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Posted: Friday January 9, 2009 5:11PM; Updated: Friday January 9, 2009 11:02PM
Andy Staples Andy Staples >

Any way you cut it, a playoff would be more lucrative (cont.)

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Ah, the number of games played. Wasn't it just three years ago that presidents approved a 12th regular-season game? That decision brought us such barn-burners as Florida-The Citadel and Wisconsin-Cal Poly, which must have certainly enhanced the value of the regular season. The two-semester argument holds little water as well. Plenty of basketball coaches would love to play from January to April and keep their sport in one semester, but that won't change anytime soon. Why? One factor is CBS. Moving up the season would require televising the first weekend of the NCAA tournament on the same week as The Masters. CBS owns broadcast rights to both events, and since the network pays the NCAA $545 million a year to broadcast the basketball tournament, the tournament will stay right where it is.

So are presidents being fiscally irresponsible? Swofford doesn't believe so, but it's a question legislators at the state and federal levels should ask. "I don't think it's fiscally irresponsible," Swofford said. "That would be saying that every decision made in college athletics should be made for the dollar. Sometimes, we're accused of that. But in reality, it's not the case. This decision isn't being made for those dollars."

So the 12th-game decision wasn't made for money? Really, this is about one thing. The bowl games have been great buddies to the old-boy network that rules college football. Some presidents -- Florida's Bernie Machen, Georgia's Michael Adams and Florida State's T.K. Wetherell, among others -- have broken ranks and called for a playoff, but others have remained silent, content to let their athletic directors and conference commissioners buddy up to the bowls.

"There's a longstanding tradition of bowls in college football that you, to one degree or another, if not totally, that you would have to eventually undo to start a playoff system," Swofford said. "To some degree, that comes into play, too. ... It's been awfully good to college football."

There also was a longstanding tradition of buggy-whip makers before Henry Ford invented the Model-T. The world changes, but some folks must be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the present.

On Thursday, ESPN vice president Burke Magnus discussed the example of the GMAC Bowl, which drew a 2.2 rating -- better than even the best college basketball telecasts -- despite being "essentially a lopsided contest in a driving rainstorm on a weeknight." Magnus then said he worried that a playoff might reduce interest in such games. He shouldn't worry. Tulsa and Ball State -- the combatants in the bowl that was sponsored by a company receiving a federal bailout -- aren't making an eight- or 16-team playoff anytime soon. People will watch because it's a college football game. ESPN officials should understand this best. They can look at their climbing viewership and ad rates and surmise that people will watch college football in whatever form it's presented.

So why not present it in the form that makes the most money so cash-strapped universities don't have to sacrifice paying physics professors so they can put a new booster lounge in the football stadium? In most cases, it's our money, and we should get a say in how it's spent.

So if you really want a playoff, call your congressperson. Tell them they don't need to grandstand. They only need to ask a valid question. Why are university presidents spending our money to subsidize when they already have a way to make millions more?

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