TEXT OF INTERVIEW
MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: If you’re a fan of University of Michigan football you’re probably not too happy with the Bowl Championship Series right now. After all the computer calculations and polls, the Florida Gators jumped past the Wolverines. It will be Florida who faces Ohio State for the national championship on Jan. 8. It’s been almost 10 years since TV networks and the six major collegiate sports conferences dreamed up this system, yet the BCS is still a lightening rod for controversy. David Carter is the Executive Director of the USC Sports Business Institute. I asked him whether even the TV networks were happy with the system.
DAVID CARTER: I don’t think they’re precisely happy with it at this point, but you have to understand they were part of creating this. And right now they too want to see it continue to be refined. There are schools like Boise State, Louisville that are going to be playing in big BCS games this year, probably not going to be a ratings bonanza for Fox for some of those games. But if you really think about the Rose Bowl and you think about this national championship game coming up, these are ballgames that these networks are paying a lot of money, $30 million is what ABC is paying for the Rose Bowl for instance through 2014 . So there’s a lot of money on the line for these kinds of games. And if there is a “true” national championship game, people will tune in and everybody will make a lot of money from it. And that’s typically what college football is all about.
THOMAS: People complain, I complain, about the two weeks between the championship game and the Super Bowl in the NFL. Why do we have to put up with six weeks between the end of the college season and the big game to decide who’s No. 1?
CARTER: Well there are a few reasons for that, I mean, it boils down to time and money. First of all, you need to have adequate time between the traditional bowls, including the BCS bowls, and this title game. In fact there’s about a one-week spread between the end of the major BCS games and this title game. You also want to avoid the considerable shadow cast by the NFL. That is critical as they come to the end of their season and they work their way into the playoffs. And then again you have an opportunity for advertisers, sponsors, Fox and others attached to this game, the running room to market and promote their affiliation with the game. So time and money has led this game to slipping, if you will, until January 8.
THOMAS: You call this a game, we call this a game, but there’s a lot of money involved here too. The Ohio State-Florida match-up alone is expected to generate $315 million in economic impact. Is it still really a game?
CARTER: College football is big business and I don’t know that anybody really needs to apologize for that. Fans, alumni, you name it, boosters, everybody on down the line associated with college football loves it, they’re spending a lot of time and disposable income on it and I don’t think there’s anything wrong that. I think the critical issue is what does college football collectively do about it as it becomes even a bigger and bigger business, meaning how much of this is going to flow back to student athletes in the form of some sort of support on campus. How much of it is going to go toward finding the right balance between commercialization of college football and matriculating student athletes. That’s always been one of the big debates. So to me, as this becomes more about money year in and year out, I think the critical thing is what’s the impact going to be on the college experience, much more so than whether Michigan got jobbed by the BCS system this year.
THOMAS: David Carter is Executive Director of the USC Sports Business Institute. And in Los Angeles I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Have a great day.