College Football 2017: State of the Game, Part I
I went back and reviewed the State of the Game piece from last season and thought this year I’d begin by following up on where things stand today on the three off-field topics discussed back then. So without further ado:
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
1. (Eventual expansion of the Playoff) – There was no movement or even a whiff of discussion during the offseason. Still, you have 5 “power” conferences with just 4 Playoff slots available annually. The conference that is left out gets significantly less piece of the pie, and I’m not sure how long that arrangement will last before there’s a lot of discord between conferences. Therefore, I stand by my prediction that Playoff expansion will happen, and that it will happen before the current CFP TV deal expires in 2025.
2. (Conference expansion) – This time last year the CFB world was was abuzz with the Big 12 announcing they were pursuing expansion to add at least two, and possibly four new members. But as is typical, no one in that conference could get on the same page with regard to who they wanted, and the whole thing was scrapped in the fall (despite a rather high profile and shameless courtship that left many G5 hopefuls standing bitterly at the altar). Ironically, perhaps, the one thing that did appear to emerge from the highly-flawed process is that the Big 12 membership now appears to be as united as ever.
The other tidbit that emerged from the (no) expansion debacle is that the membership elected to forgo the formation of a conference network that would pool all 3rd-tier broadcast rights. Even though they will be the only Power 5 conference without such an asset, and it leads to significant inequality of revenues among the members, I think it was a good decision. The linear TV network is becoming obsolete (more on that later) and keeping their options open for now means they could score something much better in the future from potential new players like Amazon, Netflix or Facebook.
As for what the future holds for expansion/realignment, I think we can sit tight for a few years. The Power 5 conferences hold the cards when it comes to this, and they are all currently locked in to long term TV deals and grant of rights agreements that thwart movement. But for 3 of them (Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12) those deals are set to expire between 2023 and 2025. (The SEC’s tier-1 deal with CBS expires in 2024. But their tier-2/3 deals are locked in with ESPN until the 2030s, as are the ACC’s full broadcast rights). That mid-2020’s window is likely when we will see things heat up again. And as I alluded above, there may very well be new and eager bidders for content that could make things really interesting.
3. (Player compensation) – Interesting development on this just recently. Ravens fans here no doubt remember the name Jah Reid….well, he filed a lawsuit in May against his former school, UCF, for using his likeness for marketing purposes without his permission or compensation after (important emphasis) he left the school. Promoting a program with past players, especially ones who have gone on to the NFL, is something many schools actively do. So if Reid wins this case, it could set a precedent and have a profound ripple effect. Schools could probably prevent future problems by adding a clause to their student-athlete agreements that allow them to use likenesses in perpetuity. But that won’t cover them for all the instances that have already occurred. My bet is UCF will go to great lengths to try and settle the case with Reid, without admission of any wrongdoing, and every other NCAA school has their fingers crossed that’s what happens.
Next: Part II, Current Issues