The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wow! Just Wow.

It is 100% clear at this point that college football is FUBAR. Players being thrown cash and women during recruiting. Pretty much every school with any level of success cheating. Classes optional for most schools' "student athletes." A BCS system that is a complete joke. Perpetual conference alignment and realignment. I could go on and on. Clearly it's ALL about money at this point. I have long decried the TV networks, particularly ESPN, as the problem. I have even suspected nefarious means by ESPN, whom I believe has WAY too much power over the college football landscape. Now, I finally have the proof.

ESPN is clearly manipulating conference realignment.

First, the deals.
  • Pac-12 ABC/ESPN/FOX $21 million/yr/school 12 years
  • Big Ten ABC/ESPN $18.3 mill 10 years
  • SEC ESPN/CBS $17.1 15 years
  • ACC ABC/ESPN $12.9 12 years
  • Big 12 ABC/ESPN/FOX variable 3 years ESPN then 13 years FOX
  • Big East ABC/ESPN $3 (football members) 7 years
  • Big Ten network jointly owned by Big Ten and Fox
  • Longhorn Network jointly owned by Texas and ESPN
Last year, when the Big 12 was on the verge of collapse, the conference was held together by ESPN and Fox. ESPN has a TV contract with the Big 12 through 2015-2016. Loss of the Big 12 would have really hurt their revenue. So they got the schools back to the bargaining table and disaster was averted. There is no proof of how it really went down, but clearly ESPN was double-crossed as the Big 12 ended up signing with Fox for more money. That must have stung.

Fast forward to this year. With the Big 12 firmly together, ESPN runs with "breaking news" that Texas A&M had decided to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC. A day later this story was shot down as totally false by all parties. However, ESPN had accomplished its goal - planting the seed in the public conscience. The idea stewed and A&M decided to consider the possibility. The SEC was all too happy to accept them (into the ESPN family), and over a month after the original "breaking news", fantasy became reality. ESPN claims they had valid info with the original story and just had the timing off. However, it's clear that no meetings were held by either A&M or the SEC until well after this report. Take that greedy Big 12!

Even more damning was the recent Big East debacle. Clearly, the Big East lags well behind the other BCS conferences in terms of revenue. This is due to the smaller conference size and the lack of traditional powers. However, they had an exclusive negotiating window with ESPN for their upcoming new contract, and waited until last in the current round of conference negotiations to try and maximize their profit. ESPN low-balled the Big East, and they voted unanimously to reject the offer from ESPN (A story about Notre Dame as the driving force behind this was posted on ESPN even though it was a unanimous vote). Feeling spited, ESPN encouraged the ACC (whom had just signed with ESPN) to seek out Syracuse and Pitt for expansion. Don't believe me? How about the words of Boston College AD Gene DeFilippo, who was part of the ACC's expansion committee:
"We always keep our television partners close to us. You don't get extra money for basketball. It's 85 percent football money. TV - ESPN - is the one who told us what to do."
Are you kidding me? So the Big East spurns ESPN's crappy deal, and ESPN turns around and torpedoes the entire conference. ESPN and DeFilippo are in total damage control mode now, and are trying to hide the obvious truth. But really, along with the actual words of DeFilippo, past precedent with Texas A&M shows you how the game is played.

So here's how the game works. ESPN sets up the conferences with teams that play ball with them. ESPN broadcasts most of the games. ESPN controls the highlights you (and voting members of the polls) see every Saturday night. ESPN sponsors the coaches' poll. ESPN creates the talking points for the week leading up to the next weekend of games. Often, those talking points critique the pollsters in an attempt to manipulate voting. ESPN broadcasts the BCS games starting this year (beat out Fox). ESPN also sponsors the Heisman and sets the tone with the Heisman watch.

End result: ESPN makes billions. BCS schools make millions. Coaches make millions. Everyone with any power to affect change is happy. Players are pawns, and make nothing.

This will never, ever, ever change. It's only going to get worse. Is the next logical step for ESPN to cast off all semblance of a news organization and just create a new organization to replace the NCAA? They could run a new league of football powers centrally like the NFL. Sounds crazy, but we are almost at that point already! I think at this point, the lawyers need to get involved and stop this crazy game. The NFL has an anti-trust exemption. They share equally and offer even competition and a level playing field. College football offers none of that, and is the very definition of a monopoly, with ESPN at the top.

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