SBD/Issue 62/Collegiate Sports

IMG Intercollegiate Forum: BCS Boss Hancock Talks Playoff, ESPN

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.

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