Bowling for Dollars

© Copyright 2007, Paul Kislanko

22 November 2007

Kramer's Legacy

It doesn't take detailed analysis of bowl payout distributions that the SEC has done a great job of locking up lots of dollars from non-BCS bowls. Whether we think it's a good or bad thing, Roy Kramer changed the college football landscape. The pie is a lot bigger, and even those who get a smaller slice get a larger one than they could've gotten on their own.

non-BCS Bowl Disbursement by Conference
(1000s dollars)
Date Bowl SEC B10 B12 ACC P10 CUSA BE MW MAC WAC Ind SBC
20-Dec-07 Poinsettia               750     750  
21-Dec-07 New Orleans           325           325
22-Dec-07 New Mexico               750   750    
22-Dec-07 Papajohns.com           750 750          
22-Dec-07 Las Vegas         1000     1000        
23-Dec-07 Hawaii           398       398    
26-Dec-07 Motor City   750             750      
27-Dec-07 Holiday     2200   2200              
28-Dec-07 Emerald       750 750              
28-Dec-07 Texas     1250     1250            
28-Dec-07 Champs Sports   2250   2250                
29-Dec-07 Liberty 1700         1700            
29-Dec-07 Alamo   2250 2250                  
29-Dec-07 Meineke       750     750          
30-Dec-07 Independence 1200   1200                  
31-Dec-07 Armed Forces         750     750        
31-Dec-07 Humanitarian       750           750    
31-Dec-07 Insight   1200 1200                  
31-Dec-07 Music City 1500     1500                
31-Dec-07 Sun     1900   1900              
31-Dec-07 Chick-fil-A 2400     3250                
1-Jan-08 Gator       2500     2500          
1-Jan-08 Cotton 3000   3000                  
1-Jan-08 Outback 3000 3000                    
1-Jan-08 Capital One 4250 4250                    
5-Jan-08 International             750   750      
6-Jan-08 GMAC           750     750      

BCS-AutoNon-Auto
3618# non-BCS bowl slots
6685013646000s Dollars
1856.9758.1000s Dollars/team
11141.72274.3000s Dollars/conference
It's not hard to see why the conferences that want a slice of the BCS pie do - in the non-BCS "free market" of bowls, their teams have not drawn the money that the autobid conference teams do. This is sort of a chicken and egg situation, since the conferences that have automatic bids do so because their teams established themselves as the most marketable ("best" has nothing to do with it!)

It is worth noting that the average payout to non-autobid conference teams is only as high as it is because of the eight bowls that pit autobid-conference teams against non-autobid conference teams. Many of the other bowls are subsidized by the host conference or a television network that needs college football programming during the holidays.

Then on top of that, we have the BCS payouts, as described in the 2007-08 BCS Media Guide:

Teams and conferences participating in Bowl Championship Series games receive revenue primarily from two sources television and the host bowls.

A total of approximately $1.8 million will be paid to Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) conferences to support the overall health of college football.

Also, independent institutions Army and Navy will each receive $100,000 for making their teams available to play in BCS games if selected.

Nine percent of the net revenues from the arrangement, which is approximately $9 million, is guaranteed in aggregate to Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic Conferences for their participation in the arrangement. (emphasis added)

If a team from Conference USA, the Mid- American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or Western Athletic Conferences plays in a BCS bowl game, those conferences will receive an additional nine percent of net revenues. If more than one team from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt or Western Athletic Conferences play in the BCS bowl games, those conferences will receive an additional $4.5 million for each additional team.

Notre Dame is guaranteed 1/66th of the net revenues after expenses, or approximately $1.3 million. Notre Dame will receive $4.5 million when its team is a participant.

The share to each conference with an annual automatic berth in the BCS (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC) is approximiately $17 million. If a second team from one of those conferences qualifies to play in one of the games, that conference will receive an additional $4.5 million.

The Rose Bowl Game pays its participants directly through a separate contractual arrangement.

The BCS coalition guarantees: 000$sTo:
1800FCS (1-AA) conferences
9000FBS (1-A) conferences with no automatic bid.
102000FBS conferences with automatic bids
18000At-large bids (if all are from conferences with an automatic selection)
1300Notre Dame

The non-autobid conferences collectively receive 66 percent as much they do from all non-BCS bowls combined from the BCS even if there are no teams playing in a BCS bowl. Should a team from a non-autobid conference either automatically quallify or be selected as an at-large team its conference receives more revenue than all non-autobid conferences receive from non-BCS bowls combined.

Is the BCS "fair" to the non-autobid conferences?

Critics of the BCS suggest that it is only access to BCS bowl money that allows teams in autobid conferences to improve their programs. There is a small amount of evidence that this is the case - namely that the Big East has fewer non-BCS bowl contracts (4) than C-USA (6) for lower revenue ($4.75 million vs $5.173). But this argument is skewed by two factors:

What about the argument that the BCS conferences "lock out" the non-BCS conferences? The BCS' first year was 1998. Appearances in what are now the BCS bowls (plus the Cotton prior to the 1995 season) by a non "BCS conference" team in the previous 40 years were:
Cotton:1958 (Air Force) 1958-1994
Fiesta:1976 (Wyoming); 1974 (BYU) 1971-1997
Orange:1960 (Navy) 1958-1997
Rose: 1958-1997
Sugar: 1958-1997

From the 1958 through 1997 seasons that's 368 opportunities to play in one of those bowls and a "non-BCS" conference team participated in exactly four of those occaisions, two of which are appearances in the third and fifth Fiesta Bowl games. So, without the BCS we would expect a "non-BCS" team to be good enough to be invited to play in a "major" bowl less than once every one or two decades under the "pre-BCS" conditions. And realistically once every half-century, since in the more traditional bowls the last invitation was in 1960 (and that may have been more to see Roger Staubach than to see Navy).

Now compare that to the BCS era: there have been 74 chances to play in a BCS bowl beginning with 1998, and non-autobid conference teams have two of them (Utah 2004 and Boise State 2006). That's about ten times better than the appearance rate in those bowls from 1958 through 1997, and possibly more interesting is that those are recent (compared to 1960). It is also worth noting a bit of text from the BCS media guide that I left out of the quotation above:

Over the first nine years of the BCS arrangement, more than $80 million has been paid to Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic Conferences and to the Football Championship Subdivision conferences.
To answer the argument that the BCS guarantees ten times as much to the six BCS conferences as it does to the five non-BCS conferences I'd just point out that were it not for the BCS the non-BCS conferences would've likely gotten none of that money. Before there was a BCS none of the traditional bowls paid 17 million dollars per team, but suppose they averaged about two million per team (only because the Rose paid a lot more than any of the others). That would've meant only 16 million for the BCS conferences instead of 102 million, but ZERO for the non-autobid conferences instead of nine million.

So, be careful what you ask for, BCS-bashing BCS wannabes. There probably isn't a better deal for the conferences with teams that have a hard time meetnig the Bowl Subdivision's home game count and attendance requirements than what we have now. Anything that breaks up "the cartel" will result in the golden eggs no longer being available 'cause the goose that laid 'em died.

Oh, and any team/conference that thinks a playoff would give 'em a better chance at making money is free to move over to the Football Championship Subdivision, where it is doubtful they'd have as good a chance at playing in post-season as they do in a bowl.