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COLLEGE FOOTBALL GOES FOR WIN: ABC INKS PACT ON TITLE GAME
Published July 24, 1996
ABC Sports announced a seven-year deal between the Rose Bowl, which hosts the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions, and the Bowl Alliance paving the way for a national college football title game to be held on a rotating basis. The three other bowls have yet to be determined, but multiple media reports this morning speculate the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls will remain in the Alliance. Reports put the price of the deal in the $500M range (THE DAILY). DETAILS: The deal means major college football will have a championship game, "rather than relying on a final poll to determine the best team," according to Randy Covitz of the K.C. STAR. It will start with the '98 season, although the site of the first title game is T.B.A. The Rose Bowl will host the game that follows the 2001 season. The three current Alliance bowls will have an exclusive 60-day negotiating period to become part of a the new arrangement. ABC Sports will televise all four Alliance bowls among the top eight teams (K.C. STAR, 7/24). The four games will be made up from a pool of eight teams: Champions from the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 10, Dame and an at-large team (NEWSDAY, 7/24). To be worked out: A system to determine the No. 1 and 2 teams that will play for the title (Herb Gould, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/24). MONEY MATTERS: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reports ABC will pay more than $500M over seven years to air the four games. Total TV rights fees for those games will increase about 8% to a $71.4M annual average. Alliance bowl payouts are expected to increase from $8.5M per team to over $10M (USA TODAY, 7/24). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Fatsis & Jensen note ABC's package "amounts" to nearly $18M a game in rights payments. ABC reportedly offered $339M for the four top games, but was forced higher by CBS, which has deals with the other Alliance bowls. The deal should allow "for bigger sponsorship and advertising payouts, particularly for the top game" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/24). NEWSDAY's Ivan Maisel notes ABC will pay about $18M to the Rose Bowl and approximately $55M per year for the three other games (NEWSDAY, 7/24). In K.C., Randy Covitz notes pressure from the Big Ten and Pac-10 on the Rose Bowl to join, as the last two Rose Bowls have dropped in ratings. The Alliance can end the deal after four years (K.C. STAR, 7/24). BLACK ROCK TAKES A HIT: CBS Sports President David Kenin said CBS was "prepared for this turn of events." Kenin: "Naturally, we would have liked to participate as broadcasters" (CBS Sports). In Boston, Michael Vega calls it "a huge blow to CBS" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/24). A "window" in the Alliance's original deal had enabled the negotiations, as ABC Sports VP/Programming Tony Petitti noted the Alliance "had the right not to extend the agreement" past '97 if there was "an opportunity to expand." Petitti: "That, in essence, is what happened" (NEWSDAY, 7/24). In Miami, Susan Miller Degnan calls CBS the "loser," as they paid $82M over six years for Orange Bowl rights. CBS Sports' Leslie Anne Wade: "When we got involved we knew the possible entering of the Rose Bowl would change the landscape" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/24). USA TODAY's Hiestand notes, without the NFL, college football was to be a "mainstay" for CBS. Sean McManus of IMG, which represents the Orange and Sugar Bowls, lauded ABC's move as "very aggressive pre-emptive strike. ... They identified a franchise they wanted to dominate" (USA TODAY, 7/24). In new York, Richard Sandomir notes that CBS "worked feverishly" to persuade the Alliance not to "link with the Rose Bowl and had made a seven-year financial offer to retain the current set-up" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24). REACTION: Michigan State Coach Nick Saban called the deal "very healthy" for college football. The deal met with unanimous approval from Big Ten presidents (Angelique Chengelis, DETROIT NEWS, 7/24). Orange Bowl Exec Dir Keith Dribble: "We hope to be part of the new Alliance" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/24). Sugar Bowl Dir Paul Hoolahan, on staying with the Alliance: "There's no doubt we'll stay in" (USA TODAY, 7/24). WAC Commissioner Karl Benson: "This continues to separate the haves from the have-nots in college football" (Wendell Barnhouse, FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/24). In K.C., columnist Jonathan Rand notes a title game won't make football similar to "March Madness," as "most bowl games will still serve as little more than background noise for holiday get togethers" (K.C. STAR, 7/24). Northwestern AD Rick Taylor: "We were all against having the NFL playoff-type format" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/24).