Money Driving College Football and That's A Good Thing

By Chris Hengst

Following college football is going to require an accounting degree before next season opens. You can take the route of “Kevin” from The Office and simply concede that money runs the sport with a smile, never caring how much games, teams and athletic departments cost.

But where’s the fun in that?

Reveling in millions of dollars that you and the players will never see enhances the appreciation of amateur athletics.

This week, eleven FBS conference commissioners join Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick in Dallas to hammer out and negotiate more details on the looming playoff system.

If you haven’t accepted the BCS swan song in 2013, do so now. In 2014, college football’s postseason won’t produce two teams, one perhaps undeserving, in a title game while others tout their accomplishments.

A four-team playoff, in some format, is the base line.

And why the sudden change in opinion from traditionalists like Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany?

Dennis Dodd from CBS Sports explains: talked to several industry sources about pricing a plus-one. Depending on how it is administrated, a four-team playoff could be worth $250 million to $500 million per season. On the high end, that would almost triple the $180 million distributed by the BCS in 2011.

Currently, many schools end up in the red after bowl trips because the expenses trump the payouts shared with fellow conference members. Watch playoff game revenues double and athletic departments are a bit less likely to wonder why all seventeen clarinet players have to travel with the band.

Realignment hasn’t been kind to the bottom line either. Teams move conferences, schedules change and when the music stops, the only guarantee is that Landry Jones refuses to run out of eligibility.

ESPN Sports Business Reporter Kristi Dosh weighs in on Florida State’s plight:

Before it left the Big East, West Virginia canceled its game against non-conference opponent Florida State and paid a $500,000 cancellation fee. But Elliott Finebloom, an assistant athletic director at FSU, said the loss of the home game will cost the Seminoles far more than the program received in the cancellation fee. “We’ll probably lose $2.5 million in ticket sales,” he said, and that’s not including a drop in season ticket sales resulting from the cancellation. It could cost FSU another $1 million to bring an opponent into town. Filling the WVU slot with an away game is not going to happen, said Finebloom.

What’s another $2.5 million between friends?

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, well-versed himself in tossing around large sums of money to leave conferences, doesn’t see an issue. But as often as numbers this high are recited in regards to college football, especially in terms of financial losses, the sport has never been more popular.

Television networks require live sports to combat the perils of the DVR family. They’re willing to shell out half a billion dollars annually to acquire a property that’s become a 24-7-365 talking point.

Money is such a polarizing issue that plenty figured it could ruin the sanctity of college football.

The opposite is occurring.

A playoff achieves the sort of fairness coaches, players and fans clamored for while keeping the focus on the field.

And if a few titanic athletic departments open their own mints?

Then it’s worth pursuing that accounting degree.

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