waiting game when Boeheim made his wishes clear (and perhaps some backroom deal was cut).


Well, it seems that the history was even more complicated than that.

You say "when the ACC expanded and didn't invite them". But actually the ACC hadn't expanded yet, they had simply voted to issue invitations to BC, Syracuse, and Miami. And then Va. Tech joined with the other Big East football schools (Rutgers, Pittsburgh, W. Virginia, etc.) to sue to stop the raid. And then the deal was reworked and suddenly Va. Tech and Miami were joining the ACC, while Syracuse and BC were staying in the Big East. And then four months later, BC was again invited to become the 12th team of the ACC.

And then the Big East raided Conference USA, etc.

My sentiment as a Big East fan (and a sentiment shared by friends who are ACC fans) is that it would have made far more sense for the ACC to nab West Virginia as the 12th school. Miami never made sense as a Big East school, but BC was a founding member and should have stayed in the Big East. It was easy for their student body to travel to games at PC and UConn but now their nearest "conference rival" is in College Park, Maryland.

TCU isn't helping matters from a geographical perspective, but there's a good chance that they'll immediately be the best football team in their new conference.

The Big East is already absurdly big as a basketball conference.

by BillWallace :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 1:56pm

So does this mean that TCU now benefits from East Coast bias?

by Sundar (not verified) :: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 3:40pm

The Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East.

There are bigger fish to fry, people.

As long as there are 100+ teams in Div-1, there will never be any easy solutions.

If people treated college football, as just that, college football, then it would be far more enjoyable.

by Richie :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:37am

I have an easy solution to ~120 Div-1 schools: Twelve 10-team conferences. And then a 12-team playoff amongst the winners. All the leftover schools can play in the meaningless bowls each year. I would think the total television pie would increase significantly with this system.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 9:55am

So do you think the Sun Belt and MAC champions should actually make the playoff? Or would you propose more radical realignment of the conferences?

The problem isn't just the total television revenue, but who it goes to. And Ohio State, for instance, is not going to give up being in the Big Ten in order to join a bunch of MAC schools if that's what it would take. It's a bit of a catch-22.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:21am

My guess is that an association of about 96 teams is viable, be it eight conferences of 12 teams, or 6 conferences of 16 teams. If my estimate is high, maybe 7 conferences of 12 teams is the right number.

In any case, it seems to me that the right, somewhat simple approach, which would drive television ratings substantially, is to have the conferences play their championship games on the first Saturday in December, obviously with conference champs as autoqualifiers, and then seed an eight team tournament, with the quarterfinals on the home fields of seeds 1-4 on the 2nd Saturday in December. Semifinals would take place at two of the traditional major bowls on January 1st, on a rotating basis, with the final game at a third traditional major bowl site a week later.

I don't think any major reforms can take place however, without intervention from Congress, because it seems to me that the whole premise of big revenue college football skirts antitrust law. There is a reason, after all, that the NFL had to seek exemption to antitrust law from Congress when they started to negotiate huge t.v. contracts. I don't think the current paradigm is going to survive, either through legal or political channels.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 1:08pm

My guess is that an association of about 96 teams is viable,

For a 12-game season, you'd basically want a ~50-team league or so ((N/2 + 1) squared) for connectivity at the level of most other sports. Seven divisions of seven teams each, each team plays a team in their own division and one in every other division. Something like that. With crazy specific scheduling you could do a bit better than that (64 or so) but unless you abandon divisions that's about the max. A 12x8 league would have third order (some teams would have only played common opponent's opponent) connectivity, worse than every other major sport.

But from a financial standpoint, a 96-team FBS would still have the same problems, so you wouldn't be able to freely schedule and maintain the same quality of the sport. Only about half of the teams in any of the AQ conferences are at the same rough level of revenue (within a factor of 2). So yeah, you really want to be looking at a 50-team league or so.

I don't think the current paradigm is going to survive, either through legal or political channels.

I'll take that bet. In spades. This isn't a "traditional" monopoly because the schools really don't make direct money off of football. They'd be happy to restructure the BCS to pay out money to BYU, for instance, because the BCS money is a joke to them - it's something like 10% of the money they get from their conferences, and a few percent of their budget. Yawn.

That's the thing that I think a lot of people miss. Everyone keeps saying "oh, the BCS is big money to these schools!" No, it's not. It's nothing. If college football had a championship, it would still be nothing. Assume it doubled what the BCS brings in. Whee, that'd be something like $3M/year for a Big Ten team. If there's any legal issue, they'll just restructure the BCS to avoid it. They've done it before. They'll do it again.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 1:45pm

No, people who deal with large sums of money do not "yawn" about a few percent of their budget. Nice to see to you concede that there could be a legal issue which could cause the current paradigm to be restructured. That was my point. Politically and legally, however, every time a concession is made to mollify school x, backed by influential Senator A, school y, backed by influential Senator B, starts to complain that it was shorted. That's why there is a decent chance to have legislation eventually passed which explicitly grants an antitrust exemption.

Really, Pat, when you start to argue that the BCS money is a "joke" to the institutions that receive it, you are engaging in somewhat bizarre reasoning. If it was a mere "joke", TCU would not have made the move they did yesterday. Do you think they did for the comic effect?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:30pm

No, people who deal with large sums of money do not "yawn" about a few percent of their budget.

It's smaller than that - you're talking about reducing by some fraction one to two percent of their budget. They "yawn" if you're talking about changing that $2M to $1.5M. Now it's a fraction of a percent of their budget - and one that's going to grow increasingly smaller as their own TV networks become more and more profitable.

Even if you took all the money the BCS took in - let's say $150M, it's certainly that within a factor of two - and split it evenly between all the schools - that reduces the take of the major schools by what? Half a million? This isn't enough that they would fight in court about it.

So why don't they do that, you might ask? Because they've got no incentive to. They had the stronger bargaining position, so they got more out of the deal.

What's funny about all of this is that you're suggesting that the BCS is some sort of cartel locking out the smaller conferences to keep all the money to themselves. The BCS was formed to actually include the other conferences more. The old bowl system actually kept the smaller conferences out a lot more, and that system would even be more immune to antitrust lawsuits.

If it was a mere "joke", TCU would not have made the move they did yesterday.

Nice try! But actually, the problem with your argument is Utah. Utah moved because the BCS is a complete drop in the bucket compared to the TV money from the future Pac-12. The Mountain West would have gotten AQ status had Utah stayed - but that would've only been ~$1-2M/year. Utah moving got them $20M/year.

TCU isn't Ohio State, or Alabama - to them, the AQ-conference money means something. But I wasn't talking about the non-AQ schools there at all, because the non-AQ conferences don't exactly have as much power as the AQ conferences do (for one, there's less of them). The entire point of mentioning the fact that the money is a joke is that if the BCS thought that legally, it needed to spread the money out more evenly, it would. Right now the majority of the money goes to AQ conferences for whom the money is just not that big of a deal. Not nearly as much of a deal as a legal battle would cost.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:29pm

Great post Pat. Playoffs are never going to happen in college football because of what happened with college basketball and nearly all the money being in the post season where the NCAA takes a huge cut and the conferences that bring no value* getting a fairly large cut. The other big problem is a playoff will not neccesarly bring in more money anyways ok maybe more money to the crap conferences that are barely hanging on to D1 to begin with but to the power conferences that people actually want to see no. The bowls bring in about 250 million directly to the schools and conferences so the first round has to be worth at least this much by the time you are done adding rounds and keeping the value of the regular season you are talking about numbers higher than NFL broadcasters pay and they get to be in the Superbowl rotation.

And I too will take that bet the political pressure will be to do what the big universities want not to go against them. The boosters that make up much of the political class at the state level have no real problem with the system as is well besides the very rare time when they get "screwed" but telling them they can't do what it takes to win on the other hand is asking for problems. The number of states that get screwed is limited and mostly small states without enough political power to do anything.

*Some people seemed to have a problem when I said this before so I will clearify the programs that no body wants to watch on tv or to pay to see live and are only shown because they are playing the power schools.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:58pm

There is nothing about a playoff that needs to entail a large cut of money going to the NCAA. As to your other contention about other conferences bringing no value, it goes to the heart of the behavior of the six autoqualifier conferences, with possible antitrust implications. When they act in concert, or collude, to impede the ability of schools outside those six to increase their value in the broadcast marketplace, they may well be found to be violating the law.

"Never" is an extremely long time, and people who employ that term in the context of complicated legal and political matters are likely being extremely shortsighted.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 4:31pm

Someone has to run a playoff and the most likely group to do so would be the NCAA but even a 3rd party that did so will require a cut. In the other American pro leagues this is not a problem as the teams own the league but in college the "league" is independent and would control the TV rights and in the real world take a huge cut.

Its not a contention its a fact. The MAC, WAC, CUSA, Sun Belt have no value as seen by their non existent TV deals. The MWC has a very tiny amount of value seen by their very tiny TV deal. These schools have no value not because the The Big 10 is mean to them hell the Big 10 and SEC are the reason these conferences are afloat to begin with because of their paydays to these schools to be homecomming lambs. They have no value because they have little to no history, small alumni bases, crappy acedmics, located in remote places, way down the pecking order in instate popularity, and an unwillingness to improve. No collusion needed to prevent Troy or Buffalo from being as popular as Ohio State or Alabama. Also, teams all the time decide to get out of the ghetto to various degrees of success 25 years ago FSU and Miami came close to dropping football but now are some of the superbrands of college football more recently Utah, USF, and UConn have all built up quility programs.

I will use never because the only way their will be real political pressure is if Idaho somehow manages to add 200 million people to its population. Their is a majority of states where the status quo is benifical and for most of the rest of the states they don't have a D1 program. The only way the schools change their stance is for some reason live sports on TV as a market just collapses if that happens a playoff is not than going to be the savior.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 5:44pm

You apparently are unaware of the how the structure of the Senate affects politics in Washington D.C.. The history of the Senate is in good part one of Senators coming from states without many voters wielding huge influence. Fans of Ohio State won't have much opposition to hosting a home game in The Horseshoe on the 2nd Saturday in December

"Someone" to run a playoff could be one person hired, along with a small staff, in New York. It ain't all that complicated, and no, you have not shown why the NCAA, or some other third party would have sufficient leverage to demand a large cut.

With all due respect to the huge degree of confidence you have in your legal and political analysis, I will repeat what I stated above. When extremely well paid private litagators and lobbyists, along with DOJ offcials, begin to carve out time in their schedule to jointly discuss a legal issue, it strikes me as very, very, premature to declare that the issue they are discussing is obviously a settled matter, without prospect for significant change. These are not the sort of people who tend to spend their professional time on matters that are completely settled. Perhaps you have some insight as to why this time it is different.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 8:19pm

I am aware of it, I just know that it takes more than 2 people to cause any problems its not like they can put a hold on anything dealing with the NCAA. Here is the stright up political reality. There are 35 states with AQ teams and in all but a few of these states the University is one of the biggest employers, the leading producer of the political class and major research center. There are 9 states that do not have a team in D1. One state that put up the biggest fuss about this now has a team that will benfit from the BCS and another one that went independent and seems likely to get a deal from the BCS which most likely takes them out of play. That leaves a whopping 5 states that might have anyone at all that cares about this issue HA, ID, NV, WY, NM and none of their senators have really made a peep about the issue with WY and NM not really in a place to do so. Except for Henry Reid leadership from either party is not made up with cats from any of those 5 states and in fact they are filled with cats from states that have huge college football booster networks.

This is before the SEC, Pac 10, ACC, and Big 10 presidents come to town and explain to them that they fund the majority of Title IX atheletes that they are the reason that the MAC and Sun Belt stay afloat they need to stick to the program. And even if this does not work the Supreme Court will most likely give them an anti trust excemption. And if even that fails all that will happen is the conferences will go back to the old way of doing things with each bowl operating under its own indvidual deals and this time they won't bother with the scrub schools and the pity pass they have received. Playoffs are never coming.

Alright here is my showing that the NCAA or whoever runs the playoffs will walk away with a huge chunk, the Olympic committee, FIFA, NCAA in mens basketball, women's basketball and college baseball, Formula One Group, FIA, Dorna Sports, NASCAR, or well every 3rd party commerical rights holder in the sports world.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:13pm

Your final paragraph is written in a way that renders me unable to respond to it. As to the other paragraphs, the Utah Attorney General met with DOJ last month, so apparently Utah to the Pac 12 and BYU to independent status have not bought off the politicians in that state, since it is doubtful he would have had the meeting if Orrin Hatch was not still backing his play. Harry Reid is weakened, but he is still majority leader, and he may be looking for some issue with which to find commonality with the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee. Daniel Inoyue is Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Your remark about the likely behavior of the Supreme Court is something you simply pulled out of thin air, I guess in an effort to bolster your confidence in your soothsaying powers.

The remark about going back to the old way of doing things only make sense if you think the people involved like throwing away money. There is a deal to be made, because going to court is a high stakes gambit which makes no sense at all. It doesn't even have to necessarily involve the MAC or Sunbelt, but it simply won't work to have several states left completely out in the cold.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 10:54pm

How about this for my last paragraph there is not a single example of a commerical rights holder than has not taken a sigificant rent for holding an event in the world of sports so why would the college football playoffs be any different?

Harry Ried or well anyone else except for the Utah cats have even hinted at doing anything on this issue. And again even if they tried to many cats from states that have major BCS programs and major Universities will lean heavely to prevent any garbage to get elected they need the support of the political class of their state who tend to be the same people as the big money boosters and almuni. The Republican leadership is filled with cats from strong AQ states while the Democratic leadership is filled with no one that really cares. Even at the major committee level there will not be much support the Appropriations has Inoyue but on the Democratic side no other allies and several that would be against doing anything to hurt their state schoools and their won't be support from the Republicans of that committee either. To put it another way he is not going to spend an ounce of political capatial for this issue. There is not much hope with the Judiciary either with OK, SC, TX, and Iowa all represented.

My remark about the SC was not pulled out of thin air either. There has been 0 indication that they would ever go after baseballs excemption and college football can make the same argument that baseball did 80 years ago. This along with Stevens opinion in NCAA vs OK board of Regents, plus I forget the name of the case from the 60s that allowed limited exceptions to anti trust to collectlivly sell tv rights.

Throwing away money? The Big 10 after next year will be bringing in close to 60 million dollars a year in bowl money the SEC bring in about 45 to 50 million in bowl money. The Big 10 after their next TV deal will be bringing in around 280 to 320 million a year in regular season football money. Show me a playoff system that is gurenteed to bring in this type of money to these conferences when it has to be played either during two of the lowest watched weeks of TV or head to head against the NFL. For a playoff just to break even under what you propose the payout to schools has to be 900 million that is before the NCAA cut. If the regular season loses any value which it will that has to be made up in playoff money. So what network is going to pay for this? I bet they can't wait for the epic matchup of Florida International against Oregon that is sure to bring ratings. And this would be a matchup because if you use the anti trust to force this they will be forced to allow everyone in the playoffs.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:34pm

When it gets to the point that someone confidently predicts that it is likely that the current Court would extend the reasoning from Federal Baseball Club v. National League, to cover another sport, well, I won't bother to address the other assertions you put forth. Have a nice evening.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:34am

That is not what I did, I used that along with 2 other court cases. But I do feel extremely confident it will never get to the supreme court and congress will do nothing but belly ache at worse, I feel very confident that the justice department takes no part in the case. I feel extremely confident that this will never make it to a jury and there is no case at all.

BCS as an illegal boycott is not going to work for a number of reasons. The BCS will easily be able to show that the zero schools are at a disadvantage of their own doing not because of the BCS conferences and that they are more than willing to work to help the teams. They can show they are willing to play these teams in the regular season and when playing against the top tier BCS schools they have a horriable record, that these zero schools have been offered the chance to play against these schools and declined or backed out. That they offered to have these schools join their conferences once they met on field performance, fan support, acedmic and met buisness need goals. They will be able to show these zero schools have no fan support by their lack of tv ratings and ticket sales despite media attention. They can show past example of schools with no bowl history repeatly hiring top coaches and winning national championships while playing in now BCS bowls with out conference affiliation. They can show using "objective" computer rankings that no zero school was left out of the championship game. They can show past example of zero schools that had brief moments of sucess not sustaining sucess.

The price fixing argument will also not work. First it has to get around 1291 that the court will likey aply to the college game. Second, it will be real hard to show that it was the bundling of the games together that caused the rise in tv right fees when all sports fees where seeing huge jumps over the last 15 years and most sports had higher jumps. The BCS will also be able to argue that it must sell it as a group in order to insure that the top 2 teams are able to play and they can show this using the bowl alliance and rose bowl split. Finally it will be able to show another justifiable reason for its pay scale which is to insure the 6 conferences that have consistently shown the ability to produce top 2 teams under any ranking system.

They have no shot at the bundling charge either since it will be easy to show that the purchaser (ESPN) already had a desire to gain the rights to all of the bundled bowls anyways since they have regular season broadcast deals with the Big East, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC and Pac 10.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 3:48am

"There has been 0 indication that they would ever go after baseballs excemption and college football can make the same argument that baseball did 80 years ago. This along with Stevens opinion in NCAA vs OK board of Regents, plus I forget the name of the case from the 60s that allowed limited exceptions to anti trust to collectlivly sell tv rights."

When it gets to the point that someone is asserting that the above paragraph is not asserting that the current Court is likely to extend the reasoning from Federal Baseball Club v. National League to cover another sport, then it appears we speak different languages. It is pointless to continue.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:17pm

It's easy to draw up 12 ten team conferences (or ten 12 team conferences, or even 15 eight-team conferences) that pretty much make sense; I've done so, and so have scores of other armchair realignment nuts. However, actually getting the schools involved to all go for your amazing new conference structure is a little problematic (for example, I always have Penn State in the conference that mostly replaces the Big East, but I just can't figure how they would go for it).

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:39pm

Forgot to mention this part. No one is leaving the Big 10 with out a hundreds of million dollar in legal fees and no one is going to be forced on them with out hundreds of millions of dollars. The CIC is worth too much to these schools on the acedmic side as well as the branding that bascially says these are the premier public schools in the world that also play sports at the highest levels.

by Joseph :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:02am

I wrote an article regarding alignment, and how it could be feasible, that FO declined to publish. It was basically 4 superconferences of 24 teams, with two twelve team divisions. Everybody plays each team in their division (11 games), with a 12th game against the team in the other division that finished the same place as you did (i.e., 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, etc.) This was done geographically (basically West, Northeast, Southeast, & Central). If you do the math, that means 96 schools in, 24 left out (of the 120 current FBS teams). In my scenario, the division winners after these 12 games play each other, and a 4 team playoff consisting of each superconference champ would take place approx. Jan 1 & 8. The rest of the teams could play in bowls similar to what is already being done. However, I don't know which of the Big 4 bowls (Fiesta, Sugar, Rose, & Orange) would get screwed out of these 3 playoff games, unless you had a 3rd place game.
The reason I had suggested this system is a compromise between playoff proponents, the "determine everything on the field" crowd, regional closeness and fairness, and doing the best to give everybody a chance to make the championship. For example, this season, the 4 teams would be TCU (Central) Oregon (West), Auburn (SE), and one of OSU, WIS, & MSU (NE). Unless a big upset were to happen this weekend, I don't think that you could say that those 4 teams aren't the top 4 for a playoff. (For example, Stanford loses out because they lost to Oregon; the SEC West teams lost to Auburn; the Big 12 champ is prob. not as good as TCU.)
The only teams that might not go for it are the 24 current FBS members, but I don't see the New Mexico's of FBS non-AQ conferences having the clout to do too much. IIRC, of the 24 teams left out, the only one with recent national success is Tulane (wasn't it '98 that they had the perfect season?). Everybody currently in an AQ conference stays in my 96, as well as other nationally prominent teams (TCU, Boise, Utah, etc.)