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Monday
May192008

Playoff Quotable

As in generally the case, great finds from Get The Picture.

NCAA President Myles Brand in a Q&A with the Houston Chronicle.

Q: What do you see as the major issues against having a college football playoff in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A)?

A: I’m not inside those discussions, but let me give you my best sense of the matter. I think those (school) presidents take very seriously the regular season. They don’t want to, in any way, threaten the regular season and turn football into a tournament sport. Basketball is a tournament sport. They want to put the emphasis on the Saturday rivalries. That’s where the fans show the most interest. They are very much concerned about moving toward an NFL-type playoff system.

Bonus talk about money, and how elusive it might actually be despite proclamations to the contrary of mad scrilla come the day a playoff is created:

Q: Only six Division I programs are making money. How long can this go on?

A: I don’t know how long. Presidents’ lives are short — 4 1/2 for a public university and 6 1/2 for a private university. So presidents turn over. Eventually, you may get another group that thinks differently, so you can’t forever go forward with this. I don’t know if it will change. I don’t think in the near run it will. I don’t think there is as much money in (a football playoff) as people think. [Emphasis added.] A lot of the revenues are coming in through ticket sales and TV contracts on the regular season. I think you’re going to continue to see good TV contracts in the regular season. If you had a playoff, what would the size of those regular-season contracts be?

Chew on all that for a bit.

ALSO: Georgia Sports Blog comes out against a playoff.  The list of people against a playoff in college football continues to grow.  A decent handful of them are listed under "The Coalition" on the menu at left.

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Reader Comments (6)

One of the truly strange things about this debate is the absence of ethical perspectives. What are the ethics behind increasing profits from unpaid athletes?
May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
That is an excellent point. Playoff proponents always argue that the majority of fans want a playoff, but they never discuss the wants/needs of the most important people in this matter: the student-athletes themselves. I played football in college and I can tell you it is a full time job (we easily put in way more hours than the 20 hour per week rule allows). As long as we are not allowing these athletes to accept money/gifts that they deserve, we should not be making them play additional games (they already play too many in my opinion).
May 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterslim charles 89
To state that only 6 NCAA Div 1 football programs are making a profit is ludicous. That is an accounting of all the costs associated with the program but only includes ticket, TV, bowl, parking and other game day revenue. How about the tens of millions given to the Universities to get priority seats? How do they account for the increased level of general contributions to the Universities? What happens to the millions of dollars in sales of clothing and other University memorabilia. If this wasn't profitable, they wouldn't be doing it.
May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMrtravlear
Brand was referring to athletic programs, not just football programs. And yes, the number of them that are profitable continues to decline.

Below is a quote and link from the NCAA web site. The story is Myles Brand’s response to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in Nov. 2006 that states “fewer than 10” of the NCAA’s 1,000 members are profitable if generally accepted accounting practices such as capital expenditures and depreciation are used (this is ALL divisions). As it stands now, the athletic departments can magically keep these things “off budget” while the rest of the world operates by accounting rules.

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/NCAA/NCAA+News/NCAA+News+Online/2006/Association-wide/NCAA+response+to+federal+inquiry+backs+tax-exempt+status+-+11-20-06+NCAA+News?pageDesign=Printer+Friendly+NCAA+News+And+Updates

Brand states:
“The data that identify these two dozen institutions with positive net revenues do so without accounting for depreciation. Under generally accepted accounting principles, however, depreciation of athletics facilities should be deducted to determine a true profit. While we do not have data to know the exact number that would still report net revenues if depreciation were included, we estimate it would be fewer than 10 institutions of more than 1,000 member colleges and universities.”

So, to answer your question, it’s not ludicrous. It’s the truth.

But to further answer your question in the way you’ve asked it… this relates back to the first comment I made in this thread.

What exactly are the ethics behind a commercial enterprise disguised as amateur athletics in which everyone seems to profit except the performers? In your question, even the retailers profit. What are the ethics of continually raising the stakes while the players remain unpaid?

College football is the only enterprise in America where people claim to be morally outraged because they aren’t getting more free labor from college kids.

The fact is, a playoff would worsen the current bad situation in college athletics. It’s called “the entrapment game” and here is a great paper by Cornell University Management and Economics Professor Robert Frank on the subject called Challenging the Myth.

http://www.knightcommission.org/images/uploads/KCIA_Frank_report_2004.pdf

And, for the record, there is no evidence to suggest alumni donations increase. Many studies have been done on this and they are inconclusive.
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Sept04/Frank.athletics.rpt.lm.html
May 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
slim charles 89,

Playoff advocates claim a majority of fans want a playoff and they try to insert themselves as a primary stakeholder to all of this. Yet the only thing they have at stake is paying the cable bill on time so they can watch more games.

Meanwhile there are players, faculty, students, university presidents, taxpayers, and nonprofit corporations (the Bowl games) who each have a legitimate stake in how the sport is operated. Playoff advocates are quick to point out the “arrogance” of people like Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Tom Hansen (PAC-10) at the negotiating table. However, the true arrogance lies with the fan at home who has absolutely nothing at stake yet whines about the fact that college football doesn’t produce a champion to his liking.

This arrogance has been allowed to permeate the debate. Let me give two small examples.

First, I don’t have the exact quote but playoff advocate Olin Buchanon of Rivals.com wrote something to the effect of, “It’s a shame college football has chosen to treat its customers so poorly.”

Its customers?

Suddenly the guy sitting at home watching the game is a “customer” of college football? What exactly do these consumers have invested? Did Buchanon mean to say this amateur sport is a totally commercial enterprise in which he has managed to make a decent living covering high school and college kids? What is the exchange of value between customers and producers? What exactly is the compensation offered to the producers above and beyond what they normally receive? Shouldn’t the producers be entitled to something more since they generate massive entertainment revenue and create auxiliary industries such as rating the recruits?

All of these are legitimate questions. Yet when you start asking these legitimate questions to playoff advocates, they have no answers (or at least no answers other than their personal preference for a playoff) or the rationalization, “Well, the producers are being exploited already and they don’t seem to mind. So what’s a little more exploitation going to hurt?”

The fact is, there are opposition groups to all of this such as the Knight Commission, the Drake Group, the Collegiate Athletes Coalition, and the revived Rutgers 1000. Authors such as Andrew Zimbalist and Murray Sperber have written books about the subject. Professors Robert Frank and Frank Splitt have written papers, and former university presidents such as Bill Friday and James Duderstadt continue to speak out on the topic. The topic is STILL in committee of the U.S. House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees. Hell, the former NCAA president (Walter Byers) wrote a book on the exploitation of college athletes.

But playoff advocates have their unscientific internet polls and the verdict is in. See how cool their brackets look?

The second example is this. Playoff advocates like to complain the current system allows teams to avoid playing a tougher schedule. “If they would fly across the country and play each other during the regular season,” say the playoff advocates, “the BCS wouldn’t look like a beauty contest.” This may be true but I ask two simple questions: Who subsidizes this expensive cross-country travel? What rule mandates that a largely regional sport actually needs a “national” champion?

The answer to the first question is, “Students and taxpayers, mostly with borrowed money.” To the second question, the answer is, “Uh, there is no rule. We just want a champion.”

Playoff advocates have gotten so used to the commercialization of college sports that they have completely forgotten this is not the NFL with cross country travel with private money, nor is it high school playoffs where travel is limited within the State.

Extensive travel at taxpayer expense is one of the questions Rep. Bill Thomas pressed Myles Brand about with the $6 billion contract to broadcast March Madness. Basketball teams are flying all over the country trying to play a tougher schedule and are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per athlete. These figures aren’t pulled out of thin air. It’s available to the public on the Office of Postsecondary Education web site. Since Ohio State seems to get picked on the most about this, I’ll use OSU as an example. It took me less than 30 seconds to find in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007, Ohio State spent $125,602 per athlete in men’s basketball and $69,706 per athlete in women’s basketball compared to “only” $44,731 per athlete in football.

Playoff advocates have no answer for this aspect of the debate, or for the ethical ramifications of socking students and taxpayers with athletic departments travel expenses. They are a herd of posers posing as “the customer”. In their delusional minds, the customer is always right.

The fact is, playoff advocates argue only their desire for a national champion without taking any of the vested interests of the REAL stakeholders into account. They claim to have a real stake in the matter when in fact they have nothing at stake.

There is but one overriding question to the entire debate. Given the immense popularity of the sport, to what extent should REASONABLE people be allowed to capitalize for economic gain on the talents of student-athletes?

The truth is, many people surrounding these kids are receiving more compensation NOW than the FUTURE benefits of the student-athletes’ one-year renewable scholarship. The evidence is overwhelming that the BCS era has increased revenues, expenditures, and salaries of everyone except the producers. A national playoff would make this problem worse.

Therefore, an examination of the overriding question leads one to conclude that the only idea worse than the BCS is playoffs. Though it did not produce a champion, at least the previous system appeared REASONABLE to reasonable people, which is exactly why it lasted as long as it did.

May 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
Personally I feel that every conference should have a Conference Championship game. If a conference chooses not to have one then they are exempt from playing for the National Title. This would resolve a lot of conflict from the BCS problems we are having right now.
May 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJason

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