February 10, 2010. What do men with money want? More money. And there is plenty of it in college football, though the greedy fat cats that run the various conferences are busy trying to figure out how to ring a few more dollars out of the fans. It’s called the conference championship game (CCG hereafter), and it may be coming to a conference near you soon.
Just yesterday, the Pac 10 announced that they were exploring the possibility of expanding their conference from 10 teams to 12 teams. This on the heels of the Big 10 announcing a few weeks ago that they were considering either adding another member to their conference (the Big 10 presently has 11 teams despite its inaptly used moniker Big 10) or possibly adding three teams forming a super conference of 14 teams. Just a week ago, reports that the Big Ten reached an agreement to add the University of Pittsburgh, presently in the Big East Conference, have been denied by both the conference and school. Still, it remains clear that both conferences are serious about expansion, and with it will come the mythical CCG.
Since his hire, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott has said that his league is undervalued.
There is only one reason these conferences are considering such a move. Money. If you want to understand where the big business of sports is heading as we enter a new decade, keep your eyes on the flow of the green stuff; in toe will be the greedy old men in suits willing to sell tradition down the river in order to make a few extra bucks. The Walmartization of college football threatens to alter the landscape of college football, creating super-conferences to capitalize on new streams of revenue. And the loser is you, the fan.
The Big 10 and the Pac 10 have taken notice of the fact that South Eastern Conference (SEC heareafter) is hogging the TV ratings one week each year while lining their pockets with almost $15 million dollars by playing a CCG. And if the Big Ten, for example, can add a team from a big market, this money might just be the tip of the iceberg. With revenues in the wildly successful Big Ten Network grossing approximately $240 million dollars annually, opening up another television market would be a financial windfall too tempting to pass up. Some published reports have discussed the possibility of the Big Ten adding such notable programs as the University of Nebraska and the University of Texas from the Big 12, though the addition of such high profile programs seems unlikely. What isn’t unlikely is that expansion is imminent, and it has absolutely nothing to do with improving the product on the field. Sacrificed as part of the expansion will be the legitimacy of some of the teams crowned as champions, a trivial detail that matters little to conference commissioners.
I’ve have had way too many arguments with fans of the SEC who seem downright confused as to why us yankees just don’t want to do things their way. Are we afraid? Are we so tied to our antiquated tradition that we can’t see a good thing smacking us right in the face? Can’t you guys see that the Big 10 is falling behind? Silly northerners.
As my reader knows, I have articulated several times that I do not give a damn about the amount of money made by sports organizations. None of this money makes it into my pockets. I am not naïve to the fact that those green pieces of paper make the world go round, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I started the Blog of Champions to discuss all the happenings in the world of sports—all those issues that affect the competitive balance that leads to the winning of championships in sports.
Which is why I am really upset with this CCG gimmick, one more cash grab for greedy conference commissioners at the expense of the game I love.
The way things are decided now, a conference championship in the Big 10 and the Pac 10 is based on the outcome of eight conference games in the former and nine in the latter. It is the opinion of this author that the Pac 10 presently has the best system for determining their conference champion. The Pac 10 has a total of ten teams, and each season each team plays every other member of the conference once, awarding the championship to the team with the best overall record in those contests. Most seasons, the championship will be determined by the best overall record. In the event two teams are tied, the team winning the head to head contest is awarded the conference championship (things do get a bit messier if three teams or more have the same record, but other tie breakers are in place to resolve the issue should this happen, and this occurrence is fairly rare. You will also see below that the CCG model does nothing to resolve this problem anyway). The result is that the championship is based on the results of all nine of the conference games.
In the ACC, SEC, and Big 12, they determine their conference champion a bit differently. Each of these conferences has twelve total members, split equally into two divisions of six. After playing their conference schedule (typically eight games), the winners of each sub-conference square off in an extra game called the CCG That means a team need only be the best of six teams to get an invite to the CCG.. This format works fine when the two best teams in the overall conference of twelve happen to be situated in different sub-conferences, as has been the case in the SEC the last two years with rivals Florida and Alabama. If, however, the two best teams are in the same sub-conference, the result is an artificial conference championship game that can effectively nullify the full body of work in a winner take all one game format.
Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big 10. Old, unsexy, and ordering you around since 1896. Now hand over your wallet.
Consider the results of the Big 12 conference in recent seasons. In 2009, North division winner Nebraska faced South division winner Texas for the conference championship. Texas was 8-0 while Nebraska was 6-2. Texas won the game when an incomplete pass with one second left on the clock allowed them to kick a winning field goal. In other words, the Big 12 was one second or one missed field goal away from crowning a two loss team its conference champion (over what would have been a one loss Texas team). Things were even more bizarre for the Big 12 in 2008, when three teams tied for the top record in the South conference at 7-1, with Texas Tech beating Texas, Oklahoma beating Texas Tech, and Texas beating Oklahoma. That is, the three teams tied at the top had each beaten and lost to one of the other teams. Based on a tie-breaker, Oklahoma was declared the winner, culminating in a scintillating 62-21 win over a three loss Missouri team in the CCG. Want more? In 2007, the winner of the South, Oklahoma, at 6-2, was pitted against 7-1 Missouri in the conference championship game, while 7-1 Kansas in the South was left out of the mix altogether, meaning that a team with a worse record was invited to the championship game because they happened to be in a weaker subdivision. The same thing happened in the Big 12 in 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005. And lest you think that the underdog winning is but a hypothetical, Kansas State at 6-2 knocked off 8-0 Oklahoma in 2003 to win the Big 12 Conference Championship. The BcS voters were so impressed, they sent Kansas State to to the Fiesta Bowl and put Oklahoma in the National Championships game anyway (in other words, the BcS voters treated the result of the CCG as a fluke and disregarded the game altogether). And these flawed conference championship games have lead to some lopsided contests. In the last ten years alone, these CCGs have resulted in the following one-sided contests: Oklahoma 62, Missouri 21; Texas 70, Colorado 3; Oklahoma 38, Missouri 17; Oklahoma 42, Colorado 3; Kansas State 35, Oklahoma 7; Oklahoma 29, Colorado 7; Nebraska 22, Texas 6; and Nebraska 54, Texas A&M 15. In other words, some fans were forced to digest some pretty bad football under the guise of a championship contest.
And this is the model that the Big 10 and the Pac 10 are dying to implement? Exactly what is in it for the consumer?
With deference to my friends in the SEC who have been happy with their CCGs of late, the rest of us are not interested in your not so thinly veiled money grab. We’re not interested in crowning a two or three loss team as the champion because that team had the fortune of being in a weaker sub-conference and managed to play four good quarters of football. We’re not interested in playing a CCG that doesn’t even feature the teams with the best records in the overall conference, records that were amassed by playing only some of the teams anyway (with 12 total teams and only 8 or 9 conference games, each year there are two or three teams you will not face). And we aren’t interested in the sort of meltdown that was the Big 12 in 2008 or the blowout wins that have characterized these games all too often.
What do fans of college football want? More good football. And that’s why when it comes to expansion and the CCG format, we’re saying thanks, but no thanks.
Categories: College Football