How the BCS keeps small bowls alive

Oklahoma Sooners fans celebrate as the Sooners scored a touchdown against the Connecticut Huskies during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl college football game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, January 1, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Lott (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

I’m reading Death to the BCS, an excellent book about the truth behind the Bowl Championship Series written by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter and Jeff Passan. It’s an eye-opening read about how the bowls are fleecing colleges under the guise of non-profit (or charity) status. I really can’t recommend the book enough.

Here’s an excerpt about how the BCS keeps small bowls alive:

Know this about the bowl system: It is not subject to a free market, and this is where the future of the smaller bowls comes into play. If left alone, the minor bowls would collapse, and they would collapse spectacularly.

The BCS operates much like a government, offering a form of welfare to ensure the survival of small bowls. Industry insiders estimate just fourteen of the thirty-five current bowl games are self-sufficient. The rest profit from a system that takes money from universities and guides it into the pockets of bowl operators.

It’s more shell game than bowl game. Take Minnesota, which agreed to buy 10,500 full-price tickets to the 2008 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, according to records the school filed with the NCAA. When Minnesota sold only 1,512, it incurred a $434, 340 loss on tickets alone. It spent an additional $1.2 million on travel costs and other expenses. In the end, it cost Minnesota $1.7 million to collect the bowl’s $1.2 million payout. In a vacuum, Minnesota’s bowl experience would have been at least a half-million-dollar financial drain.

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How was this bowl season better than a playoff?

Auburn Tigers quarterback Cam Newton (R) is tackled by Oregon Ducks Spencer Paysinger during the second quarter in the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Glendale, Arizona, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Bill Hancock seems like a nice enough guy but he’s delusional if he thinks that this past bowl season was a rousing success and that it proved that there’s no need for a playoff.

First and foremost, that title game was terrible. It may have had an exciting finish but a great game it was not.

Two of the most explosive offenses in the nation were on display Monday night and yet, you couldn’t have asked for worse field conditions. This should have been the most entertaining game of the season but from the opening kickoff, players resembled hockey players sliding on a sheet of ice. Neither team could catch their footing, which is probably why the combined score totaled only 41 points (or 31 fewer points than what Vegas installed for the over/under). How does this happen in an indoor stadium when the grass can easily be maintained?

Granted, it’s not the BCS’ fault that the game was rather lousy on a whole. Even if there were a playoff, there would be no guarantee that all the games would be exciting. But at the very least, the teams would be playing for something every week.

The matchup between Auburn and Oregon was dead on, but the BCS largely struck out with its other games. They made Stanford fly cross-country just to crush an overmatched Virginia Tech team and there’s no reason to relive the Oklahoma-UConn debacle.

The Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl were both highly entertaining – I’ll give the BCS that. But why must there be a long delay between the BCS bowl games and the championship? And for the love of college football, why were the Go Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the BBVA Compass Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl shown as a lead up to the national title game? I felt bad for the kids who played in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl because nobody cared by that point. They made those poor kids play on Sunday night following four NFL playoff games – only action junkies tuned into that one.

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Thanks for these early bowl games, BCS.

Want more proof that the current bowl system is crap in college football? Take a look at the scores from bowl games so far:

Wyoming 35, Fresno State 28 OT.
Rutgers 45, Central Florida 24.
Middle Tennessee State 42, Southern Miss 32.
BYU 44, Oregon State 20.
Utah 37, California 27.

Outside of Wyoming’s thriller over Fresno State, all of these bowl games have been laughers and not worth watching deep into the second half. If you’ve turned on any of these games in the third quarter, you’ve already missed everything worthy of tuning into.

Before anyone points this out, I get that none of the marquee bowl games have kicked off yet. And I also get that the BCS system only cares about its five games and furthermore, only really cares about the national championship.

But isn’t that reason enough to hate the BCS? They’re basically admitting that out of 34 bowl games, only one really matters. If there were a playoff, every single game would have meaning. Instead, we have 33 fluff bowls that don’t mean anything and worse yet, they’re all terrible games. Outside of the Wyoming-Fresno matchup, every bowl thus far has featured one team that is excited to play and one that can’t wait to get back on the bus to go home.

The system sucks and so do these bowl games so far. Sorry, I don’t mean to take away from Rutgers, Middle Tennessee State, BYU and Utah’s wins, but as a fan I couldn’t be more disappointed and the worst part is, this is exactly what I expected. Some will say, “Well then just don’t watch the early games” but that’s not the point – I want to watch as much college football as I can before the season is over for seven months. I just don’t want these meaningless drivel.

Thanks, BCS.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

New BCS Committee Chief rips playoff idea

The Nebraska State sat down this week with University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor Harvey Perlman, who was recently appointed as chairman of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, which ultimately decides how the BCS is set up on a year basis.

So in other words, if college football were to ever have a playoff, this is the man who would give it the green light to happen. And considering he crapped all over the idea in the interview, it looks like we fans will be waiting a long time for BCS to adopt a playoff system.

Why is a playoff not a viable alternative? Is it because it would cut too many teams out of postseason play?

It would diminish the bowl structure and it would reduce the number of opportunities for student-athletes to play in the postseason and that’s not a good thing. If you look at college football now, it’s the greatest sporting event spread over September, October, November, December and a little bit of January that the country has. A playoff would seriously diminish the regular season, as it has in college basketball.

I don’t think it’s good for college football, I don’t think it’s good for student-athletes and I don’t think it’s good for fans. I don’t see fans travelling around the country three weeks in succession between December and January following their team. So you’re either going to have to play at home sites – which I’m sure everybody will want to play in Nebraska in December and January – or you’re gonna have to travel, which means that bowls will cease being intercollegiate events, but will become corporate events, where everybody in, you name the city, will be there except the fans of the teams.

This isn’t basketball. This isn’t March Madness. Football’s a different game, different environment. We have different traditions. It’s hard to see why a playoff is a good idea.

A playoff would diminish the bowl structure? How ironic, Harvey – because the bowl structure diminishes the college football season.

This whole notion that a playoff system would diminish the regular season is absolutely ridiculous and is the worst argument that BCS-supporters have made to date. Is the NFL regular season diminished by a playoff? Hell no. So why would a playoff diminish the college football season? Teams still have to fight to get into the playoffs, making every week just as exciting as it has ever been.

Sure, nobody is interested in Bengals-Browns in Week 17, but that’s unavoidable. Nobody cares about Washington-Washington State when both teams are lousy either. Whether there’s a playoff format in place or not, there are going to be bad games on the schedule.

The traveling argument makes sense, but if they regionalized the games as best as they can, fans will still travel to see their favorite teams. Hell, look at how Pittsburgh Steeler fans; there are often more Steeler fans in opposing stadiums than there are fans of that city’s team. Granted, it’s a little different when we’re talking about poor college students compared to adults with jobs, but the students would still find a way to pack the stadiums.

But I digress. Perlman has already made up his foolish mind and we’ll once again be where we always are come December and January – frustrated and wanting more. The BCS is a joke, the arguments for it are a joke, and the people that are running it are a joke.

Report: BCS directors might have lied about bowl game charity donations

Remember Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas? He’s the congressman who wants to see college football adopt a playoff system and who compared the BCS to communism.

Barton is making headlines again as he plans to investigate testimony from Alamo Bowl executive director Derrick Fox made at this month’s BCS subcommittee hearing in which Fox claimed that millions of dollars are donated to local charities thanks to the revenue generated by bowl games.

Fox, while representing all 34 bowl games during his appearance on Capitol Hill on May 1, claimed in his argument against a playoff that “almost all the postseason bowl games are put on by charitable groups” and “local charities receive tens of millions of dollars every year.”

In fact, 10 bowl games are privately owned and one is run by a branch of a local government. The remaining 23 games enjoy tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, but combined to give just $3.2 million to local charities on $186.3 million in revenue according to their most recent federal tax records and interviews with individual bowl executives.

“That doesn’t seem like something that’s really geared toward giving to charity, does it?” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) after being presented with Yahoo! Sports’ findings.

“It’s perjury if it’s knowingly said,” Barton said of the sworn testimony, which he called “misleading.” “It’s also contempt of Congress. You’ve got to give [him] some sort of due process, but ultimately the remedy is to hold [him] in contempt of Congress on the House floor or send it to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution of perjury under oath.”

Barton, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee and a playoff proponent, did caution that in today’s political climate there is no certainty that charges of perjury or contempt would be filed even if the investigation found wrongdoing.

Fox said in a written statement the “tens of millions of dollars” testimony was “a good faith estimate based on information initially supplied by the FBA [Football Bowl Association].”

Yet Bruce Binkowski of the FBA said the organization doesn’t compile such figures and in literature doesn’t assign a dollar amount to the bowls’ charitable donations because “we just don’t know.”

As Barton stated, perjury charges may never come in light of Fox’s statements, but it is interesting that the main argument made for keeping the current non-playoff system in place is an outright lie. If you read the entire article, it notes that Fox and ACC commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford stated several times during the subcommittee hearing that donations to local charities and economic impact on host cities are the two main reasons of why bowl games must be saved at all costs. Yet there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that the local charities receive “tens of millions of dollars every year” from the BCS, so either Fox and Swofford fabricated those statements or they flat out lied in effort to keep the current college football format in place.

If the BCS did generate millions of dollars for charities every year, then a case could truly be made that college football is better off without a playoff system. (Although if bowl games generated money for charities, I don’t see why a playoff system couldn’t.) But again, there isn’t any evidence that that is indeed the case and therefore Fox and Swofford have some explaining to do.

Hopefully this is just the start of the BCS’ unraveling.

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