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College Football's $650M Elephant in Room

CFB's Postseason Vital to NCAA's Health
Posted at 9:58 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 23:39:39-04

College Football has a $650 million elephant in the room. That is the amount college football teams shared from postseason revenue in 2019. It's a bit of a golden egg and many of the league's decisions right now have this in the back of its mind.

Last week the NCAA cleared voluntary workouts to begin June 1, overcoming a major hurdle towards playing this fall. Many around the sport feel good about playing the season, playing on time, and playing with fans. But one thing that there is still no answers to is what will happen when teams start having positive virus test results.

"Really come June 8th we're going to have to know, one - what is that threshold? Is it one of five before you have to make a decision and then what are your options?" said Louisiana Athletic Director Dr. Bryan Maggard. The Cajuns open their facilities to athletes June 8th.

Many of the attendance constraints will be made by local governments, while the NCAA's biggest decision will be deciding how to handle positive tests. At the moment, it's the biggest threat to the season and postseason. The College Football Playoffs alone paid out $550 million last year. The NCAA gives each Power Five conference a base payout of $66 million. The New Year's Six bowl contracts balloon those numbers by tens of millions. In 2019, the SEC brought in $140 million, according to Forbes. So, the group of five schools see $90 million to split. Dr. Maggard estimates that UL on average sees $900K-1.2M of that.

"That's a good amount of money for a budget of our size. Not having a CFP would be detrimental and just another hit to out financials," he said.

On top of the New Year's Six/CFP money are the other bowl games; those bring in $100 million, bringing the total to $650 million dollars. A number more than double the $275 million the NCAA pays out to conferences for the men's and women's basketball championships.

"There will be a definite residual impact if you can't have fans. But, if you can continue to have the sport, games are televised and have a full CFP, there will be some revenue that comes in," said Maggard. "But it's not an ideal situation, by any means."

The loss of that March Madness money was a shot in the arm for many schools, and is the leading reason many ended the school year in the red. Schools across the nation are cutting programs in part because of it. Appalachian State cut three teams Tuesday. So what would happen if schools could get their part of the $650 million college football pays out in the postseason? That number, of course, would likely be coupled by lost fan revenue and lost TV revenue if the season is shortened. It's not a rope anyone wants to walk, which is why every decision about college football is made with long-term health in mind.

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