Pack your lunch 'cause Prove It is blogging again...
How are the Mid-Majors really faring in the FBS Bowl Syetem, and where they can improve.
Number of Bowl Appearances
The other 5 sent 24 teams to the bowls (48%), compared to 42 teams from the majors (65%).
This could have been worse. The other 5 only have 17 bowl tie-ins (34%) but benefited by the majors falling short on bowl eligible teams.
This will likely to drop in the future. Don't expect the majors to have only half their teams above .500 to be the norm.
The majors are scheduling more games against FCS teams.
Majors that typically finish in the bottom 1/3 of their conference have incentive to schedule cream puffs to boost their bowl chances.
The PAC 10 coaches are questioning continuing the 9 conference game schedule (2 PAC 10 teams fell 1 win shy of being bowl eligible).
There is reason to believe the majors moving to 9 conference games will drop their games against the other major conferences and schedule cream puffs.
The other 5 had unusually high success against the majors in 2008. 5 majors can trace their sub-500 record partially to losses to the other 5. There is more to point towards this being an anomaly than a shift in the football powers. If the trend does continue, there is reason to believe teams would respond by scheduling lighter in the future.
The discrepancy begins to take form when you look at the stature of the bowls the teams lay in.
If bowl stature is based purely on payouts to the participating teams, the other 5 placed only 2 teams in the upper half of the bowls. (6%), 1 in the BCS and 1 in the 15th ranked Liberty Bowl (their only tie-in to the top 1/2 of the bowls). 15 appeared in the lowest 10 bowls (75%), earning from $375K to $750K for their appearance.
The discrepancy becomes apparent when you compare bowl revenue.
The average bowl pays each team an appearance fee of just under $2 Million per team. The average major receives just over $2.6M, the other 5 average $975K (38%)
Without the BCS, the difference is about the same. The average bowl pays just over $1.5M, the average major receives nearly $2.1M, the other 5 average just over $800K (38%).
It could be worse. The 17 conference tie-ins of the other 5 average $769K per team.
To put it into perspective, the average team from the other 5 can earn more playing a road game against the majors than making a bowl appearance. If you factor in bowl related expenses, the road game against the majors is far more profitable.
Don't Blame the Bowls
They are looking at TV ratings, game attendance, fans making the bowl game the center piece of a week long vacation, and teams that appeal to sponsors. To pay the appearance fee, they need the revenue.
Whether the cause is the size of the colleges (and number of alumni), competition for a fanbase with majors located in the same state, or another factor, the bowls do not have a responsibility to prop up the other 5.
They do have a responsibility to their status and their host city to generate as much revenue as possible.
Don't Blame the Majors
Every major program could use additional revenue in their Athletic Department.
The appearance fees they pay for a single road game can account for over 5% of the AD budget of a program from the financial bottom of the other 5.
The majors do not have a responsibility for the financial viability of the programs of the other 5.
Don't Blame the BCS
The BCS has all the responsibilities of the other bowls, plus the conferences which enjoy an automatic invite.
An invite to the other 5 costs the majors over $4M net loss in appearance fees. It costs the BCS another $4.5M payout to their conference. I do not know what the loss in tourism or TV ratings might be (I couldn't locate Boise, but Hawaii and Utah were last and next to last in BCS ratings the years they played).
This is in addition to the $9M they pay the other 5 for... I guess the same reason they give ND $1M a year (don't ask me).
After setting the criteria, the BCS doesn't determine which (if any) of the other 5 earn the invite or who plays in the title game, or which conferences earn an automatic invite. The same fair criteria which can earn the champ from the other 5 an automatic berth can cause the majors to lose theirs.
So Who is to Blame?
Perhaps it is about time the other 5 quit holding out for a government bailout, filing frivolous lawsuits and investigations which will never show up on a court docket, posturing behind ridiculous proposals to the BCS, and quit begging the master at the table to drop them a few more table scraps.
The title of this blog is wrong. The little 5 are not orphans looking for a 2nd helping from their care takers. They are their own multi-million dollar entities. If they want to improve their revenue stream, perhaps they should follow the example of the majors rather than beg for scraps at the foot of the table.
The 4 member bowls were individually big before they joined and formed the BCS. They became big because they were developed and promoted by the majors. The other 5 can follow suit to improve their lot as well.
The Mid Majors Bowl Series
The other 5 only have 2 bowl tie-in worth more than $1M. They can earn more from filling a slot vacated because a major couldn't provide an 8th or 9th team than they earn contracting their conference's 1st selection.
To put it another way, the bowls would currently prefer the 8th place team from a major than contract for 1st choice among the other 5.
IF you are from the SUN Belt and didn't win your conference, you are the equivalent to Miss America Runner-Up... "Should a major be unable to fulfill their duties providing a 9th bowl eligible team..."
Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
At present they contract selection on a conference by conference basis - a real shot in the dark with the other 5.
Combining into a single entity, they can contract their top 2 bowl selections from each conference (after the BCS hopefully takes 1) to the 5 most interested bowls. Rather than contracting for the 1st or 2nd, selection from a single conference, the bowls would contract for the 1st, 2nd, etc. selection from any of the top 2 teams of the other 5.
After the formation they can promote and develop the series. If a more lucrative bowls expresses interest, they can be added and the lowest bowl dropped. It will never be close to the BCS, but it will be better than their current bowls.
If they only generate $1M per team appearance fee ($10M total) it will be better than the current top 10 conference tie-ins.
The list of potential 5 bowls is long. Just looking at the series from their highest bowl tie-in thru the bowls currently paying $850K appearance fees:
Liberty Bowl...............$1.7M *!
Music City Bowl...............$1.6M
Texas Bowl...............$1.125M **!
Independence Bowl...............$1.1M **
Las Vegas Bowl...............$1M *!
St. Pete Bowl...............$1M **!
They only have 4 tie-ins to these bowls (denoted by !) but in 2008 they filled 8 of these slots (denoted by *)
This doesn't include 5 more bowls that pay $750K, or attracting bowls paying more than the $1.7M Liberty payout.
For reference, if they contracted for the top 4 bowls above and the Emerald Bowl, the revenue would be worth more than all of their current 17 conference tie-ins.
Feasibility and Logistics
At present CUSA generates $2.45M from their top 2 selections. If the Liberty Bowl was not interested, to attract CUSA it might be necessary to only have their 2nd team in the selection pool, adding a 3rd team from the other 4 mid-majors on a rotating basis.
With a large difference between the highest and lowest appearance fees, revenue sharing would be necessary. If the above allowance for CUSA was necessary, the next highest conference would be the MWC at $1.75M for their top 2 selections, requiring a flat payout of approx. $875K with the excess revenue shared.
Interest on the part of the bowls would be primarily based on projected TV audience. I could not locate sufficient historical ratings to make an accurate determination.
After implementation, it would be up to the Mid-Majors to promote the series to their fans and alumni.
Wouldn't this be far more productive for the Mid-Majors than holding out for government intervention, filing frivolous lawsuits and investigations which will never show up on a court docket, posturing behind ridiculous proposals to the BCS, and begging the master at the table to drop them a few more table scraps?
I estimated the per-team payout for the BCS at $4.5M per team - I believe the actual amount is more. I did not include the shared revenue from the BCS to the conferences since it would be unaffected.