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Volume 24 No. 117


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).

The NCAA Convention is being held in Indianapolis this week and after “enough individual schools objected to the measures,” two topics will be reconsidered, “multiyear scholarships and raising the scholarship cap by $2,000,” according to a front-page piece by Alesia, Kravitz, Lefko, Neddenriep & Pointer of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. NCAA President Mark Emmert spoke about “some of the biggest challenges he and his organization are facing.” On the public perception of the NCAA in the wake of the scandals of the past year, Emmert said, “Over the past 12 months, every time we've made a great stride, one of these grenades goes off. Then we make another stride and, boom, another grenade goes off. It has colored the public's perception of who we are a lot." With reports that changes to the current BCS system will be considered in the coming months, Emmert said of creating a major college football playoff, “I think (school presidents are) more open-minded about (a playoff) today than they were five years ago, at least the ones that I spend time talking to. But I think it's extremely unlikely that you would see anytime soon a 16-team playoff.” On conference realignment, Emmert said, “People like knowing that the Big 10 is a Midwestern deal, and the SEC is the Deep South and the Pac-12 is the West Coast. And I think it works that way, and when that gets blurred, I think it starts to fall apart. The conference doesn't have much meaning" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/9).

LAWYER UP: In N.Y., Joe Nocera wrote contrary to an assertion he made in an earlier column, the NCAA "does allow college athletes to engage a lawyer if they are accused of violating its rules." Universities "investigating improprieties by athletes do usually inform them that they can hire a lawyer." Nocera highlighted the case of Univ. of North Carolina FB Devon Ramsay, who last week was granted a sixth year of eligibility after he missed the majority of the '10 season due to an NCAA investigation into wrongdoing that was later deemed insufficient. Sharon Lee, Ramsay's mother, said, "I wish all the players had gotten a lawyer immediately. Everyone needed someone to look out for their interests" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).

In a Q&A with YAHOO SPORTS’ Pat Forde, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “I think historians looking back on this era will call it one of the golden eras of the SEC -- if not the golden era.” He continued, “There’s competitive success, but we’ve also made improvements in other areas. Number One, diversity. Three of our 14 head football coaches in the league are minorities, and there used to be none.” He added, “Number Two, we’ve made significant progress in the area of compliance. … And, of course, we’ve enhanced the financial security of our people over time.” When asked what is on his “to-do list for the next couple of years,” Slive said, “First, we need to integrate Texas A&M and Missouri into the league in all facets. That’s not easy. That takes time. The other is to review our current TV relationships in light of the addition of A&M and Missouri.” Forde asked Slive about the national reaction to some of the NCAA reforms that were initiated by the SEC and if there is “any disappointment that some of them have met resistance.” Slive: “I think [the NCAA] rushed it too much. These are major reforms that are complicated. As with all things athletic, the implementation is more complicated than it might appear, especially for the ADs and compliance people who have to make it work every day.” Slive said it would have been better "for the NCAA were simply to have said, ‘We’re going to do this, and we’re going to do it on such-and-such a date. Be ready to implement on such-and-such a date’” (, 1/8).