May 9, 2011

Huguenin: Marketplace favors the big boys

There were two mighty interesting bits of news related to college football last week.

It's a sure bet you're heard about the first one: The U.S. Department of Justice, via assistant attorney general Christine Varney, sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert asking why there is no major-college playoff, whether the association ever has tried to put one together and whether Emmert believes a playoff would better "serve the interests of fans, colleges, universities and players" than the BCS.

You probably haven't heard as much about the second one: The Pac-12 signed the richest TV rights deal in college history. In essence, the league that often was a wallflower under former commissioner Tom Hansen now is squarely in the spotlight on the dance floor under new commissioner Larry Scott.

The league, which expands by two schools starting in the 2011-12 academic year, signed a 12-year, $3 billion contract with ESPN and Fox; part of the deal is that the league will be allowed to start its own cable network.

The upshot is that each league member now will rake in about $21 million annually. That's almost $3 million more annually than teams in the Big Ten and almost $4 million more annually than teams in the SEC.

Thing is, when the Big Ten and SEC deals are up, those two leagues' deals likely will blow past the Pac-12. Fox Sports Networks president Randy Freer told media outlets that televised sports are getting to be the equal of entertainment, which means the value should continue to rise.

Let's go back to that $21 million figure. What that means, in essence, is that no matter how bad an athletic program performs, it knows that $21 million will be flowing into its coffers. What that also means is that one of the reasons there isn't a playoff is that some schools know $21 million will be flowing into their coffers.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was on Fox Business Network last week and again made his views known about the BCS.

"Look, 87 percent of the BCS money goes to the privileged conferences," he said. "That amounts to billions of dollars. Only about 12 percent goes to the non-privileged conferences. It is very unfair and violative of the anti-trust laws."

I have no problem with people being anti-BCS because it can be termed unfair in terms of producing a champion. But I have a huge problem whining about the BCS being unfair from a financial standpoint - and there is a huge difference.

Boise State or Tulsa not getting a chance to play for the national title is one thing. But Boise State or Tulsa not having the same type of athletic budget as USC or Oklahoma? Hey, too bad.

Why should USC or Oklahoma - or Florida or Ohio State or Texas or LSU or Alabama - care that their athletic budgets are as much as 10 or 15 times those of Boise State or Tulsa? You think folks at McDonald's or Subway corporate headquarters care that their companies might bring in roughly 50 times more than Dairy Queen or Sonic? That's not unfair; that's taking advantage of the marketplace.

Two years ago at this time, I'd have bet big bucks that Utah AD Chris Hill would've provided a good go-to quote to media people wanting some reaction to Hatch's statement. Now, though, there's no reason for Hill to say anything. As a member of the Pac-12, Hill's athletic department soon will be one of those receiving $21 million annually from the league's TV deal.

Should Hill care one iota that Scott and his lieutenants felt Utah added something to the league and, for instance, Utah State didn't? No way. To steal a line from James Brown, Utah (and Arizona and Washington State and everybody else in the Pac-12) can say, "I got mine/don't worry about his." That's the marketplace at work, Sen. Hatch. Utah has a lot more value than Utah State, just like Florida has a lot more than FIU and Texas has a lot more than UTEP.

Do anything that messes with that value and is there any mystery to why the big boys aren't going to like it?

Schedule talk

A lot of rescheduling for the season has taken place of late. Some examples of the changes, most of them ... uh ... "suggested" by TV networks:

Boston College will play at Miami on the Friday after Thanksgiving this season. The teams originally had been scheduled to play that Saturday (Nov. 26). Interestingly, when Miami and USF signed a five-year scheduling deal in 2008, that game was set for Thanksgiving weekend. That set-up lasted two seasons.

Michigan State had been scheduled to open the season on Saturday, Sept. 3, against Youngstown State. The game has been moved to Sept. 2.

Houston's schedule-maker has been busy. The Cougars now play UTEP on Sept. 29 (it had been set for Oct. 1), meet Rice on Oct. 27 (from Oct. 29) and face Tulane on Nov. 10 (Nov. 12).

Baylor now will play host to TCU on Sept. 2; the game originally had been scheduled for the 3rd. It will be on ESPN, and Baylor's offense will provide an interesting test for a rebuilt TCU defense. In addition, TCU's revamped offense will be going against a Baylor defense now coordinated by Phil Bennett, which means Baylor's defense should be improved.

Texas A&M had been scheduled to play host to SMU on Sept. 3. The game now will be on Sept. 4 and shown nationally on Fox Sports Network.

The Arizona-at-Oklahoma State game has been moved from Sept. 10 to Sept. 8 and will be televised by ESPN. Oklahoma State's game at Iowa State has been moved to Nov. 18 from Nov. 19 and will be shown by ESPN2.

Colorado will play host to USC on Nov. 4 on ESPN2. It had been scheduled for Nov. 5. ESPN folks had wanted to move it to Thursday the 3rd, but Colorado evidently talked the network into moving it to Friday instead.

The Mississippi State-at-Memphis contest has been moved from Sept. 3 to Sept. 1.

Grid bits

For some reason, we're not sure BYU had this in mind when it left the Mountain West to become an independent: If the Cougars are bowl-eligible and are not in the BCS, they will play in the Armed Forces Bowl against an opponent from Conference USA. (The irony: That game had pitted a C-USA team against a team from - you guessed it - the Mountain West.) BYU already has deals in place with the Poinsettia Bowl for the 2012 season and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl for the 2013 season. Explain to us again how BYU is going to make it big as an independent?

Staying with BYU, linebacker Jadon Wagner has decided to pursue a pro football career in the CFL and has left school. Wagner started nine games last season, but missed most of spring practice for personal reasons. BYU plays a 3-4 set and now must replace two starting linebackers as well as three starting defensive backs.

Some bowl news we should've mentioned earlier: The Meineke Car Care Bowl is no more. Well ... sort of. Bear with us here because this is somewhat confusing. The company had sponsored the bowl game in Charlotte (the one that started out as the Continental Tire Bowl) for the past six years. But bowl organizers wanted more money and Meineke moved on - to another postseason game, the Texas Bowl. The new name for that bowl will be the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The game in Charlotte, meanwhile, now will be called the Belk Bowl; Belk is a Charlotte-based department store.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has broken ground on a stadium; the school plans to start playing football as a FCS member in 2013 and has hired former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert as its first coach.

Brace yourself: Penn State is changing its uniforms this season. Yes, the program noted for perhaps the most boring uniforms in the universe is making a slight tweak. The Nittany Lions wear blue tops for home games, but those tops no longer will have a white trim around the collar. And the white road tops no longer will sport a blue trim around the collar.

College Football Hall of Famer Les Richter, a former guard at California (1949-51), will be inducted posthumously to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. Richter also recently was announced as a NASCAR Hall of Fame candidate. Richter played linebacker in the NFL, and later became president of Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway and a NASCAR official.

Give it up for former Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Ryans, now with the NFL's Houston Texans, recently donated $300,000 to Alabama to endow a scholarship.

Alabama long snapper Carson Tinker was released from the hospital last week; he suffered a concussion and a broken wrist after being thrown 50 yards from his residence when a tornado tore through Tuscaloosa recently. His girlfriend was with him at the time, but she was killed in the storm.

Oregon State might be without starting tight end Joe Halahuni this season, which isn't a good thing for an offense with a ton of questions. Halahuni had shoulder surgery last week, and while coaches hope he's back by mid-September, there's no guarantee he'll play this fall. He had 30 receptions last season and led the Beavers with five touchdown catches.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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