Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Spent a week with Larry Scott 8th week at the Lair. Great guy. Great family. Smart. Just what the conference needs if it wants to move into the Big Boy’s World.

But make no mistake about it. Those of us (whatever school we belong to) will soon be rendered “Quaint.” And it’s our own fault.

We’ve put our Athletic Directors in an untenable position. And we can’t blame it all on Title IX. We’ve asked AD’s to fund sports which can’t fund themselves. In a time of diminishing revenues and expanding costs, they have no choice but to reach for the brass ring—wherever it may be.

Chancellors and AD’s have apparently arrived at the same place. The Holy Grail of TV revenue. In order to make ends meet, everything will take a back seat to that.

First some numbers (if I’ve got this right): The reason we had to go to at least 12 teams was because that would give us two six team divisions (however they are aligned). The championship game could mean a $10,000,000 pay out. Nominally, $1,000,000 per school.

If we get a bigger TV contract (one competitive with the SEC or Big Ten) it could be north of $100,000,000. If we develop our own network, not only could we showcase Olympic and “minor” sports, but the payout could be eventually the same—call it $10,000,000 per school. That’s big dough and money no Chancellor or AD is going to turn his or her back on.

So why does that render us (old guys) “Quaint?”

Because our opinions will not matter—not to the AD, the Chancellor and especially not to the conference. Decisions will be made on optimizing revenue—little else.

Think Cash and Carry Pyle, the promoter who took Red Grange and his Illinois team on a barn storming tour. When they played Army, did they do it up at West Point in their own stadium? No. They played in Yankee stadium because that’s where the paying fans were and that’s where the money was.

Think of it in a hyperbolic fashion. Today this example appears far-fetched, but in a few years it may make sense. Suppose someone offers $10,000,000 to host and televise the Big Game. The only catch? We play it January 1st in Beijing. Luddites like us will want the traditional last game of the year in the Bay Area.

The suits will smile and pat us on the back and nod understandingly, pay a little lip service to the beauty of tradition, give us some balloons for the kids, and then go where the money is.

We can already see it in the separation of the divisions. ESPN, Fox or whomever, won’t care about traditional rivalries (unless it makes monetary sense) and we may have a North/South alignment, or perhaps the “Zipper” alignment: (You can google it) but for simplicity’s sake, think Universities vs. State Schools. Oregon and Oregon State will play each other each year, but in alternating years they will play teams in the Western Division or teams in the Eastern Division. Cal and Stanford will be in separate divisions as will SC and UCLA. Traditionalrivals will always play each other, but (in one scenario) we will play USC and UCLA in alternating years.

The details don’t really matter. We will organize our scheduling and our games around a centralized league which is designed to generate the most income. Play a game at 9am on Saturday for a noon start on the East Coast—go for it. Play at 6pm on Thursday night for a 9pm start on the East Coast—whatever it takes. If Monday night or Tuesday mornings draw ratings—we’ll be there—on occasion.

Oh yes. The conference will get into local scheduling as well. They're building a brand and playing Irvine might not enhance the brand--unless they want to build a brand with lots of wins over Banana Slugs, then say good bye to playing Texas, Ohio State and Tennessee. (Actually, that is highly unlikely, because as long as we are competitive, big games should mean a bigger fan base).

What will be interesting is how it affects the Phil Knight’s ,John Arriaga’s and especially lesser donors. Their influence will diminish as their say diminishes. My guess is that one of the major unintended consequences of going for the Big Time Major League TV bucks, is that Big Time givers and other alumni (even the tiny donors like us) may lose their taste for giving. Still it may be worth it--at least monetarily.

What they risk is losing an alumnus' connection to the U. Is that important? Time will tell.

No doubt, today, certain alumni at each school think they have some input, generally commiserate with their level of giving. That will surely be phased out as the value of their gifts will become a much smaller part of the pie.

Larry Scott is a great guy. But he has a job to do. He went to Harvard.

It is highly unlikely that Oskie, the Tree, or a Trojan on a horse are of much interest to him, except as how they can help brand teams and generate revenue.

We know what our Chancellor feels about our state. He’s on record as wanting to double the number of out of state students from 11% to 20%. Why? Because it raises more revenue. He’s from Canada. It doesn’t occur to him that each kid we take from out of state means one less neighborhood kid that gets in. And we are the taxpayers, financing this institution. Yet, so he can get more revenue, we should let out of state students in at the expense of our neighbors.

It doesn’t sit well with some of us.

And Football will go the same route. If it means more money, we’ll do it—whether we stodgy old guys like it or not.

Traditions will wilt. We can almost bet on no more year in and year out SC, UCLA and Stanford games.

I haven’t even brought up revenue sharing. Wait till the Southern California teams get a whiff of that one. But they’ll cave—just like we will because the dollars are so great.

As was said at the top: “It’s our fault." We can’t rely on the Haas’s, Fishers, Rogers, Spiekers, Cronks, Witters, et al carry the school. Each of oour sports showed be endowed and operate on it’s own. And since we are unwilling to make that happen, the Super Conference will come in and do it for us.

Oh well. At least we can tell the kids what it was like, “Back in the Day.” They’ll get a kick out of how old fashioned—yes—Quaint we all are.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70