The opening of Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s piece from last weekend would make Paul Finebaum blush:
Mike Slive is brilliant.
An absolute genius.
How do we know Slive is such hot shit? Because after Slive mentioned "Division IV" to some reporters last week, Bianchi figured out the SEC commissioner's devious long con:
Color me cynical, but I don't think it's just coincidence that the Power 5 are talking about forming their own division at the same time as the new College Football Playoff system is set to begin. The new playoff format will generate a boatload of new money — money that the Power 5 would ideally like to keep for themselves so they can fund their noble new mission of taking care of their student-athletes, er, athlete-students.
That's why Slive's power play is so incredibly ingenious: Because he is about to turn a financial hit into a financial windfall. It costs a lot of money to fund all these extra benefits for athletes. It will be much easier to pay for if the Power 5 can just break off into their own division, cut schools like UCF out of the equation and keep all of the football and maybe even basketball money for themselves.
Bianchi apparently expects us to take it on faith that cutting out schools like UCF would generate piles of new revenue for the big boys – the only number mentioned in the article is the $310 million being distributed among the SEC members schools this year, prima facie evidence that the league is “financially shrewd and ruthlessly cutthroat.” But there must be some kind of pot of gold waiting at the end of this gambit, right? After all, it would require the Power 5 schools to break the contract that they just signed with the other conferences, all but guaranteeing a lawsuit and a Congressional inquiry.
How big of a heist are we talking about here?
According to reports on the parameters of the new playoff system, from 2014 to 2025, the revenue will be split roughly 70-30 in favor of the Power 5 conferences. As such, each will earn an average of at least $91 million annually in postseason dough. The other five conferences will receive approximately $18 million every year.
In other words, under Bianchi’s doomsday scenario, the SEC is angling to break its contract with the MACs and Mountain Wests of the world for what would amount to an extra $18 million a year for the league. Split that $18 million up among the SEC’s 14 members, and we’re talking about a little more than a million bucks a year. I’m pretty sure you could shake that loose from the couch cushions in any SEC athletic director’s office.
If that’s Slive’s play, I’d like to cordially invite him to my weekly poker game.
The moral of the story: When people like Slive rattle their sabers, they’re banking on people like Bianchi telling everyone just how scary it is.