At the recent IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, NCAA leaders sat on a panel. The ensuing discussion became much more than the typical polite exchanges.
From their comments at the forum and elsewhere arise several lines drawn in the sand on a range of topics.
In Part 1, we reviewed the position of the NCAA and the BCS position on mid majors.
In Part 2, we reviewed their position on a post BCS landscape.
In Part 3, we reviewed a playoff isn’t an option.
In Part 4, we reviewed no conference opposes a seeded 4 format, they oppose the inevitable larger formats.
In Part 5, we reviewed a playoff’s impact on the bowls
Less obvious is a large format playoff’s impact on the regular season.
ESPN College Football Programmer Dave Brown I wouldn't want to see the bowls changed because I don't want to create meaningless games during the regular season. I don't think that would be good for college football.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto If we ever go to a playoff, we lose what is probably the most valuable regular season in all of sports.
SEC Commissioner Mike Silve One of the ways to measure a conference is by understanding its television relationships. It’s all based on regular season play, and that is something we’re very careful to protect.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford
“…Every other sport has devalued the regular season while college football's regular season has only gained in stature, interest, attendance and television coverage.”
Swofford provides a compelling absolute – as a playoff expands, gaining an invite becomes easier as the significance of a regular season loss decreases. As the outcome of regular season games drop in significance, the regular season is devalued.
The BCS success lies in its small size
By encompassing only 2 teams and 1 game it did not devalue the outcome of regular season games – lose a game and a team can expect not to get a NCG invite, don’t win your conference and your chances of getting a BCS invite drops.
Since going undefeated in the regular season is rare, the BCS still adds significance to games played by 1 loss teams pursuing an invite.
The BCS attracts fan attention to games played outside the conference as 1 loss teams or any team still in a conference title hunt pursue an invite.
It preserves the significance of other bowls as the BCS games are only played at the end of the season after most bowls, and only encompass a small percentage of the bowls. Even if a team is not pursuing a BCS invite, the stature of the bowls they are invited to (or the chances of bowl eligibility) is still on the line with each game.
When you diminish the significance of the outcome of regular season games, you diminish fan interest in these games.
In NCAAF math, Interest = TV Ratings = Revenue
Diminishing the significance of the regular season hurts more than broadcast contracts. The regular season broadcast revenue is more per major than the post season revenue. Game day receipts are usually more than broadcast revenue. Corporate and individual donors coupled with venue advertisers can compare with or surpass the revenue of both of these.
In Part 7, we will look at why the mid-majors harbor a substantially different opinion.
For a list of references, see Lines in the Sand Part 1