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Must Be The Money: Part One
Div. IA without the BCS? Costly.

The decision this summer to add Miami and Virginia Tech to the Atlantic Coast Conference was a signal to many that the battle for money in big-time college athletics was about to move to another level. According to this theory, the six largest NCAA Div. I conferences and their members are preparing to separate themselves from their lesser (Div. I-AA, II and III) brethren, and perhaps even from the NCAA, in an attempt to feed the money monster they have created.

This summer Florida A&M decided to move up to Div. I football (from I-AA), entering the fray in an attempt to take advantage of the current economic climate. That move means leaving the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference and seeking membership in a conference that plays at the Div. I level in all sports.

The Black College Sports Page series "Must Be The Money" will examine FAMU's move and analyze the effects of the coming shift on black college athletics in general.

In Part One, Elliot Robinson takes an in-depth look at what it means financially to play Div. I football.

ELLIOT ROBINSON
Special to the BCSP

On July 21st, Florida A&M (FAMU) made a historic move. They became a provisional member of I-A college football, the first historically black college to do so. FAMU, a former member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), was a participant in Division I athletics in its other varsity sports, but played football as a I-AA member.

A statement released by FAMU Head Football Coach Billy Joe said, "This will immediately level the playing field for us in competition with other Division I-A programs, especially in the area of recruiting. We are aware that we must get our infrastructure in order, such as staffing, scholarships, coaches, funding and facilities, before we can consider ourselves a full-fledged Division I-A program."

Coach Joe left one important factor out of the I-A football equation, i.e., being a member of a BCS conference.

The Wealthy Empire

BCS is an acronym for Bowl Championship Series. It could just as easily mean "Bowl Cash Syndicate." This entity was the brainchild of former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer.

The BCS is a package of the top four bowl games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose. By bringing the four bowls under one umbrella, the BCS was able to negotiate more lucrative sponsorship and broadcast rights deals.

For the 2001-02 season, BCS revenue from television rights, title sponsorship and bowl-related activities was $98,441,000. Last season that number rose almost $20 million to $114,724,000. A portion of BCS revenue is distributed to each conference. This figure does not include the payout received by each program participating in a BCS Bowl game.

The amount distributed to the conferences for the 2002-2003 season varied in amount from as much as $21.4 million to the Pac-10 and $16.5 million to the SEC, to as little as $180,000 for the MEAC and SWAC.


The more publicly promoted benefit of the BCS was its attempt to ensure that the top two teams in the country met in a national championship game. Each year, one of the four BCS games is designated as the "National Championship" game. The participants of this game are selected via a somewhat controversial computer ranking system.

The remaining three BCS bowls can then choose their participants from a pool comprised of conference champions from the ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big-12, Pac-10 and SEC as well as two at-large bids. The at-large bids were offered as a way to keep Notre Dame, a football independent, in the equation.

The average payout per team for a BCS bowl game during the 2001-2002 season was $12.3 million. Last season, that number increased to $14.3 million per team. Conversely, the highest per team payout for a non-BCS bowl game in 2002-2203 was $5 million by the Capital One Bowl (SEC vs. Big-10).


Bowl Dollar Domination

Beyond the four BCS games, there are 24 other bowl contests featuring 48 teams. Well, the BCS conferences (ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) will account for 33 of those teams. By adding the recently sanctioned Fort Worth Bowl to their portfolio, the Big 12 leads all conferences with nine bowl game affiliations.

The bowl revenue received by Big 12 members for 2002-2003 was $26.7 million. The leading revenue generator amongst the BCS conferences for the season was the Big 10. Its seven bowl appearances garnered a total of $31.9 million for its bowl participants. The seven SEC members who received bowl bids brought in $30.9 million in bowl revenue.

The Bowl Scraps

During the 2002-2003 bowl season, Conference USA's members had the most bowl appearances of teams not in a BCS conference with five (six for 2003-2004 with the addition of the Fort Worth Bowl). Their bowl participants brought in a total of $5.75 million, with TCU leading the way with $1.37 million for their Liberty Bowl appearance.

The Liberty Bowl offers the highest payout for a game featuring a member of a non-BCS conference. Yet, it's seventh in payout amongst Non-BCS bowls. Of the 15 top-paying Non-BCS bowl games played in 2002-2003, only seven teams were from Non-BCS conferences. That means there isn't much bowl revenue being afforded to the remaining Non-BCS conferences.

The biggest winner amongst Non-BCS conferences, Conference USA, averaged $1.1 in bowl revenue per team. Three of their bowl participants received less than $1 million (GMAC Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and New Orleans Bowl) for their bowl appearance.


The Bowl Game
Money Pit

Often when teams make the jump to I-A football, they site the large amounts of revenue that can be garnered through bowl games. Despite the limited amount of revenue available via bowl games, they often fail to account for the expenses that also accompany a bowl contest.

A trip to a bowl with a payout lower than $1 million can almost ensure that your program will either break even or sustain a loss. During last season's bowl games, programs playing in smaller bowl contests averaged $829,139 in expenses.

Those programs who played in larger bowl games, where the payout exceeded $1 million per team, rang up $975,000 in expenses. Since most bowls have a similar format, length of stay and ticket requirements, participants in BCS games managed to account for almost comparable expense numbers, averaging $1.5 million.

Unfortunately, everyone doesn't leave their bowls with the same amount in their coiffeurs. The average net receipts for Non-BCS bowl participants in 2002-2203 was $420,703. This figure includes the losses and near losses incurred by teams playing in bowls with less than $1 million in payout. On the other hand, the BCS participants averaged $12.7 million as their take after expenses.

The Grass is
not always Greener

The Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences are composed primarily of schools that made the move from I-AA to I-A within in the last 10 years. They are now well aware of the difficulty in trying to compete at the I-A level without the BCS level of funding. Both conferences have several schools that are struggling to meet the attendance requirements (15,000 per home game) needed to remain a I-A member and in the near future their programs may be sent back to I-AA.

FAMU has a really big rabbit to pull out of their helmet. With their move to IA status, they may have to eliminate the incredibly popular Florida Classic, though administrators say they intend to keep it. This annual contest against long time rival Bethune-Cookman brings each school approximately $1 million in revenue. The expenses for the Florida Classic are not high due to the deal they negotiated with the city of Orlando and Walt Disney World, certainly nowhere near the almost $1 million numbers that will be incurred for a I-A bowl contest.

Before schools make the move to IA, they need to ponder one point very carefully: The BCS system for Div. IA football is set up for one purpose and one purpose only - provide passive funding for schools in the six BCS conferences.

And from the numbers we've seen, it does its jobreally well.

© 2003 Azeez Communications, Inc.


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