One playoff plan may end up in the hands of the Justice Department. Another new one is a heartbeat away.
The difference between the college football and basketball postseasons are being played out at the same time. Football, of course, doesn’t have a playoff. Basketball has the perfect playoff.
The BCS is protected by a cadre of lawyers who believe that the maddening system is not in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. That protection is being challenged by Sen. Orrin Hatch who has asked the Justice Department to look into the legality of the system.
Meanwhile, March Madness is perceived as the best, fairest way to decide a national champion.
In both cases, the keepers of both postseasons are willling to do anything financially to prop up their systems. The BCS had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and PR flacks to promote their system. The NCAA is considering expanding the 65-team basketball tournament to 96.
The irony is dripping from the headlines. Never mind that BCS executive director Bill Hancock is hawking football’s flawed postseason after spending 13 years running the NCAA Tournament. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Texas AD DeLoss Dodds questioned the wisdom of expanding the bracket Tuesday in USA Today.
One is the head of a BCS conference getting BCS money. The other is the AD of the richest athletic department in the country -- also getting BCS money.
Expansion is bad? Getting a mixed message here, guys. Delany’s own conference apparently is aggressively pursuing expansion, perhaps by as many as three schools. Texas leads the world in post-secondary athletic facilities and is paying its coach $5 million a year.
Scratch that mixed message. We’re getting a headache. The keepers of the flame are also the bloaters of the flame. Both men say the process for “bracket creep” should be more transparent.
Texas didn’t canvas public opinion when it paid Mack Brown that $5 million. The Rose Bowl, Pac-10 and Big Ten don’t let us in on their contract negotiations. The Big Ten isn’t going to hold a press conference when officials are on campus examining expansion candidates.
At issue is whether the NCAA will opt out early this year from the 11-year, $6 billion tournament contract with CBS.
Dodds and Delany are both rightly worried about revenue split after adding 31 teams. In other words, does expansion make financial sense? There is no expansion without the money to back it up. These two guys know money. Ask Big Ten schools which make $16 million per year off conference contracts. Ask Texas which, in the uneven Big 12 revenue split, makes at least $4 million per season than Baylor.
As for the expansion itself, it seems to me that the NCAA is about to ruin a good thing, a perfect thing by opting out and expanding the tournament. (Full disclosure: I work for CBS which stands to lose the contract but what the heck. This is my blog.) Ninety-six seems like too many teams. That’s the equivalent of a 34-team playoff in football.
That would go a long way toward making both postseasons even. They would both stink.