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BCS Revenue Distribution is Fixed

In a typical college football post-season, Notre Dame and the six automatic qualifying
(“AQ”) conferences—the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-10—split between 91
percent and 86 percent of BCS revenues. The five “non-AQ” conferences receive between 7 and
12 percent. The small remainder goes to the Service Academies and to Football Championship
Subdivision teams.1

BCS Revenue Distribution

"AQ" Conferences (6)

Non-AQ" Conferences
(5)
Other

We’ll repeat that: up to 91 percent of BCS revenue goes to just over half of the nation’s
major college football teams. To appreciate how lopsided that figure is, consider that the NCAA
Basketball Tournament yields only an average 61-percent share for AQ schools.2

After the 2009-2010 post-season, the BCS touted a “record-breaking distribution to non-
AQ conferences,” as two non-AQ schools (Boise State and TCU) received BCS bowl berths in
the same post-season for the first time. But even in such a “record-breaking” year, the inequity
was apparent.

Each conference in the chart below placed one team in a BCS bowl game. Each
accomplished an identical feat on the field. But as you can see, non-AQ conferences fared
significantly worse than their AQ counterparts. The Western Athletic Conference, a group of
non-AQ schools including Boise State, received $7.8 million. Teams in the non-AQ Mountain
West Conference split $9.8 million because of TCU’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. That is a
paltry payday compared to identically situated AQ conferences, which each received $17.7
million.
The cumulative effect of this skewed revenue distribution system is staggering. Over the past 6
seasons—a time when non-AQ teams appeared in 5 BCS bowls—the BCS gave 6 AQ
conferences $521 million more than the other conferences.3

The BCS unsurprisingly claims ignorance of its discriminatory scheme, as stated by BCS
Presidential Oversight Chair Harvey Perlman: “It’s hard for me to see how these conferences can
claim to be disadvantaged.”4 Well, Chancellor Perlman, let us enlighten you. Non-AQs aren’t
complaining because of the $521 million funding gap’s size, though the disparity’s amount is
meaningful. Rather, the $521 million funding gap is offensive because it has no basis.

Under the BCS, there’s little correlation between on-the-field performance and financial
reward. For example, in 2006, the BCS awarded the one-win Syracuse Orangemen double the
amount it gave the entire WAC, a 9-team non-AQ conference.5 In 2009, the winless Washington
Huskies brought home more BCS dollars than the undefeated Utah Utes, a non-AQ team.6 And
non-AQs are 3 and 1 in BCS bowls against AQ teams; however, each victorious team received
only a pittance compared to its defeated opponent.7

If the BCS money scheme isn’t based on game performance, then why do AQs get $521
million more? Chancellor Perlman argues that “revenue is distributed based on the contribution
made to the value of the product.”8

Okay, that sounds reasonable. Except it’s not true.

Just look at game attendance. Twice in the past three post-seasons, non-AQ contests
boasted the second-highest attendance of any BCS bowl exhibition game, trailing only the
outsized stadium capacity of the Rose Bowl. In fact, 2010’s Boise State-TCU matchup outdrew
previous Fiesta Bowls featuring Texas, Ohio State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. It was the
highest attendance for a Fiesta Bowl since the last time Boise State traveled to Arizona in 2007.
And the Fiesta is no fluke. Non-AQs put people in seats for the Sugar Bowl too. Previous Sugar
Bowls featuring non-AQs Utah and Hawaii significantly outsold last season’s Florida-Cincinnati
contest.9

If it is not on-the-field performance or game attendance, why do AQs get $521 million
more? Well, despite the fact-starved musings of elitists like Perlman, the answer does not lie in
TV numbers, either. For two years in a row, TV ratings for non-AQ games have trounced
Orange Bowls played by AQ teams. In 2010, the Boise State-TCU Fiesta Bowl received an 8.23
share compared to the Iowa-Georgia Orange Bowl’s 6.80 rating. The 2009 Sugar Bowl between
Utah and Alabama received a 7.80 share, compared with a 5.40 rating for the Virginia Tech-
Cincinnati Orange Bowl, the lowest TV rating ever for a BCS bowl game.10

So, since Chancellor Perlman has committed to revenue distribution “based on the
contribution made to the value of the product,” will the BCS adjust each conference’s share
based on this market data?

Of course not. The cold hard truth is that AQs do not receive their lion’s share because
they outperform others on the field or in the marketplace. Rather, they get it because they
fielded powerhouses in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. They’re entitled simply because they’re part
of the club. College football has become a game where only the foreordained few may compete
for its prizes.

And in the end, that’s what is really wrong with the BCS. It’s fixed.

1
BCS Media Guide at 13 (2009-2010), available at http://a.espncdn.com/i/ncf/bcs/7212064_37_2.pdf.
2
U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing, The Bowl Championship Series: Money and Other
Issues of Fairness for Publicly Financed Universities (May 1, 2009), http://tiny.cc/lSJ97.
3
Sally Jenkins, BCS One Step Ahead of Law--Until Now, Washington Post (Dec. 12, 2009), http://bit.ly/5iehzl; BCS
Press Release, Jan. 25, 2010.
4
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, The Bowl Championship Series: Is It Fair and In Compliance with
Antitrust Law? (July 7, 2009), http://tiny.cc/G5nHf.
5
NCAA, Bowl Championship Series Five-Year Summary of Revenue Distribution 2003-2008 (2008),
http://bit.ly/cfLBDg.
6
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, The Bowl Championship Series: Is It Fair and In Compliance with
Antitrust Law? (July 7, 2009), http://tiny.cc/G5nHf.
7
NCAA, Bowl Championship Series Five-Year Summary of Revenue Distribution 2003-2008 (2008),
http://bit.ly/cfLBDg.
8
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, The Bowl Championship Series: Is It Fair and In Compliance with
Antitrust Law? (July 7, 2009), http://tiny.cc/G5nHf.
9
Bowl Championship Series, Historical TV Ratings and Attendance Statistics (2010).
10
Bowl Championship Series, Historical TV Ratings and Attendance Statistics (2010).