Part III-A Modest Proposal - FBall Playoff System

In Part III of his multi-part article, Doc Ryan discusses the enormous revenue the playoff system would generate and how it would be distributed...

Part I – A Modest Proposal
Posted 12/12/01 at

Part II – A Modest Proposal
Posted 12/16/01 at

Part III

First Round Revenue


Start with 16 first round games in stadiums with approximately 80,000 seats.  Price it out on average of $50 per ticket. That is $4 million per stadium, with 16 stadiums, for $64 million in first round stadium revenue alone.


The competition to land the games should keep local organization and bid committees finding ways to provide the stadium and team accommodations cost free to keep the game returning each year. Games will be given to communities who offer the best financial package to the NCAA in return to the influx of millions of dollars spent by enthusiastic fans in local hotels, restaurants and bars.  Emphasis will be placed on securing stadiums with club sections and club boxes even at this point in the playoffs to maximize corporate sales to fill stadiums and keep the average income per seat as high as possible.


Television can be squeezed for another $4 million per game in the first round under a multiple network package plan to spread the wealth of programming since no national network will be willing to suspend all their prime time programming for an entire week. That yields another $64 million.


That provides a cool 128 million in the first round alone.


Sweet 16 Revenue


With only eight games in this round, the total number of seats falls.  But, the prices of those seats will rise with the increase in desirability. This provides eight new venues for selection, making nearly 24 cities and stadiums involved in the playoff system, with probably 5-6 cities repeating this round as playoff sites.


Ticket prices would rise to an average of $70 in 80,000 seat stadiums. This raises the take to $5.6 million per stadium but for only eight stadiums, yielding a gate of $44.8 million.


Television revenue would go up, to $5 million a game for a take of $40 million. This yields $88.8 million in the second round.


Great 8 Revenue


This may be a more difficult ticket to sell because with only four games, there will be longer trips for fans than the first round. It is hard for fans to keep traveling each week, and the Great Eight does not have the status cache' of the Final Four, that normally draws the sports celebrities and makes the contest an event, rather than a game, thus guaranteeing a sell out.


The strategy here will be to schedule at least one of the teams closer to home to pump the crowd numbers even if it means giving the higher seeded team a fan advantage. Better that, than playing in front of a half empty stadium in Arizona.


Eventually, the popularity of the event will make scheduling location irrelevant. Ticket pricing will bump slightly, to $90 therefore expect income of $7.2 million per stadium, for a take of $29 million at the gate.


Television revenue per game should rise for these more desirable games, as the excitement builds and television heavily promotes this product, especially since it would likely be carried on a network that does not have the AFC or NFC play-off games. Figure $8 million per game, $32 million for the weekend.


This generates gross revenue of $61 million.


Final Four Revenue


This is the big time, heavily promoted by television, with strong demand generated among the team's fans that realize that even if their team wins, the chance that they could secure one of the rare tickets to the Championship game is next to impossible. Tickets will likely rise to the $100 average level for gate revenues of $8 million per game.


Television revenue ought to rise to a minimum of $20 million per game for a total gross of $48 million for the round


Championship Game Revenue


With $120 average ticket price, gate receipts will total $10 million for the game.  Television could rise to $30 million for this game, making the total gross $40 million for the game.


The NCAA's total direct revenue for the playoff would be just shy of $366 million dollars, and that does not include revenue from corporate sponsorships of the games or the additional merchandising tie-ins that could be developed for additional income production. There is no limit to what the income growth potential for the play-offs will be over the coming decades as it explodes in popularity. The television contract would easily dwarf the current NCAA billion dollar basketball tournament contract with CBS.



Everybody Gets a Piece of The Pie


The Playoff system would make current Bowl revenues look like pocket money. The current bowl system barely covers the travel expenses of many of the schools participating in them. Attendance in minor bowls are generally less than half the capacity of the stadiums, and much of that crowd is papered (given free tickets just to bring bodies to the stadium to avoid empty seats ). Most bowls are living hand to mouth existences and exist only for the sake of boosting local pride in trying to gain publicity for the community.


Vanquish Greed – Restore the Purity of the Game


This proposal is designed to achieve what is considered impossible:

produce a viable football play off system.


It will take revolutionary vision to accomplish this, a vision that has to see the world through the eyes of the non-football fans within the university community, and society as well. The most legitimate argument to make against a playoff season is that it will further fuel the importance of athletics over academics at institutions of higher learning, and continue to emphasize the crass materialism of big money athletics and the corruption of university ideals by huge financial benefits.


Opponents will argue that this would just fuel further loss of control of football programs and increase the number of millionaire football coaches. And in all honesty, it does have that potential. It would be suicide for the game of college football to make this a financial windfall for the few who stand atop the college football mountain.


A National Championship play-off  should not be an opportunity to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The last thing anybody should want, is to use the playoffs to create an environment in which colleges play football primarily for the huge profits reaped. There should be no direct financial incentive in terms of prize money to the winners. This should be a quest for excellence, a race for the purity of the game, where winning is its own reward.


The one proposal that would reverse all the arguments against a playoff and seize the high moral ground from the start would be to remove all direct financial benefits from participation to the football programs in the playoffs. This proposal outlines a revolution in big time sports, a revolution that would make the impossible into a reality


100% of the post-expense revenues from a playoff would be shared by all schools playing college football.


70% of the profits would be shared by all the universities that make up the NCAA Division IA by an equitable formula agreed upon by the membership, but most revolutionarily, it would be specifically and exclusively earmarked as a condition of disbursement by the NCAA solely for academic purposes at the universities, not athletic expenditures.


The remaining 30% of the revenues will be divided among all football playing Division IAA, II and III schools. Fifty percent of those funds will be mandated for academic purposes, and fifty percent used exclusively to fund scholarships or pay for equipment and expenses in college football programs. It would help the game continue to flourish all over the country, and provide for thousands of high school players to be able to continue on to college to compete in the game they love in communities across America.


This proposal will garner support among faculty, and undercut the criticism of the anti-football factions on campuses and in society, who would otherwise oppose the playoffs, and remind everyone, most especially the powers in the athletic administrations, of the true purpose of college athletics.


While the big football powers will lose the direct revenue that they currently receive from the traditional bowl system, the schools themselves will benefit many times over. They will benefit far more from income many times higher than what they would have received from the bowl system, and it will be channeled directly into the academic priorities for the school.


Those schools who do well in the playoffs will benefit  substantially in terms of large increases in alumni giving, generated from the exposure and good will generated by their performance, as well as the increase in revenue from regular season television contracts that will be increased by the increased national interest in college football created by a playoff system.


For those cynics who doubt that the football elite would give up 14 million dollar pay days, it is important to remember that other than Notre Dame, no school receives that money anymore. BCS pay offs are not even made to the schools anymore, but directly to the conference offices where the funds are divided between the conference members by conference formula. The current BCS deal also pays money to Division IAA, II and III currently, although it is a relatively small amount of the total. The actual dollars dispersed to every school in America playing football would increase substantially under the playoff proposal.


The very audacity of this proposal, the astounding volume of money it would generate, and the insistence that such a windfall be channeled directly to academic benefits, makes the proposal irresistible. It disarms all the arguments about athletic greed, about out of control athletic budgets, about the corruption of big money by channeling the money to good and away from the wretched excesses of athletics. It makes this quixotic quest for a true championship acceptable, and virtuous.

Part IV of Doc's proposal will discuss the selection process of the 32 teams and how to make the playoff most enjoyable to observers...

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