Friday, June 01, 2012

Please explain this illogical meme

 This is from a piece published today and written* from the Big 12 meetings:
Once it’s decided whether the playoff will consist of the top four overall teams, only conference champions or some combination of both, another wild ride on the conference realignment carousel will begin.

“Obviously the decisions around the BCS, wherever that winds up going, could have other implications for some realignment moves,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday. “I’m sure there will be some more yet to occur.” ...

So while the Big 12 insists it is satisfied with 10 members and has not had any expansion talks with other schools, just wait until the details of the four-team playoff are finalized and the conference starts getting telephone calls.
I've seen this same thing implied in several other columns that I don't feel like pulling up and/or linking to, and I don't understand.

To be specific, what I don't understand is how/why a four-team playoff is going to set off additional realignment. I understand how/why money sets off realignment, but the above-quoted piece does not at any point reference TV revenue or profit or anything related to money at all; the point is that the implementation of a four-team playoff will, for some reason, set off this string of realignment-y events.

I think -- I'm not totally sure about this -- that the common misconception is that the four power-ish conferences are gonna somehow monopolize the playoff to the exclusion of the ACC, Big East, Notre Dame and various other teams that would never make it anyway. This is not possible. I know it's not possible because (a) there are about as many powerful people -- most notably Jack Swarbrick, ACC commish John Swofford, and whoever is officially in charge of the Big East -- who don't want that to happen as do want it to happen, and (b) that monopolization system was in place back in the original BCS days and then ceased being in place when the non-BCS conferences started threatening a lawsuit in 2004. That led to the advent of a fifth BCS game and two additional at-large spots rather than legal shenanigans since the Department of Justice's involvement wouldn't have been enjoyable for anybody other than the lawyers getting paid in Maseratis.

Translation: A four-team bracket built solely around the four power-conference winners probably wouldn't be legally doable even if it had mass support, which it doesn't since it would screw over everybody outside the four power conferences. Whatever playoff system gets implemented will, without question, feature some degree of access for non-BCS (or whatever you want to call them now) teams.

And going back to the point about the playoff potentially including only conference champions -- which is extremely unlikely now that the SEC has publicly declared that it "won't compromise" on a four-best-teams setup -- wouldn't that be a pretty good incentive to not consolidate into a loaded conference? I have to believe that the undefeated winner (let's say Florida State, hypothetically) of a meh ACC would be ranked higher than at least one of the power-conference champs unless it happened to be a weird year in which there was exactly one undefeated team from every elite conference. The strength-of-schedule factor would come into play, but not to the extent that it would eliminate the possibility of a non-Big Ten/Big 12/Pac-12/SEC team getting in the playoff since that would unquestionably produce another lawsuit explosion from the 60-70 teams not in the aforementioned conferences. In other words, it seems like being in a weaker (but not WAC-ish, obviously) conference and having a better shot to go undefeated would be preferable, although that's purely from a competitive standpoint and not a financial one.

Speaking of which, the piece I blockquoted above is specifically referencing the Big 12 and relies heavily on the assumption that there's no way it will continue as a 10-team league because of the need to be "proactive" and yadda yadda yadda. Question: What incentive would Texas or Oklahoma or even Oklahoma State to approve more members when the current setup allows them to bypass a conference championship game and thus have a better chance of finishing unbeaten and getting a spot in the playoff? There are obviously a few programs out there that would produce a revenue increase (and a conference title game would tack on a few more million bucks a year), but again, that's purely a money thing and not a playoff-induced thing.

I've been racking my brain and have come up with zero logical explanations for the playoff-generates-realignment theme; the stuff I've seen written (which is in line with the Big 12 piece) doesn't make sense, and everything that does make sense in terms of realignment wouldn't be generated by the implementation of a playoff. So I dunno.

Just remember the last two paragraphs as the major takeaway from what I've written here: There will be more realignment/consolidation (to some degree), but it will be because of the ridonkulous financial differential between the conferences with Scrooge McDuck-esque TV payouts and those without, not the playoff-type thing. I just can't figure out why the latter keeps getting cited as the lone explanation for whatever illogical thing will happen in the future when, in reality, it would actually seem to be a deterrent that'll just get ignored in favor of an extra drift of cash.

Because cash wins everything.

*FYI, that piece was written by Thayer Evans, who's normally pretty good. I don't think he's thinking this one through but also can't criticize him too much seeing as how he has a kinda-substantiating quote from Mark Emmert, who has zero decision-making power in all this but probably seemed like a good source since he's, you know, the president of the NCAA.


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