College presidents and league commissioners unanimously agreed to the structure of a four-team football playoff Monday during BCS meetings in Denver.
College football’s new playoff system will feature only six marquee bowl games, but will guarantee access to a team from the five non-power conferences, the BCS’ presidential oversight committee decided in a brief meeting Monday afternoon.
The presidents also approved the general framework for revenue distribution and gave conference commissioners the go-ahead to secure a TV rights deal.
The smaller conferences known as the “Group of Five” – Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West and Sun Belt – had pushed for addition of a seventh bowl beginning in 2014, when college football moves to a four-team playoff. The Big 12 and Pac-12 also were in favor of the extra bowl, which would have allowed a second guaranteed slot for those conferences’ teams. But with little interest from potential TV partners, commissioners ultimately decided against the idea.
“It was a possibility up until the end,” said Big East commissioner Mike Aresco of the seventh bowl. “But this was a better plan for us. It gives us the same guaranteed access for our conference champion. We’ll work out the revenue. We’ll be fine.”
The commissioners were also given approval by the presidential oversight committee to secure a TV rights deal. Current rights-holder ESPN is in an exclusive negotiating window that ends later this week, according to BCS executive director Bill Hancock. Sports Business Journal reported last week the network was close to a deal worth as much as $500 million annually and perhaps as much as $7.3 billion over the life of the 12-year contract. But there was at least some sentiment to test the value with potential bidders like Fox, NBC or Turner.
Navigate Research, a Chicago-based firm that measures the value of marketing and media rights, originally estimated the package might be worth from $400-450 million annually. On the open market, Navigate’s director of analytics Jeff Nelson estimated the annual value could reach $550-600 million.
“It’s clearly very, very valuable,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Monday.
The current BCS TV deal pays $180 million a year.
Ten percent of total revenue will be tied to teams’ academic performance rates (APR). If a team’s APR falls below an undetermined threshold, it would lose that portion of the revenue. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said the portion is expected to be designated for academic purposes.
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