Monday, March 25, 2002

OFF-SEASON BCS HATE: Interesting Inquirer article on how the six leagues who make up the Bowl Championship Series (which is football) dominate the NCAA tournament (which is basketball). The writer, Frank Fitzpatrick, is arguing for a trickle-down effect where the money gained from the BCS football games enriches the athletics programs of the entire university, basketball included:

Not since Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990 has a non-BCS member won an NCAA tournament title.

While many of these schools are not themselves football powers - Duke is a perennial ACC loser, while Connecticut only recently upgraded to Division I-A football - they all share in the benefits that wealth from that sport brings to their leagues.

The 68 BCS colleges spent more than 21/2 times more on athletics than their 250 less successful Division I basketball rivals in the 1999-2000 school year. The revenue gap was even wider, with the football powerhouses taking in nearly 31/2 times the average for all Division I institutions.

According to 2000 tax returns, the latest figures available, the big six conferences reported total income of more than $413 million that year, dwarfing figures from mid-major and smaller Division I leagues.

The SEC listed income of $94,084,512, the Big Ten $84,313,058, the ACC $82,045,439.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Valley (Southern Illinois) and the Mid-American (Kent State), the two non-BCS conferences with teams still alive in the tournament's second weekend, reported totals of $4,365,204 and $1,946,955, respectively.

The Atlantic Ten Conference, a mid-level league that includes Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph's, listed a figure of $8,066,281. This year, for the first time since 1990, the A-10 had only one entry in the NCAA's 64-team bracket.

"The gap [in income] is football money," said A-10 commissioner Linda Bruno, whose basketball members - except Temple - do not compete at Division I-A in football, "and there's nothing we can do about that."

Said Bill Bradshaw, the former La Salle athletic director who now holds the same position at DePaul of Conference USA: "We're always looking at rules that will level the playing field. But with the incredible difference in budgets, I'm not sure you can."

The average athletic budget for a Division I school in 2000, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, was $11.2 million. For those colleges in BCS conferences, the figure was $28.7 million.

The revenue differences are even more striking. BCS members took in $37.5 million in 2000, according the Chronicle. For all others in Division I, the figure was $11.1 million.

Just how football revenue translates into basketball success is difficult to track. However, experts say, the relationship can be seen in several areas: in bigger, better basketball facilities that, in turn, help produce even more revenue and lure the best recruits and coaches; in the ready-made bases of fans and donors that accomplished football programs have built; and in increased media exposure.

"Of course there is a trickle-down effect," Bruno said. "But I don't want to posture us as having had a down year in basketball just because we don't have that kind of football money. Obviously, it would be nice if we had all those kinds of facilities and resources [that BCS schools have]. But we don't. And sometimes that can hurt you."

Last year, nearly 90 percent of the $150 million paid to teams that played in football bowl games went to BCS schools, according to Daniel Fulks, a Transylvania (Ky.) University professor who has studied athletics financing. The average revenue from TV and bowl deals for BCS institutions was $5 million, compared with $1 million for other Division I-A football schools.

While this year's men's basketball tournament included the customary early-round upsets, those long shots almost always vanish by the time this wildly popular event reaches its final weekend. That means the BCS conferences are controlling both ends of the tournament: Selection Sunday and the Final Four.

The six leagues have filled 98 of the 137 at-large bids since 1999. In the last decade, only two non-BCS schools, Massachusetts in 1996 and Utah in 1998, have reached a Final Four.

"The BCS is turning Division I into haves and have-nots," San Diego State president Stephen Weber, a persistent Bowl Championship Series critic, said last year.

I think he'll come closer to proving his point if he can show that BCS schools are dominating in other sports too, or explain why that is or isn't relevant. But leaving that aside this is one more reason to dislike the BCS. And hate Duke.

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