Changing the playoff structure?
An Elite League?
Given the limited sporting news and live sports events during the COVID-19 sheltering slowdown, it’s surprising fans and sportswriters have not blown up discussions and ranted more scenarios involving these topics.
Though realigning the conferences and reforming the playoff structure are separate issues, they are obviously linked. One affects the other, including the road to crown the national champion. There is tension, and something has got to give.
Six Power Conferences
As one who by nature leans towards being a traditionalist, I like the six-conference with 12 teams model, believing it could restore some traditional rivalries and make college football even more exciting. In that model, there would be a six or eight-team playoff of conference champions. I further prefer the version of the PAC-12 where Colorado moves out and Boise State moves into the conference. SBNation’s Ryan Kantor provides a fun, thought-provoking read on this concept in Shakin’ the Southland.
Content is king in the broadcast media sector, as content attracts the eyes that drive the ratings. The ratings and viewer demographics drive the value of the content. College football games are content that moves the ratings needle and delivers viewers with the characteristics desirable to network advertisers. Will the day ever come when a media giant consolidates the elite teams of college football? Or, the Elites organize and shop their business model to media companies?
We live in an era of business consolidation. The big get bigger, the weak fall by the wayside and the same may be true for college football. The teams consistently at the top of the national rankings generate far more income from TV revenue conference shares, ticket sales, concessions and licensing, and their booster and alumni funds swell. The Elites have deeply loyal fans and high-value brands.
A Premier League
Does a Premier League sound crazy to you? Imagine the owners and executives of a streaming network, or an established television sports network, consolidating the Top-25 football programs into a new Premier League?
The member teams would play other elite teams each week. There would be no more mercenary cream puffs scattered along the schedule. The games would air in prime-time slots for maximum exposure at the expense of the not elite teams, meaning not always on Saturdays. The ad rates and associated revenue of advertising time would escalate with a share going to the participating universities. Over time, the college football Premier League might start to look more like the NFL format.
A Power Five Breakaway Tipping Point
Dennis Dodd, Senior Writer for CBS Sports, recently opined that the COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on colleges and their athletic departments. He wrote that the Power 5 conferences are at a place where they might soon band together and bolt from the other FBS teams, seeking greater autonomy from the NCAA and reducing bureaucracy. The movement was building before the virus, and perhaps the fallout from the pandemic may become an accelerator to the changes?
You may be saying, “Whoa Duckies–not so fast,” but changes will occur faster than they would have before, as college football is facing new realities. A series of national economic events and declining revenues from college football are causing a shift. The momentum of change will increase with the financial deficits carving holes in university budgets. The forces are amplified by the pressures and realities created by the virus pandemic which will continue to play out into the future.
A New Normal
Change is difficult. The greater the change, and the longer-established the norm, the harder that change is to swallow, adopt and adapt to. College football has existed for roughly 125 years. Theoretically, anyone could rise to the top and be a champion, but that is no longer the reality in college football. Like it or not, college football is a sport of the haves and have-nots.
What About Our Ducks?
Oregon Ducks Football is well-positioned for the future and whatever evolutions the next phases of college football alignments produce. Ducks football is one of the “haves,” as Oregon is one of college football’s elite programs. Because of Oregon’s status, and the competence of the Oregon AD and the UO administration, its advisors and coaches will be at the tables creating the change. They will not be left out.
The Ducks are a prominent national brand. UO Football is a winning program that can compete for the national football championship. The University of Oregon has stable leadership, relatively high revenues, a strong, nationally-recognized Athletic Director, and admired coaches.
Oregon has robust booster support. It benefits from the marketing support of NIKE, and obviously from the prominence of Phil and Penny Knight, the Kilkennys, Papes, and other benefactors’ many gifts and endowments to the University of Oregon.
And Never Forget …
It is always a great day to be a Duck!, It never rains in Autzen Stadium and, “Oh how we love to ponder Our Beloved Ducks!”
Greenville, South Carolina
Top Photo by Dave Peaks
Brad Nye, the FishDuck.com volunteer editor for this article, works for the Deschutes Land Trust in Central Oregon.
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