Posted: Wednesday May 4, 2011 12:02PM ; Updated: Wednesday May 4, 2011 12:32PM
Stewart Mandel

What the Pac-12's TV deal means for playoff hopes; more Mailbag

Story Highlights

Mammoth TV contracts give schools, leagues less incentive to push for playoff

Boise State's NCAA situation shows the enforcement process is far from perfect

Plus: LSU's QB race, UNC's long NCAA wait and a sandwich-related apology

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The Pac-10 earned $28 million when Stanford and Oregon made BCS games; the new TV deal will generate nine times that annually.
The Pac-10 earned $28 million when Stanford and Oregon made BCS games; the new TV deal will generate nine times that annually.
Steve Conner/Icon SMI

The state of Alabama has produced college football's past two national champions. It has also produced an endless string of headlines -- some scandalous, some absurd, but all the product of a rabid passion for college football.

Right now, however, a lot of people in that state are hurting. The pictures and videos that surfaced after last week's deadly tornadoes were staggering and heartbreaking. As of this writing, officials were reporting at least 45 dead and more than 300 missing in Tuscaloosa, where hundreds of homes were destroyed. At least 236 people died throughout the state. President Obama visited Tuscaloosa last week and proclaimed he'd "never seen devastation like this."

Football fans, Alabama could use your help. Sports Illustrated this week launched an Alabama Relief Auction in which fans can bid on a series of iconic Crimson Tide photos and covers. All proceeds will benefit the Red Cross' relief efforts. If you're by chance an Auburn fan, or if you simply don't need a Bear Bryant poster, you can of course donate directly to the Red Cross.

College football wouldn't be college football without the bitterness and the rivalries, but I'm hoping this is one time when fans can put aside their affiliations and come together for a greater cause.

And now on to the mail:

Now that more of these huge TV megadeals like the Pac-12's are coming in from different conferences based largely on the popularity of college football's extremely popular regular season, how much money do you think is really being left on the table by not going to a playoff?
-- Taylor Cooke, Austin, Texas

You hit the nail on the head, Taylor, and it's something I touched on in my column from last week's BCS meetings. The playoff zealots keep telling us that the schools and conferences are committing a grave injustice by refusing to pursue the hypothetical windfall that would come from a hypothetical playoff. Well, there's nothing hypothetical about the Pac-12's staggering new contracts with ESPN and Fox. According to The New York Times, the deals are worth a combined $250 million per year -- and that's before additional revenue from a forthcoming Pac-12 Network. That's about nine times more than the league made from the BCS last season ($28 million) and about 17 times more than it made from the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament ($14.7 million). Each school will earn more than a $20 million share. And to get a sense of just how rapidly things have escalated, consider that just seven years ago no conference was yet earning $10 million per team.

And you wonder why these guys talk so much about protecting the regular season?

Now, it's not like these numbers would go down if college football suddenly adopted a playoff tomorrow (in most cases the contracts are locked in for 12-15 years). And some estimates do suggest that a playoff would net three to four times what the BCS contract does. But first of all, that doesn't mean each of the conferences would automatically make three to four times as much. An NCAA-sponsored tournament would require certain operating costs, would likely follow a performance-based distribution method and would be spread more evenly among all 11 conferences. And the well for TV sports properties is going to dry up at some point.

So if you're the Big 12 or Pac-12 and you're already reasonably pleased with the sport the way it is, and now the networks are suddenly tripling and quadrupling your revenue stream the way it is -- what's your incentive for change?

Answer: There isn't one.

Let me get this straight: Boise's program has "lack of institutional control" because tennis had a non-student play (OK, that's seriously stupid) and 21 other MINOR violations that included a bunch of players not paying to sleep on teammates' couches while they waited on getting their own rooms a few days later? The NCAA thinks crashing on a couch is improper benefits??? I best be getting my 50 cents back for that coke I gave Danny Wuerrfel back in 1996 or the Gators might have to give back their title!
-- Tom Merritt, Oxford, England

The Mandel Initiative Podcast
Former Florida coach Urban Meyer joins the show to share his spring football thoughts; Stewart and Mallory break down the Pac-12's TV deal and Boise State's NCAA troubles and answer your mail.

Mandel Initiative Archive | Find on

If ever there were a definitive case for blowing up the entire NCAA enforcement process and starting from scratch, CouchGate (as I'm now calling it) is it.

In fairness, just because tennis isn't as popular as football doesn't mean its coaches and players should get a free-pass on rules violations, and it sounds like Boise State's coach went all-out rogue. (You can read the details here.) But according to the school's "summary of NCAA inquiry," the lack of institutional control charge was a result of combining the tennis case with a whole bunch of other minor offenses, like football's, and concluding (I'm paraphrasing here) that the school failed to adequately educate its coaches and staff on rules and regulations and did not properly monitor the athletics program. NCAA translation: Your compliance people have no idea what they're doing. (And that's hardly surprising considering the school apparently employed 1.5 full-time compliance officers.)

The ruling makes sense within the context of the NCAA's existing enforcement structure, but makes no sense to a reasoned general public. In what logical world does misinterpreting or disobeying obscure rules about lodging merit the NCAA's most serious charge, but a head coach (Jim Tressel) lying about knowledge of rules violations that would have rendered five of his best players ineligible doesn't? It's cases like these that have people across the sport -- including prominent commissioners like Mike Slive -- encouraging the NCAA to reexamine its enforcement model.

Interestingly, next week about 20 other writers from around the country and I will be participating in the NCAA's first-ever mock enforcement exercise, where we'll be given a hypothetical case and will get to see for ourselves what goes into investigating and penalizing a school. Hopefully I'll come back with a better understanding of how something like CouchGate occurs -- because right now I'm as baffled as Tom.
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