Football playoff in 2014 expected to drive revenue to new heights

Slive, right, went on the offensive in pushing Slive, right, went on the offensive in pushing change and reiterated proposals he made in Hoover two years ago, including boosting financial aid for athletes, upgrading recruiting rules to fit the new technology and social media and increasing academic eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and transfers. Photo Credit: AP, 2012

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The BCS title game has broken the cable television ratings record the past two years, and the Jan. 7 matchup between traditional national powers Notre Dame and Alabama has the potential to send the numbers through the roof. BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday that's evidence the old system is working, but he predicted the future four-team playoff will change the way fans look at the sports calendar.

Hancock made his remarks as part of a panel of movers and shakers assembled for the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum that opened its two-day run at a midtown Manhattan hotel. Referring to critics of the BCS system, Hancock said, "Every year people say Armageddon is going to happen, and every year we deliver. There have been 15 BCS [title games], and 12 times, we've had the Nos. 1 and 2 teams, including nine years in a row. We're doing it right."

Burke Magnus, senior vice-president of college sports programming at ESPN, declined to make a ratings prediction but said his network is "thrilled about the matchup."

With the focus on the big business of college athletics at a time of unprecedented change and growth in television revenue, most of those in attendance view this as a boom time for college athletics no matter what's happening in the rest of the economy. And the four-team college football playoff that begins with the 2014 season is expected to drive revenue to new heights.

Hancock said a framework for the revenue formula is in place, though final details have yet to be resolved, and the next step is putting together a selection committee. Because preparation time is short for the first playoff, the venue will be selected soon for the Jan. 12, 2015 game and likely will wind up at the site of a current major bowl.

"Our semifinals will be on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day," Hancock said. When it came time to close the session with predictions about the biggest changes on the horizon, Hancock added, "We will change the nature of New Year's Eve with our playoffs. It will become a national holiday."

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Clearly, the intention is to clear the decks of other bowl games on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day to focus on the national semifinal doubleheader.

Some believe the financial bonanza will be so great that it will force the playoff format to expand to accommodate eight teams. But Hancock said the 12-year contract ensures it will remain at four teams during that span.

Rutgers sues Big East. Rutgers is suing the Big East Conference, trying to avoid paying an exit fee. Rutgers is trying to avoid a $10 million hit for leaving en route to the Big Ten. Big East bylaws state a school must give 27 months' notice and pay a $10-million withdrawal fee. The suit says the Big East selectively enforced the rules. -- AP

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