Category Archives: Bowl Games

Should the ACC and Big East Create Their Own Bowl Game?

With the current BCS contract set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, the landscape of college football is set to change in the coming months.  In the last few weeks, the SEC and Big 12 announced that they will be creating their own bowl game, in which each conference’s champion will play, beginning in 2014.  While it is unclear what this new bowl game means to the Fiesta Bowl (in which the Big 12 champion currently plays) and the Sugar Bowl (in which the SEC champion currently plays), it is possible that both of those bowls could continue to exist after 2014.  Additionally, the bowl would likely be joining the Rose Bowl (played by the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions) and the Orange Bowl (played by the ACC champion). 

Furthermore, it is expected that in coming months, BCS commissioners will vote to approve a four-team playoff system as a modification to the current BCS system.  This four-team playoff will pit the number-one and number-four seeds and the number-two and the number-three seeds in two playoff games before contending for the National Championship game.

Given that beginning in 2014, the SEC and Big 12 champions will meet in a bowl game as will the Pac-12 and Big champions, while four teams compete for the opportunity to play in the National Championship game, should the Big East and ACC join forces to create their own bowl game?

There are two real reasons for the ACC and Big East to adopt their own bowl game:  1.  To ensure that their teams have a national stage to play a bowl game on and 2.  To earn revenue.

In considering whether creating a new bowl game is necessary for the ACC and Big East to ensure that their teams play a bowl game on a national stage, one factor to consider is the likelihood of either team’s conference playing in the four-team playoff.  A brief overview of the teams ranked number-one through number-four since the founding of the BCS in 1998 provides some guidance as to the likelihood of ACC or Big East teams competing in the four-team playoff set to begin in 2014.

Year #1 #2 #3 #4
1998-99 Tennessee FSU  Kansas State Ohio State
1999-00 FSU VA Tech Nebraska Alabama
2000-01 Oklahoma FSU  Miami Washington
2001-02 Miami Nebraska Colorado Oregon
2002-03 Miami Ohio State Georgia USC
2003-04 Oklahoma LSU USC Michigan
2004-05 USC Oklahoma Auburn Texas
2005-06 USC Texas Penn State Ohio State
2006-07 Ohio State Florida Michigan LSU
2007-08 Ohio State LSU VA Tech Oklahoma
2008-09 Oklahoma Florida Texas Alabama
2009-10 Alabama Texas Cincinnati TCU
2010-11 Auburn Oregon TCU Stanford
2011-12 LSU Alabama Oklahoma State Stanford

The only current Big East member to have been ranked in the top-four in the college football regular season standings since the founding of the BCS is Cincinnati.  Granted, Miami and Virginia Tech were both ranked in the top-four several times during their Big East tenure, however, those teams both play in the ACC now.  Thus, when looking at the entirety of teams ranked in the top-four during the BCS’ history, it would appear that the Big East needs a partnership with the ACC, much more than the ACC needs a partnership with the Big East.

However, the fact of the matter remains, that in the last three years, Cincinnati was the only school out of either conference to be ranked in the top-four at the end of the college football regular season.  Thus, by creating their own bowl game, the conferences would ensure that their respective champions would be on a national stage during a bowl game after 2014.

Thus, the next question to address, is can the ACC and Big East draw a positive amount of revenue from a bowl game?  This question, unfortunately, is not as easy to answer.  The ACC and Big East in recent years have been known more so for the talented basketball teams they field than their football prowess.  That is not to say, that each team does not have football teams which fans would travel to watch.  However, could the conferences find enough fans to travel to a bowl game to ensure its profitability?

Perhaps UConn’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ is an indicator as to if, and how far, fans are willing to travel for bowl games in which their teams appear.  UConn was required to sell 17,500 tickets for the event.  Six days before the bowl game, it had only sold 4,600.  Reports indicated that the school would incur the cost of the unsold tickets.  Would Big East fans be more inclined to travel to bowls closer to home?  If so, could such an endeavor be a revenue generator for the Big East and ACC?

While the ACC and Big East could benefit from joining forces to create a new bowl game, they should only do so if it is held at a location in close proximity to the bulk of each conference’s largest fan base.  Additionally, the conferences should only enter into a bowl agreement after surveys are completed determining each conference’s fan base’s commitment to paying for and attending the bowl game.  If the interest is not strong and definite, then each conference would be better off attempting to compete for one of four-team playoff seeds.

Ahead of the Game: The SEC and Big 12’s Bowl Deal

Today, the Big 12 and SEC announced that they have entered into a five-year contract which will allow champion of each conference to play each other in a New Year’s Day bowl game beginning in 2014.  The contract is tailored to fit in with the new four-team playoff model, in that if the respective Big 12 and SEC champions are set to play in that game, different schools from each conference will play in the Big 12 and SEC match-up.

In making this announcement, the Big 12 and SEC have kept themselves ahead of the game when it comes to the reorganization of the college football playoff structure resulting from the expiration of the BCS’ current deal.  This should come as no surprise to college football fans, as SEC commissioner Mike Slive has been at the forefront of proposing captivating alternatives to the current BCS system.  It was Slive who first suggested the four-team playoff system, which will likely be adopted as the new BCS alternative.  Today, Slive has once again protected the football notoriety of his conference, and the Big 12 has done the same, by ensuring that one team from each conference is present in a major, New Year’s Day bowl game.

The possibilities for this match-up are nearly endless, and quite fascinating.  When considering the conference realignment landscape that took Big 12 programs Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, this proposal raises the possibility that those two teams could someday face off against former rivals on national television on New Year’s Day.  For fans mourning the end of the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry, this agreement presents the opportunity for the rivalry to flourish on a large-scale stage.  Understandably, that would require both teams to become the champion of their football-competitive conference–but, at least it’s a possibility.

Questions remain about how the bowl will be orchestrated.  For instance, it is unknown whether it will be held in a set location annually, like the Pac-12 and Big Ten’s Rose Bowl, or if it will travel to a new location each year.  Given that SEC and Big 12 fans travel more than fans from other conferences, it may be worth each conference’s time to investigate the possibility of rotating the bowl game throughout various sites.  This would open up the possibility of attending the game to more of the fans who are diehard supporters of SEC and Big 12 football.  Additionally, it would raise the possibility of introducing each conference’s respective teams to new markets. 

In the future, issues that will need to be addressed as a result of this bowl marriage relate to the bowls that each conference is currently aligned with.  For instance, the Big 12 champion plays in the Fiesta Bowl each year.  Will that continue?  Is it possible that the agreement will result in the Fiesta Bowl being one of the sites that the bowl rotates through?  Furthermore, what will happen to the current Big 12 No. 2-SEC No. 4 or 5 matchup, better known as the Cotton Bowl?  Like the possibility just noted about the Fiesta Bowl, could this new bowl also rotate through the Cotton Bowl location?  What will become of the SEC champion hosting Sugar Bowl?

My hunch is that the bowls will not agree to a game which rotates amongst them.  Such would not be lucrative to the bowls.  Thus, what the Big 12 and SEC have done with this move, is to strip the respective bowls of their power and transfer it to themselves.  In doing so, they’ve opened up a bidding war of sorts, where the bowls will be expected to woo them with options.  If none is suitable to the conferences, my guess is that they will launch a new bowl which will rotate throughout Big 12 and SEC locations. 

Overall, this is a great move by the Big 12 and SEC.  It is so, because it is a move that keeps them on top of the bowl shuffling/college football playoff landscape.

Will College Football Fans See a BCS Plus-One System in the 2015 Post-Season?

In recent years, college football fans have been crying “foul” over the current BCS post-season system.  On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, NCAA conference commissioners will convene to discuss potential alternatives to the current BCS post-season system.  While it is unlikely that the commissioners will adopt a new post-season system on this date, it is likely that in the coming months, they will work towards approving a plus-one system for the post-season.

Essentially, a plus-one system amounts to a four-team playoff.  In a plus-one system, at the end of the season, the number-1 and number-4 BCS-ranked teams would face off against each other, while the number-2 and number-3 BCS-ranked teams would play each other.  The winners of each respective game would play in the BCS National Championship game.

So, why at this moment, may NCAA conference commissioners be inclined to adopt a plus-one system?  There are several reasons.

1.  Timing

Currently, the participants of the BCS National Championship game are those teams ranked number-1 and number-2 in the BCS system at the conclusion of the post-season.  The method under which the BCS currently operates its post-season is set to expire after the 2013 season.  Given that the date of expiration is quickly approaching, and television contracts must be negotiated, it is time for NCAA conference commissioners and the BCS to begin negotiating what format they wish to adopt next for the BCS post-season.

In 2008, SEC commissioner Mike Slive was a proponent of the plus-one system.  However, his support of the format largely fell on deaf ears.  However, given that the SEC has won the BCS National Championship game every season since 2006, Slive’s commissioner cohorts may be more willing to hear his idea out this go-around.  If a man whose conference has been largely successful under the current system is willing to revise the current format, it is likely that other conferences who have not achieved such post-season success should follow suit.

2.  Additional Support

As noted above, in 2008, Slive was hard-pressed to find support for his plus-one model, with only the ACC outwardly lending support.  However, it is likely that in 2012, he will be able to obtain the support of another football powerhouse conference:  the Big 12.

Chuck Neinas is currently serving as the interim director of the Big 12.  Neinas has publicly stated that he believes that the plus-one model should be revisited as a BCS post-season model.

Given the Big 12’s success on the gridiron, this stance should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Although SEC teams have won the BCS National Championship game every year since 2006, the Big 12 has sent teams to the BCS National Championship game twice in the last five years, and won the BCS National Championship game six years ago.  Additionally, if a plus-one system was in place during the past five years, it is possible that the Big 12 could have fielded even more teams to the BCS National Championship Game.  Such is arguably the case this season, when Oklahoma State only lost one game during the regular season and was otherwise recognized as being one of the top-performing teams in the country.

A plus-one system allows the top-four BCS-ranked teams to compete for a chance to earn their spot in the BCS National Championship Game.  Given the Big 12’s success on the football field in recent years, they will likely support the adoption of a plus-one model.

If the ACC retains its support of the system as it did in 2008, it is very possible that the three conference commissioners can sway the opinions of other commissioners and college football fans will see a plus-one system in place beginning with the 2014 season and 2015 postseason.

3.  Controversy

The current BCS system has been the subject of not only fan distaste, but also of deeper controversy including most recently, a Department of Justice investigation into whether the current system complies with antitrust laws, amongst other issues.

While it is legally debatable as to whether the current BCS postseason system violates antitrust law, adoption of a plus-one system would likely detract some attention from the Department of Justice and other legal opponents away from the BCS.

By adopting the plus-one system, the BCS could argue that they are truly giving each deserving team the opportunity to compete for the National Championship.  This in turn would diminish an antitrust argument.  Pursuing such action would arguably be in the best interest of the BCS and conference commissioners.

4.  Media

It is not hard to understand that more games equals more money in the hands of television networks.

College football fans have long been clamoring for modification of the current BCS postseason system.  Adoption of the plus-one system, albeit not a full-blown playoff system, would spark interest amongst those who have sought change in the BCS.  Additionally, the four-team playoff would present two more games before the BCS National Championship game, which media outlets could televise and sell advertising for.  All of these factors equal more dollars into the pockets of the network and more negotiation room for the conferences.

The Bottom Line

The January 10 meeting of NCAA commissioners to discuss concerns over the current post-season model is likely the first of many which will be held in the coming months.  Ultimately, the conference commissioners have heard many fans cry out for change.  While a playoff system would be an extreme remedy (although called for by many fans), the plus-one system presents a reasonable alternative with significant benefits.

Beyond Fundamentals: The Story of Bob Stitt and the Colorado School of Mines Football Team

On January 4, 2012, college football fans watched as the West Virginia University Mountaineers scored 70 points–the most points scored by one team in a bowl game–against the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl.  WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin, who runs the 40-yard-dash in 4.3 seconds, scored four touchdowns using a play that stumped Clemson’s defense.

After the game, a reporter commented to WVU head coach Dana Halgorsen, “The guys are still trying to figure out that one play that was successful for multiple touchdowns.  It’s recorded as a pass, but it kind of  looks like a volleyball tap-toss.  What is that?”

Halgorsen, smiling, responded, “Well, my good friend Bob Stitt at the Colorado School of Mines, gave me that.”

In 2000, Bob Stitt received the head coaching position at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado–a town, which prior to Stitt’s arrival prided itself more upon the beer Coors Brewing Company makes than its college football team.  Prior to arriving at Mines, Stitt worked as an offensive coordinator at Austin College in Texas and at the esteemed Harvard University.  Before Stitt began his coaching tenure at Mines, the last coach to record more wins than losses during a career was the coaching duo of Elmer Capshaw and Tim Calahan, with a 4-2-1 record which was earned in the 1922-1923 season.

Colorado School of Mines head football coach Bob Stitt. Photo credit: Colorado School of Mines.

When Stitt arrived at Mines, he was met with a $5,500.00 recruiting budget.  “That wasn’t even going to send anyone anywhere.  We just had to recruit in the Denver area and foot the bill ourselves,” noted Stitt.

However, in 2004, the face of the Mines football program began to change.

On July 27, 2004, a 6’7″ kicker who was on the honor roll each semester he was at Mines, was driving home to Colorado after completing an internship in California.  Scott Hahn was looking forward to starting his senior year and returning to Golden for football camp.  The long-legged Hahn was a talented kicker who also showed skill in punting.  There were rumblings that his abilities could land him in the NFL.  However, with his kind disposition and impressive academic record, there was no question that Hahn would become a successful professional, whether it was in the NFL or elsewhere.

Driving through Utah, Hahn fell asleep behind the wheel of his car.  His car ultimately rolled several times.  Hahn was taken to a hospital, where he later passed away at the tender age of 21.

On a morning in early August 2004, when in previous years, his teammates would have been busy on the gridiron during two-a-days, Hahn’s teammates were dressed in freshly pressed black suits and sitting in the front pews of a Catholic Church in Hahn’s hometown of Aurora, Colorado.

Stitt eulogized Hahn.  He mentioned that the previous season, Hahn came into Stitt’s office and asked to change his number to 12.  Hahn could not give a serious reason for why he wanted to change his number, but he knew he wanted to.  Stitt granted his request and during his junior season, Hahn played as number 12.

Perhaps it was premonition, or maybe it was just a 20 year-old who on a whim, felt like wearing the number 12.  However, one thing is certain:  the Mines football team had found its 12th man.

In that moment, the nature and culture of Mines football changed.

In 2004, the Mines football team dedicated its season to its fallen teammate, Scott Hahn. # 12 patches were sown onto the chests of player’s jerseys.  Paper reminders were posted in the locker room of what the team was striving to do for Scott:  Win every game.

That season, the Mines football team recorded its best record in school history.  The team went 12-1, losing a bitter playoff game in Pittsburg, Kansas at a place called “The Jungle.”  That season, the team went 8-0 in its conference, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.  Its quarterback, Chad Friehauf, won the Harlen Hill Award, which is Division II’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Today, at the west end of Brooks Field, a memorial dedicated to fallen player Scott Hahn--the 12th Man Memorial--stands. Photo credit: Alicia Jessop.

While the premature death of Hahn arguably fueled the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers to win on the football field in 2004, the coaching of the team by Stitt during that season and in subsequent years provided the team with the skills necessary to be competitive.

Perhaps what has made Stitt the most successful football coach in Mines history, is his ability to be an innovative play maker.  That innovation is what the world learned about when WVU’s Holgorsen credited him with the play which ultimately led the Mountaineers to score the most points in a bowl game.

In 2003, Mines began running the Fly Sweep play in practice.  It is a play intended to get the football into the hands of the wide receiver.  The play without any modification is risky, because it involves the quarterback remaining stationary while the receiver runs at full speed.  If the receiver doesn’t slow down while making the play, the team runs the risk of fumbling the ball.

That season, Stitt realized that the play was taking too much time to practice for the amount of benefits Mines was receiving from it.  As coaches do, Stitt continued to break down the play in his head to determine what he could do to make it successful.

“One day, it just hit me.  Why don’t we put it up in the air?  It was kind of like a reverse, and a lot of the time, you just put the reverse in the air.  If we did that, the kid doesn’t have to slow down and if he drops it, it’s an incomplete pass, because it is a forward pass.  Just a simple little change like that made it so effective,” Stitt explained.

Yes, Coach Stitt, a simple little change.  A simple little change, that apparently Stitt was the only coach in the country to grasp onto and teach his team.

Using the modified Fly Sweep play in 2004, Mines was able to break the school’s season passing record with 4,766 yards.  That year, it also broke the school’s completions record (401) and yards in a season record (6,894).  In 2004, the Orediggers scored an impressive 515 points.

What Stitt was able to do with a group of engineers that season was not lost on other coaches.

Then the head coach at Texas Tech, Mike Leach contacted Stitt about trading film, because he wanted to see how the Orediggers were running the ball so well in a passing offense.  According to Stitt, Leach was impressed with what he saw.  Holgorsen was an assistant coach under Leach, so it is likely then that Holgorsen first was introduced to Stitt’s Fly Sweep play, or what Holgorsen calls, “Quick.”

Later, Holgorsen would become the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston, a program long recognized for scoring many points.  With quarterback phenom Case Keenum, Houston has only kept up with its notoriety of scoring many points.  Under Holgorsen and today, Houston uses Stitt’s Fly Sweep play.  Stitt himself was there when Keenum learned how to properly complete the play.

After meeting Holgorsen two years prior at a One-Back Clinic, Stitt found himself in Houston for a Mines alumni golf tournament fundraiser.

“We played it in the morning.  We got done and it was early afternoon, so I went over to the University of Houston to see if they were practicing.  I knew that Dana had gotten the job there, and I walked right onto the field.  Dana was working with the quarterbacks and he kind of noticed me.  He said, “what are you doing here?” and asked if I saw him running the Fly Sweep.  I asked him why they weren’t putting it into the air.  He said he had forgotten that part of the play,” said Stitt.

Thereafter, Stitt showed Keenum how to run the play.  It took Stitt three minutes to instruct the quarterback how to run the play.  Since then, Houston has relied heavily on the play to amass points.

Much has changed in Golden, Colorado since Stitt began his tenure as the Orediggers’ head football coach.

Downtown Golden has been completely renovated.  Mines has greatly increased its student population.  And the football team has seen winning seasons since 2004.

Today, Stitt’s recruiting budget is much larger than the $5,500.00 he was met with in 2000.  Stitt estimates the team spendss $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 in recruiting new players.  However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the method by which Mines recruits–a method unique to the school’s rigorous academic curriculum.

To put into perspective the rigor of Mines’ academic curriculum, in 2006 and 2007, Mines played in a post-season bowl game, the Dixie Rotary Bowl in St. George, Utah.  The game fell during finals for Mines students.  Given this, after 2007, Stitt told the RMAC commissioner that Mines would never go back to play int eh game.

How many other college coaches in America are telling their commissioners that they can’t go to a bowl game because it interferes with their players’ finals?

That being said, when recruiting, the first thing Stitt looks at is not how fast a kid can run the 40-yard-dash or how much he can bench press.

“We recruit transcripts first.  You have to see what kind of classes they’re taking and how they score in math and science.  We look at the film later, once we have a pool of kids who could do the engineering curriculum at Mines.  Then, we recruit the best of those kids.  We’ve been really successful getting engineers who can play football,” said Stitt.

A 51-17 conference record.  Four players who have made it to the NFL.  An team-average ACT score of 29.

It is safe to say, that Stitt has brought success to Mines football.

And its safe to say, we’ll be seeing his Fly Sweep play when the Orediggers take Brooks Field this fall.

Bowl Finances: Oklahoma State’s Participation in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

In recent years, there has been much focus upon the amount of money athletic departments whose football teams participate in bowl games must shell out for items like unsold tickets and travel for a large group of people to the respective bowl game.  Investigations have been completed at various levels to determine just how much profit an athletic department can turn if it is required to pay a big-ticket price just to participate in a bowl game.

Last year, the bowl game which arguably drew the most scrutiny as a result of the amount of money an athletic department was required to spend for its team to participate in the game, was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  In 2011, UConn took on Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  Given that Storrs, Connecticut is located thousands of miles away from Tempe, Arizona, UConn incurred extensive travel expenses.  Additionally, UConn was required to sell 17,500 tickets for the event.  Six days before the bowl game, it had only sold 4,600.  Reports indicated that the school would incur the cost of the unsold tickets.

This year, Oklahoma State University is taking on Stanford in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. reached out to both schools to learn more about the bowl’s financial requirements of each athletic program.  Because Stanford is a private university, it declined to participate, citing open records request laws.

However, Oklahoma State provided information which gives great insight into the financial responsibilities of athletic departments participating in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State was required to purchase and/or sell 17,500 tickets for the game.  The price of these tickets ranged from $105.00 to $255.00.  Thus, the amount of tickets Oklahoma State was required to sell for the Fiesta Bowl ranged in amount from $1,837,500.00 to $4,462,500.00.

Given the high price of tickets and the associated allotment of tickets Oklahoma State was required to purchase and/or sell, there is arguably need for concern over whether the school would be required to purchase those tickets it was unable to sell.  According to Jason Lewis, Oklahoma State’s Associate Athletic Director for Business and Finance, Oklahoma State’s athletic department will not incur the cost of unsold tickets.  Although Lewis did not provide information in this regard, it is likely that the Big 12 conference will incur the cost of the unsold tickets which Oklahoma State was responsible for.

Lewis indicate that Oklahoma State did not have a budget set aside for bowl travel.  At the time of the interview, it was too early to estimate how much money Oklahoma State planned to spend on travel to the Fiesta Bowl, as well as how many individual’s travel the athletic department would pay for to the Fiesta Bowl.

However, Lewis did note that the Big 12 Conference provided Oklahoma State with a travel allotment for the Fiesta Bowl.  The Big 12 Conference gave Oklahoma State $1.8 million for travel purposes to the Fiesta Bowl.

The information provided by Lewis shines a new light on bowl finances.  Last year, after hearing that UConn was required to purchase 17,500 tickets and was only able to sell around 5,000 of those tickets, many were quick to cry foul.  However, after learning that the Big 12 conference has provided Oklahoma State with a significant amount of money for travel expenses and that the Big 12 Conference will likely incur the cost of unsold tickets, the burden of participating in bowl games on athletic departments appears to be less harsh than commonly reported. would like to thank Jason Lewis for his help with this piece.

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.

Why Isn’t Return of Bowl/TV Money a Penalty for NCAA Infractions?

UPDATE: Based on the massive amounts of tweets and emails I have received since posting this, some clarification is in order. Many believe you all (my valued readers) are not smart enough to know that non-AQ teams individually receive less than AQ teams when the day is done. I believe you all know this. But, just in case you don’t, I’ve revised the information below to make it abundantly clear.

Listening to sports talk radio over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard quite a few people suggest that the only real punishment for a program like USC or Ohio State would be to hit them in the wallet. Quite a few of you believe there should be a return of tv and bowl payout money if a team has to vacate games. Let’s talk about why that will likely never be a penalty in college football.

First, here’s something important you should know, if you don’t already. How do the payouts work for BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange) and the National Championship Game?

I bet many of you didn’t know the first team selected from one of the non-AQ conferences (MAC, WAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, C-USA) actually receives a larger, yes larger, amount than a team who automatically qualify from one of the AQ conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East). It’s true, although that’s before conferences get involved. The first team selected from a non-AQ conference receives $24.7 million* (see below for how this payout is handled). The automatic qualifiers from the six AQ conferences receive $21.2 million each. Any other AQ teams who play in BCS bowls take in $6 million each.

In fact, the non-AQ conferences receive money even if no team from a non-AQ conference is selected for a BCS bowl game, to the tune of $12.35 million. Whether the non-AQs have a team in and receive the $24.7 million, or receive the $12.35 million for not having a team in, they have decided amongst themselves to divide BCS monies evenly between all five conferences. That’s their choice.

Now, based on tweets and email received after I wrote this piece, I need to explain this a little bit further. It is true that the first non-AQ team selected for a BCS bowl receives more than an automatic qualifying team – but that’s before conferences get involved. Payouts are filtered through the conference the team belongs to, and the conference decides how to divide the payout. The non-AQ conferences have decided in an agreement amongst themselves to divide all BCS money equally between all conferences. By contrast, each AQ conference keeps what it receives and determines how to divide amongst the schools. Most subtract expenses of the team who participated and then divide the rest equally. At the end of the day, each AQ school receives more than each non-AQ school. But, I’m pretty sure you all knew that already.

Just for the sake of spreading knowledge, there are other teams who receive a BCS share even if they don’t compete. Notre Dame, for example, receives $6 million if they are chosen for a BCS bowl, but still receive $1.7 million even if they aren’t selected. Army and Navy each receive $100,000, even if not chosen for a BCS bowl. In addition, each FCS conference (who don’t even participate in the BCS) receive $250,000.

Now that we’ve covered how payouts work, make note that the NCAA has no involvement whatsoever. That’s the short answer as to why a return of bowl money isn’t part of any NCAA penalty. It’s out of their control.

The BCS would have to demand the return of bowl money. That’s not going to happen. I heard Bill Hancock on the radio months ago talking about USC’s penalties and he was asked why they weren’t taking back the payout received by USC for the BCS National Championship Game since the win was being vacated. It was pretty simple in his mind: if USC hadn’t played in that game, another Pac-10 team would have played in a BCS bowl since the Pac-10 gets an automatic berth. So, either way the Pac-10 would have gotten the same payout, because as I described above, the payout is the same whether you’re playing in the title game or any of the other four BCS bowls. Plus, the payout goes to the conference, not to the individual team. That makes it easy for the BCS to put the burden on the conferences. The Pac-10 would have to reclaim the funds from USC for the portion they received. That’s never going to happen.

Even as USC serves their bowl ban, they’re still receiving the same distribution from the now Pac-12 as they would receive if they were participating in bowls. The only real loss is the actual playing in the bowl, which I would imagine has a larger impact on the players than the institution. The school will still receive the same financial benefits from the conference, including a portion of the BCS payout to the conference.

The same is largely true when we talk about reclaiming television money as a penalty. It would have to be a conference level decision, and a conference is never going to penalize a team like that. However, the NCAA does have a penalty whereby they can ban a program from live television appearances. They haven’t used it since 1994, when Ole Miss was banned for one year. Most believe it’s no longer used because it impacts more than just the school being punished – the punishment is felt by every program that plays the school, especially FCS schools who are missing their shot to be on television and increase their profile.

I’m not defending the situation, but I hope I’ve shed some light on why a return of bowl or tv money is never discussed in terms of penalties levied by the NCAA.

*These are the numbers from the 2010-2011 season.

Why an Antitrust Suit is Unlikely to Bring Playoffs to College Football

Twice last week on Twitter I asked if you were tired of hearing about antitrust suits because I was considering writing a piece about why one brought against the BCS wouldn’t result in a playoff for college football. Despite hearing the word “antitrust” for months in conjuntion with the NFL, the unanimous response was that you wanted to hear more if it concerned what a suit would mean to college football as we know it.

If you’ve read my work, you probably know I like to play devil’s advocate on this topic. I believe an antitrust suit brought against the BCS has a slim chance of being successful and, more importantly, that even if it were successful, it would not result in a national championship playoff.

I can hear you already, “But, Kristi, the current system isn’t fair.” Therefore, it must violate antitrust law, right? Wrong. To understand, I need you to take off your fan hat and put on your CEO hat. College football is a business, like any other sport. It is run in a way that makes the most money for the people at the top. I have no idea why many fans think the sport’s power brokers – the top conference commissioners, TV partners, bowl officials – would voluntarily change to a system that would provide them with fewer benefits. They care about control and money, and they have both under the current system.

And here’s the key argument: Read the rest of this entry

The Aspirational Bowl

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl: it’s the bowl all other bowl games should aspire to be.  Not only is it a success in terms of ticket sales and local economic impact, but it also ranks first amongst bowls in charitable giving each and every year.

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl consistently makes charitable donations totaling around $1.2 million.  While other bowls may include complimentary tickets in their donation calculation, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl does not.  That money is spent giving back to SEC and ACC schools, supporting Winshape Homes (a Chick-Fil-A charity) and funding the Play It Smart program in Atlanta Public Schools, amongst other things.

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl Challenge is an annual golf tournament that had an overall charitable impact of $571,000 this year.  Of that, $415,000 represented the scholarship purse to the twelve participating SEC and ACC schools, with the rest going to charities unrelated to the universities, namely Chick-Fil-A’s Winshape Homes.  The Chick-Fil-A Bowl’s VP of Communications, Matt Garvey, tells me the coaches that play in this tournament take it very seriously.  They recruit their partner, who is a celebrity alumnus of the university.  If that partner doesn’t measure up, they have no qualms in finding a new one for the next year. 

Another way the Chick-Fil-A Bowl supports the colleges in the SEC and ACC is by providing endowed scholarships to the participating schools each year.  For each appearance a school makes in the bowl game, a $100,000 scholarship is endowed at the school, which is perpetual in duration.*

Perhaps the biggest impact made by the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, however, is its involvement in the Play It Smart program.  Run by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc., Play It Smart’s mission is to “”to promote the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal and the drive for academic excellence in America’s young people.”  The program accomplishes this by giving program participants an “academic coach.”  More than a tutor, this person goes through training to be a mentor, advocate and counselor to the student.  They help the student set goals, prepare for SATs and ACTs, apply for colleges and much more.

Since 2007, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl has spent $200,000 a year to ensure that the Play It Smart program is in each of the high schools in the Atlanta Public Schools system.  And now they’ve found a way to link this program to the colleges that participate in their bowl.  Any student who completes the Play It Smart program in Atlanta Public Schools and then chooses a school that has received an endowed scholarship as a result of participation in the bowl is now guaranteed to be a recipient of the scholarship when they attend that school.  What an amazing way to give back to the community and involve the schools that participate in the bowl!

*If you’re looking at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl’s tax returns, you’ll only see half of that amount. Mr. Garvey tells me that Chick-Fil-A provides the other half of each scholarship because of its strong desire to be part of giving back to the schools.

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.

Did They or Didn’t They: The Sugar Bowl and Charitable Donations

I recently began reading Death to the BCS. It was so well written and compelling, that I initially chose to believe every single word.  Although the book is full of disturbing facts about the BCS, two sentences caught my eye and haunted me.

“The Sugar Bowl gave nothing.  Not a buck to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort.”

After pouring over tax returns from 2005, 2006 and 2007, the authors determined that no donations had been made by the Sugar Bowl to anyone.  As someone who gave to the Hurricane Katrina reconstruction effort, and who represents a nonprofit lender who has provided millions in funds to the development of affordable housing in the area, I was appalled.  I immediately took to Twitter and called the lack of charitable giving by the Sugar Bowl “reprehensible.”

Then after a day or so of stewing over the situation, I decided to do my own research.  I found it unbelievable that the Sugar Bowl wouldn’t donate a penny to the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts.  That’s when I came across this article on the Times-Picayune’s website indicating the Sugar Bowl had committed $800,000 to reconstruction in City Park.

I proceeded to tweet out the article, which illicited responses from @DeathtotheBCS (the official Twitter account for the book) and @PlayoffPAC (a political action committee dedicated to bringing a playoff system to college football).  I asked, “@DeathtotheBCS says Sugar Bowl made no charitable donations. Is it true?”  Their responses:

@DeathtotheBCS: “Yes. Tax records show it, bowl doesn’t deny it.”

@PlayoffPAC: “But according to their tax returns, appears nothing ultimately went out the door.”

Far too curious to be satisfied with those responses, I decided to contact both the Sugar Bowl and City Park.  First, the response I received from John Hopper, Chief Development Officer and Public Affairs Director for City Park Improvement Association:

The claim in the book is a falsehood.  The Sugar Bowl Committee pledged 800k to the park after the storm.  They have given us 600k to date and are scheduled to pay us 100k each of the next two years.  The entirety of their donations have gone to make improvements in Tad Gormley Stadium which seats 26,000.  The stadium is used extensively for high school football games, as well as soccer and track meets.

We are proud and extremely grateful for the support from the Sugar Bowl Committee!

Mr. Hopper was also kind enough to send over some great before and after pictures of Tad Gormley Stadium, which you can see below.

Tad Gromley Stadium – Before and After

When I inquired about the situation to John Sudsbury, the Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Sugar Bowl, he responded as follows:

The information supplied to you by Mr. Hopper is correct – we provided funds to New Orleans City Park following Hurricane Katrina.  I cannot speak for the authors of the book on why they did not find any evidence of any donations.  If they had contacted us, we could have provided them the information.

Mr. Sudsbury went on to tell me that the initial $400,000 donation was made in 2006-2007 for “major capital improvements.”  He says the remaining $400,000 is being made in $100,000 increments for maintenance and upkeep.

As someone who is currently finishing up a book, I understand that it’s hard to look under every stone.  In my experience, I’m never going to feel like my book is done.  There’s always something I could add.

That being said, I’m fairly disappointed in the authors of this book for this particular inaccuracy.  It was a bold statement; a statement that I, as a writer, would have been fearful of making if I wasn’t as close to one hundred percent sure as possible.

So how long did it take me to find the information to write this piece?  Well, I found the Times-Picuyane article in mere seconds.  It was the first entry on Yahoo when I searched “Sugar Bowl Katrina donations.”  That’s all it would have taken the authors to figure out they might be wrong.

The rest of the research, emails and phone calls have taken me about four hours.  Not really any longer than researching for some of my other SportsMoney pieces.

The information provided by the authors, and the opinions they formed, were largely based on tax returns from 2005-2007.  There are indeed no line items on those tax returns that show any charitable donations.  When I inquired of Mr. Sudsbury, he indicated that the donations were included under “Special Appropriations” on the Form 990 completed by outside accounting professionals.

Perhaps the error is in the preparation of the tax returns, but I do not have the expertise to make that judgment.  The Sugar Bowl did include a schedule to their 2008 return that showed a specific line item for a $100,000 donation to Friends of City Park, which is the fundraising arm for City Park.  That, combined with the statements of Mr. Hopper and Mr. Sudsbury, satisfy me that the donation was indeed made.

As such, I retract any and all statement I’ve made on Twitter regarding the Sugar Bowl’s lack of charitable donations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  I was thrilled to find out I was wrong.

While I do recommend anyone interested in college football read Death to the BCS, I also encourage you to do your own research.  It’s a very compelling read, and I’m intrigued by the playoff format they suggest, but I find myself questioning their facts now.  That’s the unfortunate result of their making a bold statement that was fairly easily proved to be false.

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.