SBD/December 6, 2012/Colleges

IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum: Top College Officials Tackle Today's Issues

The panel discussed the four-team playoff and conference realignment
The first day of ‘12 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum concluded with a diverse group of execs that shape the intercollegiate sports landscape touching on a variety of topics. Taking part in the panel were BCS Exec Dir Bill Hancock, NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis, ESPN Senior VP/College Sports Programming Burke Magnus, IMG College President Ben Sutton and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick. Swarbrick said he was “surprised by the timing, but not the result” of the exit of Maryland from the ACC. When asked if it made him rethink the decision for Notre Dame to join the conference, he said it did not. Sutton believes we have not seen the end of realignment. Magnus added that from ESPN’s perspective, “Instability is bad for business. ... Every move that has been made costs ESPN money.” In the wake of the defections of Rutgers to the Big Ten and Louisville to the ACC, Magnus said of the future of the Big East and its negotiations with ESPN, “It’s a different time than it was almost two years ago at this point. ... We’re having discussions and we don’t intend to cut off those conversations for any reason despite the recent activity. We still think there’s content that we could see value in. Not to mention the fact that our company and the Big East are nearly exactly the same age to the day -- we have a 30-plus year history together so before that ceases to exist from a relationship perspective, we’re going to take a good shot at keeping that going.”

FOUR THE RECORD: Sutton addressed the college football playoff format to begin in ’14. He said, “Four is the right number. ... It’s hard for me to imagine it going past four because the regular season in college football is the greatest 14 weeks in sports in the United States of America. Period.” Hancock, discussing the progress being made to iron out the details of the new format, said, “We do have a framework (on a revenue-sharing model). The next big step is the selection committee, who’s on it, how many (people), and what are their procedures. ... The first venue will probably follow that and it will be selected pretty quickly.” Hancock was asked whether college football can reclaim New Year’s Day. He said, “You bet we can. I don’t really know what’s to reclaim? New Year’s Day is college football and I hear that all the time.”

Swarbrick predicts changes in business models
LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL: The panelists offered predictions on what they believe will be the big change in college sports five years from now. Sutton said, “Massive growth. ... You’ll see greater viewership, more content and quite frankly, college sports is on a foundation now where if the bandwidth is great enough and enough rights are aggregated in the right places to go out and compete with the National Football League, and that’s really the only competition college sports ought to have ... not in a gradual trajectory -- a meteoric trajectory.” Magnus: “I’ll say there’ll be a Final Four in an arena. ... I can think you can see something spectacular happen from a governance perspective. The notion of student-athlete compensation.” Hancock: “We will change the nature of New Year’s Eve in this country with our playoffs. It will become a national holiday.” Lewis: The fact that none of us have attention spans anymore means the games have to change. ... Popularity is a fleeting thing. College sports will stay popular but we got to reflect that we just don’t watch things in person or on TV the same way anymore.” Swarbrick said, "The big one is as the difference in business models, on a university-by-university basis, increases, whether membership in a single association continues to make sense. Time will tell, I’m not predicting that will happen, but the differential’s going to grow and that’s going to create stress on the system and it’ll be interesting to see what happens. The more narrow one are issues related with to student-athlete well-being and safety, especially in football are going to have significant changes to the game."

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