Do you really want a college football playoff? Do yourself a favor, then, and read Jay Christensen’s excellent study at The Wiz of Odds on what schools spent on the bowls during the 2010 season.
In sum, Christensen’s article provides pretty stark evidence that rather than serving as a profit center for schools, the majority of bloated bowl games are being propped up by the institutions themselves in the form of extortionary ticket guarantees. Programs are paying through the nose just to travel to the games. In other words, the schools, the vast majority of which are state-funded institutions, are paying the bowls millions of dollars annually to organize their exhibition games.
The most outspoken advocates of a playoff cry crocodile tears about the unfairness of the bowl system for the little guys. They trot out theoretical numbers about how much money a playoff would generate while the top dogs cash in real billion-dollar television contracts. They rail on guys like DeLoss Dodds and David Brandon – who’ve never met a nickel they don’t like – for allegedly failing to do the proper due diligence on the economics of the postseason.
Then, in a misguided moment of realpolitik, they push an antitrust lawsuit as the best way to take down the BCS. (I guess the dark overlords in charge of the sport never thought to cover their legal bases.)
Christensen’s analysis crystallizes what should be the talking point for the pro-playoff lobby: The bowls are a sinkhole for taxpayer dollars at a time when states are drowning in red ink.
There’s a hot-button phrase that anyone in politics know is guaranteed to stir up a political hornets’ nest.
“Waste, fraud and abuse.”
Nothing makes for better political theater than a made-for-TV hissy fit over squandered government spending. In ex-Fiesta Bowl impresario John Junker, you’ve even got a ready-made Willie Horton to hang around the BCS’s neck.
It’s politics’ equivalent of a lonely Kate Upton looking for love at last call. (You know, guaranteed to score.)
Pie-in-the-sky promises of a lucrative college football playoff sound nice. In politics, however, they’re nothing but a high-speed monorail if you can’t give everyone a little something to get outraged about.
So call off the lawyers, playoff partisans, and save yourself some billable hours. Give the AARP a ring instead – nothing gets old codgers riled up like wasted tax dollars.
They vote, too.