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Hancock Says BCS Needs To Be Better At
Explaining To People How It Works
To kick off yesterday's afternoon session at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum hosted by SBD/SBJ, BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock sat down to discuss the BCS’ position on a playoff, the first-year of the ESPN television deal and his thoughts on Congress further investigating the BCS.
Q: Why do you think the BCS system works?
Hancock: It works because of three things: It allows us to match #1 and #2 in a bowl game, which almost never happened before [the BCS]. It preserves the regular season, the most meaningful and compelling regular season in sports. It also preserves the bowl system to the benefit of 70 groups of students this year.
Q: What is your response to the recent Sports Illustrated piece that basically said the only reason the BCS system is in place now is to protect bowl executive directors and others who are making a lot of money?
Hancock: Well that’s malarkey, to be honest. The SI piece was almost not reported at all by SI reporters. Austin Murphy’s name is on it, but he contributed very little. He did not talk to any student athletes, he did not talk to any [university presidents or ADs], he talked to me for about four minutes. I’m an old journalism guy and it was not the kind of journalism I would have pursued relative to that story.
Q: So you don’t subscribe to the theory that the people in positions at the bowls are making too much money? You feel that’s not an issue related to the BCS?
Hancock: The bowl committees are managed by people in the communities, high-level people in the communities, who understand the economic needs of their community and it’s for them to establish the salaries. They do what they think is necessary.
Q: How concerned were you with the members of Congress taking a look at this in the Department of Justice?
Hancock: You take it seriously. It’s politics. We all know how Washington operates. Two senators asked the Justice Department to investigate the BCS last January and we have not heard a word from Justice on this. … I don’t want to be cavalier about this or say we’re not concerned, but we’re very confident that we comply with the laws of the country. And we also know that most people in Congress think they have one or two more important things to do.
Q: Do you think you’ve done a better job of being more aggressive about promoting the message of the BCS?
Hancock: I think so. … We’re much more transparent than ever before. We’ve released the data for the future automatic-qualification numbers, which are on our website. Some of the conferences come out good and some not so good, but it’s out there for everyone to look at.
Q: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has said before that he believes there’s a lot of money being left on the table, hundreds of millions of dollars, by not going to a playoff. How do you argue against there being more revenue at the end of the day if you went to a playoff system?
Hancock: No one knows how much more revenue there might be. And what part of the revenue might go out of the regular season and into the postseason, as is happening with basketball, frankly? We all think there might be more revenue for the postseason, but we don’t know for sure. … And isn’t it interesting that so many times those of us in college sports are criticized for making more money and here they’re criticizing us for leaving money on the table, not taking more money, so we can meet the needs and experiences of the student athletes? I find that fascinating.
Q: How do you reconcile college basketball players being able to travel all of March and April and the inability of the college football players to travel in a playoff system?
Hancock: I feel strongly that what works for basketball works for basketball and what works for football works for football. In basketball, you might have 500 people go to a first and second round game to see Hofstra play in Salt Lake City, and in football you’d hope you’d have 17,000 people travel. It’s a big difference.
Q: The big story facing the BCS this year is moving all the games to ESPN. Talk about how that deal came together and what the deal means for the BCS.
Hancock: All the platforms that ESPN can offer to us are so beneficial for promotion, for helping us get the message out. And also for the familiarity of the fans with ESPN’s [commentators].
Q: How is the revenue from the ESPN deal shared?
Hancock: Every team that is an automatic qualifier gets basically the same amount of money. The six conferences that have AQs get $21 million a piece and if there’s a team from a non-AQ conference it will receive $24 million for its conference. … If you’re selected as an at-large: $6 million.
Q: In your personal opinion, are there too many bowl games?
Hancock: I think there’s almost too many. We’re getting close to that.
Q: What do you look at that makes you think there’s almost too many?
Hancock: The record of the teams in the games.
Q: Wouldn’t it be easier to have one body running the bowl games the way the NCAA runs March Madness?
Hancock: You would lose the flavor. An Arizona bowl is different than a bowl in Florida because of the culture of the area. And if it were managed by one person in an office somewhere, it would lose some of that culture and some of the connection with the community. The community connection for the bowl games is much stronger than it is in the NCAA tournament.
Q: Finish this sentence: The BCS needs to do a better job of…
Hancock: Communicating how it operates, the simplicity of how it operates. And why the presidents, coaches, athletes want to keep it.
Urban Meyer's Resignation From Florida Was
A Talking Point Among ADs During IAF Panel
When news broke yesterday that Urban Meyer was stepping down as head coach of the Florida Gators, TCU AD Chris Del Conte and Boise State AD Gene Bleymaeir could only shake their heads and say they hope that by now their coaches understand they don’t have to run to a “big name” school to win and be icons. But sometimes money does the talking and, in that area at least, their institutions simply aren’t in the same league. This was just one topic touched on at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum hosted by SBD/SBJ during the discussion titled “Athletic Directors on the Costs Associated with Staying Competitive,” which featured Del Conte, Bleymaeir and other ADs: Western Kentucky's Ross Bjork; San Jose State's Tom Bowen; East Carolina's Terry Holland; and UNC-Greensboro's Kim Record. All six panelists seemed to bristle when asked about the current state of college football in terms of being divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots." Bjork replied by saying the NCAA could help everyone by branding appropriately and making sure the public understands that there are 11 BCS conferences, not six. “I don’t think we look at ourselves as a ‘have-not’ which is a profile and I think it’s a disservice,” said Bowen. “I don’t have a lot of facilities like my other brethren … but my kids still have a great student-athlete experience and have an opportunity, just like the other student athletes, to [participate] in the NCAA.”
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION: To close, the panelists were asked what problem they would like NCAA President Mark Emmert to address in the next year.
- Record: “The communication flow needs to be much more efficient and much more quick.”
- Holland: “A continued emphasis on making sure we send a consistent message. That we don’t schedule events at times that interfere with what we’re supposed to be there for which is educating those kids.”
- Del Conte: “Enforcement and compliance. … It’s so convoluted that we never really know [how to proceed].”
- Bowen referred to an earlier topic of changing how non-conference scheduling for football and basketball is done, making sure the smaller schools don’t always have to play on the bigger school’s home turf.
- Bleymaeir: “I would add to the five years of eligibility. I think it would increase graduation rates dramatically.”
- Bjork: “I think you should invest in a big shredder and shred all the rule books and start over. It’s way too complicated and it’s way too confusing for our coaches and our staff to keep up with. I mean, Ohio State has 13 compliance officers. That’s crazy how many people they have to have to keep track of the rules.”
Turner Sports' Daniels (c), NCAA's Shaheen (c)
And CBS' Aresco (r) Talk March Madness Deal
The new $10.8B partnership between Turner Sports and CBS for rights to the NCAA men's basketball tournament was necessary if CBS, as the incumbent and a partner with the NCAA for nearly 30 years, expected to stay in that position. "The old CBS model wasn't going to prevail. We knew things had to change," said CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco, who discussed the new arrangement with NCAA Senior VP/Division I Men’s Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen and Turner Sports Exec VP & COO Lenny Daniels yesterday at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum hosted by SBD/SBJ. "Loyalty and the experience CBS had over that time could not be ignored," Shaheen said. "There were certainly personal and professional relationships there that had to be considered." The presentation of the NCAA tournament will have a different look and feel than in the past, with each game being televised nationally on one of four networks: CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. Each game will have the same graphics, music and similar camera locations to "present a unified look," Daniels said. Shaheen said one of the most scrutinized aspects of the deal was the discussion of games going on truTV, which used to be Court TV. "We spent a lot of time talking about truTV, who was watching the channel and our interest in being separated from some of the programming on truTV," Shaheen said. "There was some concern there."
Magnus Says College Sports Create
An Increasingly Competitive Marketplace
MOVIN' ON UP: The first day of the IAF wrapped up with a broader media panel, "The Changing Face of College Sports Media," featuring Dish Network Exec VP/Sales, Marketing & Programming Tom Cullen; Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti; Fox Sports Net President Randy Freer; ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus; and IMG Media Exec VP Barry Frank. College rights, especially in football, have long been undervalued, which is one of the reasons rights fees have skyrocketed in recent deals. Freer pointed out two other reasons for the growth in fees: a competitive marketplace and a more aggressive approach by the conferences. "We've been telling everyone for a long time that, despite the proclamations we have no competition, it is a very competitive marketplace," ESPN's Magnus said. "But there's also the fact that conferences are more willing to sell us rights that they've never been open to before. There's a much more comprehensive depth of rights available now and that contributes to the value." It's football, not the other sports, that's driving up the fees. "The upward mobility is provided by football," Frank said. "It just keeps getting stronger and stronger. Big brands like Florida can be up or down, Texas can be up or down, but the ratings hold their own." The panel also discussed at length the Big Ten Network and other conferences like the Pac-10 and Big East that are considering their own networks. As a distributor, Dish's Cullen is worried about where all of these channels are going to go. "We're the value provider in our industry and we're not afraid to NOT carry a channel. We don't have YES and that's been a very unpopular thing. We don't have the Mtn. We have to be selective. ... In the early days of this, we had more capacity than content. That's not the case anymore." As the Big East looks into its own network, "finding the right distribution partner has got to be the first step," Rutgers' Pernetti said. "If the Big East does this, it might be five years before we're making money, but there are no guarantees. If I've got to take less revenue next year ... no school can go backwards."
Brandon Looking To Bring Uniformity
To The Univ. Of Michigan Brand
Michigan AD and former Domino's Pizza CEO David Brandon sat for a One-On-One interview this morning during the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum hosted by SBD/SBJ. The following are some of the highlights of the interview.
Q: What have you learned in your first nine months as Athletic Director?
Brandon: Don’t read blogs. Don’t listen to talk radio.
Q: What is more challenging, complying with NCAA rules or SEC rules?
Brandon: NCAA. I spent less time with lawyers doing a billion dollar transaction than I did with the recent NCAA case. The amount of resources and effort we used from something that started as a newspaper article was huge. If you aggregate the cost, it was between 1.5 and 2 million dollars in internal costs. My understanding is there are north of 80 to 90 cases currently in the NCAA queue. We’ve created a cottage industry that is stripping resources out of the athletic departments. It’s a broken system and needs reform.
Q: Yesterday we had speakers suggesting we shred the NCAA rulebook. Do you agree?
Brandon: Maybe. I would just suggest that massive reform is needed. Before they add rules, they should make sure the stuff they already have is being universally enforced and communicated.
Q: What feedback did you get when there was the possibility that Michigan would not play Ohio State in the last game of the season?
Brandon: One e-mail said, “You have ruined my life.” Another one said, “You have ruined my family.” Those are a tremendous testament to the emotional connection people have with that game.
Q: Where can the Michigan brand better develop itself?
Brandon: I came in with the promise of consistency. Each coach used to be afforded the ability to create their own logo, and all of a sudden we had all of these different logos on the board. I said that we need to bring consistency and uniformity in the way we present our brand and message.
Bill Curry Discusses Possible Funding For
College Athletes, Role Of Player Agents
Southern football icon and Georgia State Univ. coach Bill Curry opened the mid-morning session at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum hosted by SBD/SBJ with stories from his 10-year NFL career and coaching stints with Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. SportsBusiness Journal writer Michael Smith asked Curry what he thought about today’s game.
Q: We’ve heard a lot of buzz in college football about amateurism and pay to play in the news recently. What are your thoughts on this?
Curry: When I was working for ESPN I realized I had a responsibility to protect the amateurism of sports in college. I started studying about corruption in the sport and the history. My wife is a History PhD and she took me to Greece, site of the original Olympics. I learned about how there were cash settlements and corruption, how the only thing that counted was the gold medal. It folded because of corruption and illegal payoffs. I said, son of a gun, doesn’t that sound familiar? Are we going to let this happen to our sport? History says yes, if we don’t learn the lessons of the past. I hope we don’t.
Q: There have been a lot of stories on the influence of agents in the world of collegiate sports. What can you tell the conference about what you saw from agents during your career?
Curry: It’s a complicated scenario because some of the finest human beings I know are agents. Some of the least responsible and devious have also been agents. It’s the coach's job to know who is in the locker room. What happens is you have folks show up in the locker room, and all of a sudden there is some good buddy taking your player to dinner or some other places. Are they going to be handing out $50 bills and taking my player to Las Vegas for a cocaine party? These are things that have happened to players of mine. Athletic departments and coaches have a monumental task to know what is going on. But you have to know.
Q: How long do you think you’ll keep coaching?
Curry: Wow… (long pause) I didn’t expect that question. It chokes me up to think about not doing it. I start to think about missing out on my grandchildren growing up. Joe Paterno is my hero and one of my best buddies. I will not be like Joe. I promised that to [wife] Carolyn and Sue Paterno. He is doing the right thing for him. I’m going to do it for as long as it makes sense to Carolyn Curry and those children that I coach.