The Edmond Sun

Opinion

August 24, 2012

Football superconference could be a winning ticket for colleges

EDMOND — As the days of August tick slowly toward September, college football fans across the country are eagerly counting down toward the kickoff of another season. Undoubtedly, there will be some who bemoan the changing landscape of college football as more autumn traditions like Texas/Texas A&M and Missouri/Kansas come to an unceremonious end. And many will blame the greed of school administrators for it.

While the lure of financial gains has undeniably spawned some of the realignment in college sports, it easily could have been much more significant. The fact is that the top major college athletic programs could generate much more revenue by following a different path — by creating a football-only superconference. To understand why, we must explore the economics of college sports.

From a business perspective, one aspect of college sports is immediately obvious — football is king. It is football after all that generates the most revenue, because it is football that has the most demand from fans (and as a result from television networks). On the other hand, most other college sports fail to generate enough revenue to cover their operating costs. In business terms, football is a cash cow.

But it is more than just revenue that sets football apart. At only 12 games, football schedules are relatively short compared to most of the other Olympic sports. This allows the games to be held less frequently. This is important because it limits the amount of times that teams must spend traveling and the amount of time student-athletes must spend away from class. Furthermore, since college football games are most commonly held on Saturday afternoons, student-athletes are forced to miss few classes. This is unlike some other sports, like basketball with more than 25 games per season, often held during school nights.

So, what do these different characteristics mean for the optimal structure of college sports? Since football generates so much more revenue a more costly structure is viable. Furthermore, since the games are held mainly on weekends with relatively less impact on academic schedules, longer trips are more feasible. The combined effect is that compared to the other sports, football conferences with a larger, more expansive footprint are more economically viable. Conversely, for the other sports it is important that conference alignments, and therefore team schedules, cover a smaller geographic area.

This is part of the reason why school administrators of the top programs across the country have struggled with the decisions to change conference affiliations. On one hand, administrators want the additional revenue a larger conference can generate. On the other hand, they express concern about the impact on their student-athletes. The problem is that they are trying to fit one model of conference alignment onto two different markets and it doesn’t fit well.

The solution? Two business models.

For the non-football sports, the optimal structure is for conferences to cover small, geographic areas. This limits both the cost to the schools and the travel-time for student-athletes. For football though, the optimal structure are large, national superconferences. There is no reason that a school’s football conference must be the same conference for all sports. In fact, a number of schools already differentiate between the two. Imagine OU and OSU joining schools from California, Texas and Florida to create a truly national football superconference. With the right schools, it would be much more profitable.

Remember, more profits to these schools is not such a bad thing. It is through this extra revenue that these schools are able to provide student-athletes in other sports the opportunity to play and receive an education. Without the revenue football generates, many of these other sports would not be active. With more revenue, more students benefit.

It is true that the quest for more money has unsettled the college sports landscape. However, it is also true that if college presidents wanted to maximize the benefit they offer to their student-athletes they shake up college sports even more.

MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results