SBD/January 9, 2012/Colleges

BCS Committee Says Changes To Postseason Format To Be Completed By Fall

Current partner ESPN has exclusive negotiating window in October
The BCS intends to have its postseason format determined in the coming months so that it can begin negotiations for the next TV contract by September or October. Several changes will be explored, including the plus-one model, or the BCS could keep the format the way it is. Current partner ESPN has an exclusive negotiating window in October, but that timetable could be accelerated if the BCS is able to settle those format questions earlier. ESPN pays an average of $125M a year for the rights and the net is halfway through the current four-year agreement. The 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, who make up the BCS decision-makers, met over the weekend in New Orleans and will continue to meet through the spring to decide if they want to move to a plus-one, which would give four teams a chance to win the national championship instead of two. Other issues that will be discussed: Removing automatic qualifiers; conference tie-ins; the double-hosting model; and the cap on the number of teams from each conference (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal). USA TODAY's Steve Wieberg notes “some kind of adjustment is coming” to the BCS, as key administrators, including SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, “promise it.” There have been “too many cracks in the current system, and too many controversies, to stand pat.” The question is the “degree of change” (USA TODAY, 1/9). The AP’s Ralph Russo reports what is “not on the table is exactly what many football fans are clamoring for, a full-scale playoff that would require numerous teams to play additional games.” BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock said, “There will be 12 people in the room making decisions and each one comes from a different perspective, but the unifying thing is to make this thing the best it can be.” He added, “I don’t think there is any leader in the clubhouse on these possible changes. I think there could be 50 things on the table, with no leader in the clubhouse” (AP, 1/9).

SEARCH FOR MEDIA CONSULTANTS: Hancock, who is leading the search for a media consultant, will recommend one or multiple consultants to the BCS decision-makers in the coming few months. He watched how the NCAA used two consultants, Chuck Gerber and Kevin O’Malley, to negotiate its deal with Turner and CBS. “That seemed to work pretty well for them,” Hancock said. He also expects the BCS to create a small TV committee of perhaps three to five commissioners to steer the discussions on the next deal. The last time the BCS went to the negotiating table for a TV contract in '08, ACC Commissioner John Swofford was taking his turn as the body’s coordinator and he led the talks along with IMG consultant Barry Frank. Now the BCS operates differently, with Hancock serving as the Exec Dir rather than commissioners rotating the responsibility as the leader. ESPN Senior VP/College Programming Burke Magnus said he expects the next round of negotiations to be more competitive than last time when ESPN outlasted Fox. However, he said he did not expect any networks to partner with each other, as CBS and Turner did on the NCAA tournament, and Fox and ESPN did on the Pac-12. Magnus said it is also going to be important to lengthen the next deal beyond four years. “That would give us a longer horizon to recoup our investment,” Magnus said. “We view a longer term as critical. With four years, you’re never really that far away from change.” Magnus said ESPN has supported the idea of keeping the BCS games closer to New Year’s Day, which would minimize the number of mid-week games after New Year’s (Smith).

DROP IN NUMBERS: The AP’s Tim Dahlberg noted fans seem to be "tired of a bloated bowl season, fed up with mismatches.” Bowl attendance was “down this season, and that's not the biggest story.” The Rose Bowl had its “lowest television ratings in history, Orange Bowl ratings dropped 37 percent from last year, and Sugar Bowl viewership was almost nonexistent.” Even the Fiesta Bowl -- won by Oklahoma State over Stanford “in an overtime thriller -- was the third-least viewed of the past decade" (AP, 1/8).
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