Don't you just love it when a good story sneaks in just quietly enough to not re-ruffle any feathers on a never-ending debate?
Quick, someone alert Congress and the radio talk shows that thrive on good photo ops and plenty of irate callers.
The NCAA is handing out huge chunks of cash to teams and conferences NOT part of an oft-demanded Division 1 playoff.
Go ahead. Bellow all you want. They'll just hunker down behind ivy-covered doors amid peals of their own laughter. After all, every time you scream for it, every time lawmakers waste taxpayer money ranting about it, and every time we as reporters talk about it, they can just see the TV ratings heading even farther north.
Please bring me another blank bank deposit clip, Ms. Admin. The one with room for LOTS of zeroes.
The five conferences that don't get automatic bids to the current party are of late the driving forces in this passion play, but the NCAA knows how to stifle them for the time being at least.
Here's a collective check for $24 million, guys. Now go away and play nice until next season.
That number is a record payout for teams from the Mountain West, Western Athletic Conference, and others who for the most part neither receive nor deserve much attention for a National Championship. Almost $10M to the Mountain West and around $8M for the WAC, if you're counting.
I already hear the howls from those who point out that these payoffs...er, payouts....are well behind the amount of cash doled out to the major conferences. For instance, just a tad over $22M to both the Big Ten and the SEC, just shy of $18M going to the remaining leagues.
And that is as it should be, frankly. The major conferences consistently play much tougher schedules than their minor cousins and produce the whopping share of profits. That is just a by-product of being in Conferences where the level of competition is higher, the players are more talented, and the TV contracts are a whole lot larger thanks to more populated broadcast markets.
That's not a slam against those other Conferences. It's just a simple fact that one day may change, but for now is the rule rather than the exception.
Hold that verbal brickbat for a moment because I know where you're going. Boise State and TCU did provide one of the more exciting post-season games at the Fiesta Bowl. Yes, the Broncos did go 14-0 and deserve to be lauded for the achievement. Face it, going unbeaten in almost any league is something to note and be proud of.
But it's because of the overall competition level in those minor Conferences that, and again this is for the present, dooms them to being a secondary consideration in the push to create that playoff system. The NCAA overlords are least interested in a Conference's competitive nature than they are about the TV markets reached, the broadcast revenue that can be realized, and the National reach of a team into the wallets of advertisers.
Which dovetails nicely into the main issue. The never-ending cry for a college football playoff system in Division 1 and why begging, pleading, cajoling, and threatening legal action by lawmakers who should be more concerned with larger issues, will do zero to budge the NCAA.
As long as the current system keeps paying off in record bank account deposits, there is no push to mess with what works and keeps everyone concerned swimming in deep gravy.
And this news about record payouts to everyone involved makes the point in what counts to the NCAA.
Common cents instead of common sense. And dollars. Lots of them.
The sponsors are thrilled and making money, even in time of recession. The schools are wading in cash and even allowing their smaller brethren to jump in for a dip. Coaches are hitting the register for lot of zeroes at then end of their contract. The TV networks devour the controversy that drives people to watch the games while charging for every set of eyeballs. And the players get an education, meals at the training table, all the permissible (and sometimes not so permissible) freebies they can handle.
All is right where the NCAA wants it to be.
So why should they listen to you or anyone else when this haggard debate is dredged up yet again by those who want what they can't have?
You'll keep watching what they and their member schools deliver because you're a dedicated fan. You'll order more memorabilia and NCAA approved clothing to show your loyalty. And you will carry that banner despite lousy records, overpaid coaches, recruiting scandals and players tossed into jail on everything from felony charges to reams of parking citations.
Which means there will be no playoff system until the NCAA decides the time is right.
Or until they can make more money. A LOT more money.
Which in reality is exactly the same thing.