Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SEC Can Thank UCLA for BCS Dominance

The SEC dominated the second half of the BCS era, winning seven championships and firmly establishing itself as the premier conference in college football. That has led to an expansion of its footprint, added riches from television contracts, and a nascent network to be launched this August.

But none of it happens without the biggest upset in BCS history, a game that took place on the West Coast on the final day of the 2006 regular season. The end of one dynasty beget another.

USC entered its annual rivalry game in 2006 ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. The Trojans were poised to appear in an unprecedented third consecutive BCS title game and all they had to do was handling their downtrodden, 5-6 crosstown rival. And why not? USC had won seven straight in the series and mauled the Bruins the year before, 66-19.

A simple USC victory would've set up a BCS title game against Ohio State, leaving Florida (and the SEC) on the sideline. It would've been an eighth consecutive season without an undisputed national title for the conference. After Tennessee won the first championship of the BCS era in 1998, the SEC only appeared in one title game in the subsequent seven seasons, and that resulted in LSU's split title with USC in 2003.

There was little doubt that USC would go on to trounce the Buckeyes in the BCS title game as Florida eventually did. The Trojans would've won their third national title in four years and left little doubt as to who truly rules the BCS. They likely would've gone to another one or two BCS title games in the following two seasons.

But that dynasty inexplicably got derailed on that December afternoon at the Rose Bowl by the underdog Bruins. USC's high-powered offense was totally stifled and shut out in the second half. It was the only time in Pete Carroll's final eight seasons at USC that his team would be held under double digits.

USC's 13-9 loss not only opened the door for the SEC to return to the BCS title game, but it gave birth to a new narrative. After Florida ascended to No. 2 and then routed undefeated Ohio State for the national championship, the argument that the SEC as "the toughest conference" began to take hold.

That in no small part contributed to the SEC's earning a spot in the BCS championship game for both 2007 and 2008. In both seasons, the SEC won the title after sending a second-ranked team that edged teams from other conferences with the same number of losses.

In both seasons, one of those teams was USC. Had the Trojans won the 2006 title, it's easy to see how the narrative and argument would've gone very differently. USC probably would've been the one that beat out the other two-loss teams for No. 2 in 2007. And in 2008, the one-loss Trojans might've gone on to play in their fifth consecutive BCS title game.

The SEC can thank Karl Dorrell and DeWayne Walker, whose game plan in that fateful 2006 game teed up the conference's enduring run in the second half of the BCS era. They're both actually working in the neighborhood now as Dorrell is now the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt and Walker the defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Success of SEC Network Is No Sure Thing

The SEC had another banner season at the bank, as its members reeled in around $21 million per school during the fiscal year of 2013.

That puts the SEC well ahead of everybody else and just behind the king of cash Big Ten, which distributed $23-$26 million per school in the same fiscal year. And the SEC has reasons to be bullish on the future, as its own SEC Network is scheduled to launch Aug. 14.

But any prediction that, with the SEC Network, the conference will out-pace the Big Ten in earnings would be premature. There are still a number of issues involving the nascent network, not the least of which is that it has yet to reach agreements with some of the nation's biggest TV carriers.

With an asking price of $1.30 per subscriber within the conference's 11-state footprint, the SEC Network is demanding significantly more than either the Big Ten ($1) or the Pac-12 ($.80) for their networks. As a point of comparison, the NBC Sports Network, which carries the Stanley Cup playoffs and the English Premier League, costs merely 31 cents per subscriber.

So far, DirecTV (20 million subscribers) and Comcast (22 million) have not caved to the SEC's demands. DirecTV in fact has not carried the Pac-12 Network since its inception two years ago and the impasse is expected to continue into a third season this fall.

Even with the SEC fans threatening to make a switch, these providers might not budge so easily as the sports television landscape has changed dramatically over the past five years. The proliferation of regional sports networks and their exorbitant fees have forced the providers to re-evaluate their business model.

In Houston, the Comcast regional sports network that carries the Astros and Rockets recently filed for bankruptcy after it was unable to get on any carriers other than its parent Comcast. In L.A., the popular Dodgers—even with the legendary Vin Scully in the booth in perhaps his final season—have been blacked out this season on virtually every carrier other than Time Warner, which owns the new sports network that broadcasts the team's games.

The SEC Network, of course, has one advantage over the others as it's part-owned by ESPN, which is the most expensive and perhaps the most indispensable cable network. ESPN has already made sure that the SEC Network will not be stuck only with third-tier football games involving FCS schools. South Carolina-Texas A&M has been chosen to debut the network's lineup in the 2014 season.

But even with ESPN's clout, there is no guarantee that these carriers, facing considerable consumer backlash over rising cable bills, will play ball. For as popular as sports is in general and in particular in the South, there is still a considerable number of people who don't care and don't want to pay for something they won't watch.

"A lot of the households would assign a very low value to an SEC regional sports network," Andrew Zimbalist, a noted sports economist recently told USA Today. "There is a real structural question of how important it is for a cable distributor to carry this, particularly in light of the fact the bottom income earners have had their wages stagnate over the last decade and cable bills keep going up and up and up.

"I think we've been in a bubble and there has been a lot of over-bidding, and these little fracases we're seeing are harbingers of sustained battles that will be happening."

SEC has quite a bit of brand power and fan loyalty. But given the current business climate, the success of the SEC Network is hardly a certainty.

Friday, May 30, 2014

College Football Should Dump Divisions

With all the bellyaching about the recent decisions by the SEC and ACC to keep eight-game conference schedules, a most important point was largely missed. The scheduling setup makes competition within those conferences unfair.

Whenever there's an imbalance in the strengths of the conference's divisions, the race for the championship will become lopsided. Essentially, you'll rarely get the two best teams to play in the conference championship games.

And on top of that there's also the issue of preserving the familiarity and cohesion within the conferences. When the SEC decided to adopt the 6+1 model, with seven of the eight conference games permanently set, it means that six teams within your own conference won't set foot on your campus for an entire decade. In the case of the ACC, teams will see Notre Dame—technically not a member—more often than a few actual member schools.

There is an easy way to fix this, and it's already been put on the table: College football should dump divisions.

College basketball has been getting along just fine without divisions, even though some leagues have as many as 16 teams. Only three of the 32 conferences employ divisions, and none of the major conferences.

The divisions came into existence in 1992 when then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer exploited a little-known NCAA bylaw in order to stage a conference championship game after the SEC expanded to 12 teams. All other major conferences followed suit. But as realignment made conferences bigger—beginning in 2014 the ACC, Big Ten and SEC will all have 14 teams—the divisional setup has become more unwieldy.

In March, the ACC in collaboration with the Big 12 submitted a proposal to drop divisions while allowing conferences to continue staging championship games. It was tabled during the NCAA's April meetings but may be considered when the board convenes again in August.

The 10-team Big 12, currently the only one of the five major conferences without a divisional setup or a title game, believes dumping divisions only makes sense as we move into the College Football Playoff era this fall.

"You wouldn't any longer have to have 12 (teams)," Big 12 commissioner Bowlsby told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports in March. "You wouldn't any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select.

"Theoretically, we could say we're going to take the two highest in the BCS rankings and have them play at the end of the season."

In fact, the Big 12 has already taken steps toward making that a reality. This week the conference formally adopted a new tiebreaking procedure, tying it to the CFP poll as released by the selection committee. The same procedure obviously may be applied should it become necessary to determine the two teams to play in the conference championship game.

There is one other peripheral, though not unimportant, benefit to dumping the divisions. It is widely believed that the Big 12 will eventually expand back up to 12 teams in order to stage a conference title game. If that's no longer a prerequisite, then we might have some stability with conference memberships for awhile after five years of constant realignment maneuvers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Could CFP Fall Apart Before It Starts?

Like it or not, the College Football Playoff, set to debut this coming season, will be around until at least 2025—or outlast the next Bush (Jeb) or Clinton (Hillary) administration.

At least that's what Bill Hancock, the CFP executive director, insisted will be the case when he spoke at the AWSM convention in Orlando over the weekend.

There's just one catch: While the CFP has signed over the entire postseason to ESPN in a 12-year, $5.64 billion deal, the contracts with the six bowls that will take turns to host the semifinal games remain unsigned just three months before the season were to start.

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported earlier Wednesday that the bowls—Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach—have not yet come to terms with the CFP. The primary hangup appears to be that the bowls, which have long operated independently even during the BCS era, are having some second thoughts about surrendering all of their autonomy so they can be run in a centralized fashion much like the Final Four.

Hancock, however, told Dodd the contract holdup is only a formality and nothing to worry about:

"We're continuing to discuss the contracts," he said. "This is nothing unusual. We're just plugging away and everything will get finished."

That may be so, but the longer this drags on, the more likely the bowls will get cold feet. By submitting themselves to the CFP arrangement, each bowl already will lose its own uniqueness. The Rose Bowl, for example, may never get another matchup between the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions as it did last season, as well as every year after World War II and before the advent of the BCS.

Whereas the BCS mostly preserved the bowl system that has been in place for nearly a century, the CFP more or less will obliterate it. The big bowls used to send their representatives (sporting those tacky blazers) to games all over the country to scout teams that they might want to invite, now teams will be assigned to them by a selection committee.

Though it's too early to speculate whether the entire CFP apparatus might fall apart before it even gets started, it's safe to say that the CFP is still a work in progress. While there has been much talk about expanding the playoff field to eight teams or even 16 teams, that is very much a non-starter because we haven't even dotted the i's and crossed the t's for the the four-team CFP.

First things first.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Ten Is Still College Sports' King of Cash

The Big Ten pays Jim Delany nearly $2 million a year for his work as conference commissioner, and he's worth every penny.

Under Delany's stewardship since 1989, the Big Ten has been and continues to be the richest conference in college athletics. Even though it has not won a national championship in football since 2002, the Big Ten still rakes in more cash than any other conference, including the SEC.

According to tax returns made available to USA Today, the Big Ten brought in $318.6 million in revenue for fiscal 2013. Nearly $298 million of that was distributed to its 12 members, with each school receiving between $23-$26 million (except Nebraska, which won't receive full shares until 2017-18).

Contrast that with the SEC, which is the second-richest conference despite being far more accomplished on the football field. In fiscal 2013 the SEC made $314.5 million, with its 14 member schools each receiving around $21 million (and a bit less for newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri).

So how did Delany get his conference schools more money than anybody else? And how did he do so despite the Big Ten's 1-2 record in BCS championship games and a losing record (13-15) in BCS bowl games during the 16-year run of the BCS?

The simple answer is television. Delany figured out how to leverage the large viewership of his popular conference to maximize revenue.

The 12 Big Ten schools occupy 10 of the 35 largest media markets in the United States (according to the 2013-14 Nielsen Media Research)—as compared to six for the SEC, which includes the marginal SEC markets of Houston and St. Louis. All Big Ten schools except Iowa and Nebraska dominate at least one, sometimes several of these top-ranked markets.

Delany's decision to launch the Big Ten Network in 2007 also turned out to be a stroke of genius, even if he was second-guessed at the time—especially after the BTN failed to corral all the cable providers in its first year. The BTN has grown to be a model for all other conferences, with the Pac-12 following suit two years ago and the SEC due to begin its own in August.

That's why while Delany's decision to add Maryland and Rutgers was met with widespread derision—especially given those schools' complete lack of athletic prowess in recent years—it might turn out to be another shrewd maneuver.

With Maryland and Rutgers in the fold (beginning this fall), the Big Ten adds three more top media markets (No. 1 New York, No. 8 Washington, D.C. and No. 27 Baltimore) into its already formidable lineup. This will force television providers in these markets to add BTN into the basic tier while allowing the conference to establish a firm presence on the densely populated eastern seaboard.

Delany is already looking ahead. After alternating the Big Ten basketball tournament between Chicago and Indianapolis, the 2017 tournament will be played at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Don't be surprised if the Big Ten's football title game shows up at either FedEx Field in Maryland or MetLife Stadium in New Jersey sometime soon.

“Moving into the eastern corridor, that’s the new Big Ten,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told CBSChicago's Chris Emma. “We all have to accept it, and our fans have to accept it. We want to welcome our two new members in Rutgers and Maryland, and we want a presence in the East. We want to take advantage of us expanding into the East.”

That's why as much as Maryland and Rutgers are the butt of jokes in college football, fans only laugh at Delany and his vision at their own peril. He and the Big Ten are laughing all the way to the bank.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Playoff Era and College Football's Brave New World

A sensational story making the rounds last week claims that a Chinese miner was found alive after living 17 years underground following a mine collapse. He had been trapped since 1997 and subsisted on limited fresh water and whatever critters he could find to eat.

Of course, the story turned out to be a hoax, as it was propagated by a site that's the Israeli equivalent of The Onion. But let's just pretend that Mr. Cheung Wai is for real, and he's a huge college football fan (hey, it's my story now, so I'm going with this). The first thing he asks after seeing daylight is: Who won the Rose Bowl last year?

Mr. Cheung must've been utterly confused when he's told that Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, but Florida State won the national championship at the Rose Bowl. Yeah, if you've been living under a rock for the last 17 years, as Mr. Cheung did, college football has been radically different—and will be even more so starting in 2014.

The advent of the BCS was the first monumental change in the way college football's champions are decided. Though its predecessors the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance tried, it wasn't until the BCS when all traditional bowl tie-ins were loosened and all teams were free to meet for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.

But the leap from the BCS to the College Football Playoff, due to debut in the 2014 season, trumps the introduction of the BCS.

After all, the BCS preserved and relied on the traditional poll system and merely made an accommodation to make the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup possible. During its 16-year run, only three times (2000, 2001 and 2003) did the BCS title game not feature the top two teams in the final regular-season polls—and none after the standings were fixed in 2004 to heavily favor the polls.

The College Football Playoff, on the other hand, will obliterate the clout of the polls, which go back to at least 1936, when the AP poll came into existence.

With the 13-member committee making the calls on not just the four-team playoff field, but also berths for the four other most lucrative bowls, the significance of the polls will be marginalized. The committee members will rely on many data sets to form their decisions, with the polls being just one of the tools.

This setup will prompt several significant changes in college football in the coming years:

1. It will place more importance on winning the conference championship than even during the BCS era. The odds of getting a shot at the national championship for a major conference winner has just improved from (at best) 33 percent to up to 80 percent.

2. It will force top teams in the "Group of Five" conferences to schedule up. They will need to do that not just for a slim shot at making the playoff field, but also jockey to be the team to claim the only guaranteed spot for non-power-conference teams in the CFP bowl games.

3. Depending on how the committee behaves this season, it may even force top teams in power conferences to beef up their own schedules. After all, one major champion will still be left out every year, and the key factor most likely will be strength of schedule.

4. The PR games of lobbying will continue, but will probably not be as intense as they've been in the BCS era. Instead of trying to sway some 170 voters, there are only 13 people who are theoretically more informed, more savvy and have more data at their disposal. This will lessen the influence of talking heads of TV networks, particularly ESPN and also CBS.

But as Mr. Cheung settles into his comfy chair and knocks back his first cold brew in 17 years, he'll know just as much as we do about how the selection committee will go about its business. Such is the brave new world of college football.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pac-12 Should Makes Its Move to Levi's

Larry Scott is mulling a move to put the Pac-12 football championship game at Levi's Stadium.

To borrow a phrase from the benefactor of one Pac-12 powerhouse: Just Do It.

The Pac-12 commissioner told Pete Thamel of SI.com via a text message on Thursday that, after three years of hosting on campus sites, the conference is considering a neutral site for its championship game.

Levi's Stadium, the 49ers' new home in Santa Clara, Calif., could host the game as soon as the upcoming season on Dec. 5.

It just makes too much sense.

After expanding to 12 teams in 2011, the Pac-12 has been staging its title games on the campus stadium of the team with the best regular-season record. The results have been a haphazard mess, with swaths of empty seats and schools scrambling to get tickets sold on short notice. As a result, the game severely lacked the profile of the SEC title game, held annually in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

The move to Levi's Stadium would remedy nearly all the problems that have plagued the game thus far, so let's count the ways:

* Once the site is chosen, the conference can sell tickets for the game year-round and gain additional revenue from Levi's Stadium's 165 suites and 9,000 club seats. Currently, the hosting institution has only a few days to distribute tickets and most campus stadiums have only a small number of suites and boxes.

* Levi's Stadium is a state-of-the-art facility and the most wired one in the country, befitting its location in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Hosting a game there will immediately give the Pac-12 a high profile for its championship game, especially in the stadium's inaugural season.

* The Bay Area is the geographic center of the Pac-12 conference, with two schools located there and a short, non-stop flight from the rest of the campuses. And it's home to large alumni bases for nearly all conference schools.

* The conference, with its headquarters in Walnut Creek and San Francisco, will have the benefit of being able to easily manage the event from the build-up to the actual game. A Pac-12 game between Oregon and Cal will be played at Levi's Stadium on Oct. 24, allowing the conference to study the logistics in a live-game setting.

Scott has already made a bold move by relocating the conference basketball tournament to Las Vegas two years ago. It has been an unqualified success, with huge fan support and sold-out championship games as opposed to the half-empty Staples Center where the event was held for more than a decade.

With that in his back pocket, moving the football title game shouldn't be a tough sell to the conference's school presidents, who will ultimately vote on the decision at their annual meeting in June. As the Pac-12 tries to gain a foothold in the brave new world of College Football Playoff, the relaunching of its title game would be a nice start.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pac-12 Determined to Reverse Fortunes in CFP

Pac-12's coaches are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore!

At least David Shaw of Stanford is hopping mad, while his confederates are willing to march behind him to provide at least moral support.

"I've been saying this for three years now: I think if we're going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules," Shaw said last Thursday during a Pac-12 coaches teleconference. "Play your conference. Don't back down from playing your own conference."

Shaw's fire was directed at the SEC, which voted last week to keep playing eight conference games while most of the other power conferences have decided to play nine in the upcoming College Football Playoff era. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016 while the ACC is scheduled to hold a vote in mid-May.

"I don't think I was surprised (by the SEC's decision)," said Oregon State Coach Mike Riley. "But I don't think it's right. There's got to be some equity here."

If the Pac-12 seems particularly obsessed with the SEC, it's for a good reason. If the SEC is the greatest beneficiary of the BCS during its 16-year run, the Pac-12 may be rightly viewed as its biggest victim.

The Pac-12 played in a scant three BCS title games, winning just one (USC in 2004). After the Trojans lost the epic 2005 championship game to Texas, the Pac-12 appeared in just one title game in the last eight years of the BCS, while the SEC appeared in all eight, winning seven.

To be sure, the Pac-12 is determined to reverse that trend heading into the CFP. The conference has been on a hiring spree that landed such high-profile coaches such as Chris Petersen, Mike Leach, Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez over the past three seasons. At the same time more than a billion dollars were spent by schools to upgrade stadiums and facilities, including Washington, Oregon, Cal, USC and Arizona.

The Pac-12 is hoping the conference's improved competitiveness—on and off the field—will pay off in finally corralling the elusive national championship.

In 2014, the Pac-12 will be the only power conference that plays nine conference games plus a conference championship game. While there's little it can do about the scheduling of other conferences, it will have a chance to make a statement to the selection committee by performing well in a number of key nonconference games.

Oregon will host Rose Bowl winner Michigan State and UCLA travels to Texas in early-season showdowns while Stanford, Arizona State and USC all face Notre Dame. These games will help shape public opinion—and by extension, the selection committee's view—on the strength of the conference.

The Pac-12 might even have an advantage when it comes to the selection committee. At least five of its 13 members have ties to Pac-12 schools, and though Pat Haden and Condi Rice can't vote for USC and Stanford, respectively, they may still advocate on behalf of the conference's other teams.

Pac-12 coaches are emphatic that they wouldn't water down their schedules just to improve their odds of making the four-team playoff field. They have, for the most part, accepted that all they can do is to take care of business on the field and hope that the system gives them a fair shake. Maybe.

Kyle Whittingham, whose Utah team trounced Alabama in the Sugar Bowl but did not win the national championship despite being the 2008 season's only unbeaten team, got right down to it.

"There is nothing fair in college football," he said. "That's just how it is."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

CFP Protocol: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The College Football Playoff management committee hammered out a series of protocols over a two-day meeting in Dallas that concluded Wednesday. The 10 FBS commissioners, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, laid out procedures for the 13 members of the selection committee as the CFP begins its inaugural season in 2014.

Until Wednesday, how the 13 members should go about their business was mostly guesswork. Now at least we have some clarity, as the CFP power brokers should be commended for their decision to strive for transparency.

That said, there remains many other questions and challenges ahead. Here's my look at what the committee did right and where it might have left itself open to criticism:

The Good

Weekly standings: The committee, after all, decided to go with a weekly release of its own top 25 poll starting Oct. 28 and then every Tuesday until the final matchups for the two playoff games and four other CFP bowls are announced on Dec. 7. The standings will air live on ESPN at 7 or 7:30 p.m. with chairman Jeff Long on hand to explain the rankings.

The data: The CFP has retained SportSource Analytics to provide the data platform for the committee. The members should have a wealth of statistical information to help them with ranking the teams as opposed to be the selection committees of other NCAA championships who lean heavily on the unreliable Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

The Bad

Five-step procedure: The committee laid out an extremely convoluted protocol where it takes at least four votes and most of the times many more to establish the top 25 rankings that it will release every Tuesday. This is an unnecessarily cumbersome procedure that doesn't actually enhance the strength of the rankings.

Tuesday release: Whereas the BCS standings were released each Sunday night in the second half of the season, the CFP will wait an extra 48 hours to unveil its rankings. While the fact that committee members will meet in person each week (sorry, Skype) has merit, the real reason why we must wait until Tuesday night is without a doubt television. ESPN has a Monday night football game to broadcast.

The Ugly

Recusal policy: Though most committee members have ties to at least one (and most several) FBS programs, the protocol bars them from voting for schools they current draw a paycheck from. This decision actually puts six teams at a distinct disadvantage: USC, Stanford, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Clemson and Arkansas. I had advocated and maintain that stance even more now: There should be no recusal policy at all.

The "best four teams": These are allegedly the teams that will be put into the CFP playoff field, according to Long, and at least that vernacular goes against the committee's previous commitment to reward conference champions. The nebulous concept is exactly what gave us the all-SEC debacle in the 2011 BCS title game, and the committee would be better served not to give in to this and stick with its original plan.

Overall, the committee has shown itself to be sensitive to public opinion as best attested by its decision to release a weekly ranking. But even the best-intentioned plans are just that—an idea—until it's put to test in a true trial-by-fire inaugural season of 2014.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Other Conferences Should Boycott Scheduling SEC

The SEC wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The other conferences shouldn't lend it a fork.

The SEC's long-awaited resolution to its scheduling question is to not do a dadgum thing. It will continue to play eight conference games with just this one caveat—each school is mandated to play another Big 5 conference team each season beginning in 2016.

But why should the other four of the Big 5 conferences accommodate this? What's in it for them?

By the 2016 season, the SEC will be the only one of the Big 5 conferences to play only eight conference games. The ACC also plays eight, but five conference members must play Notre Dame each year, so technically that makes it 8.35. The Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will all be playing nine conference games by 2016.

Our previous extensive study of the 2014 out-of-conference (OOC) schedule already revealed that, across the board, the SEC plays the weakest non-conference games. Each of its 14 members plays one FCS team in its four OOC games and six of them don't play any OOC games on the road. Four SEC members have OOC schedules ranked in the bottom 10 among 124 non-independent FBS teams.

By keeping the the eight-game conference schedule, the SEC essentially tips the competitive scale in its favor for both the top and bottom teams. For teams vying to get into the four-team College Football Playoff field, they improve their chances by needing to win fewer games against top competition. For the cellar dwellers, they may qualify for a bowl berth with a mere 2-6 conference record.

So what's the incentive for the other conferences to help out the SEC by scheduling OOC games? So the SEC can make sure its top team—or even a second team—make the CFP field annually? So the SEC can have more bowl teams? So the SEC can have more attractive games in its inventory for the nascent SEC Network?

The commissioners of the other Big 5 conferences should issue an edict telling their member schools that, aside from existing contracts, they should not schedule SEC teams for OOC games in the future, unless they're extremely high-profile games approved by the conference offices.

Jim Delany should make sure to tell Maryland and Rutgers: You like the $45 million TV money that'll soon fill up your coffers annually? Good, don't you dare be a patsy for some SEC powerhouse.

The reality is that most Big 5 conference teams already play at least one fellow Big 5 OOC opponent—in 2014 only 10 teams won't do that and four come from the SEC. Essentially the SEC is preferring the status quo that made it the undisputed on-field powerhouse during the BCS era and enriched it through television and postseason revenues so it now out-earns all other conferences except the Big Ten.

And the other conferences should just like it and ask for more of the same?