CU At The Game Podcast – In the Post NCAA-World, Will CU Have a Seat at the Big Boy Table?

This is Stuart Whitehair, publisher and editor for the CU at the Game website, and your host for the CU at the Game podcast.

The off-season for college football has become almost as busy and newsworthy as the regular season, with the future of the sport being debated in courtrooms and boardrooms across the nation.

I am joined for this episode by Neil Langland, and we are here to discuss the disintegration – or re-invention – of college football as we know it. We take a brief detour into the history of litigation which brought us to the current chaos, from Jeremy Bloom’s case against the NCAA twenty years ago, to the landmark decisions in the O’Bannon and Alston cases, which lay the groundwork for the tectonic shifts taking place today.

So … With the Dartmouth case allowing players to vote on forming a union, and the Tennessee and Virginia lawsuit against the NCAA likely to bring about a stripping of almost all NIL regulations, where is the sport heading in the near and long term future? … Will the Big Ten/SEC “advisory group” develop solutions, or are even the big boy conferences merely wholly owned subsidiaries of ESPN and Fox? … And, most importantly for Buff fans: Will Coach Prime have enough time to salvage the CU brand, giving the Buffs a chair to sit in when the music stops? … Or, is it time for schools like Colorado to accept, and perhaps even embrace, a future in a new mid-tier college football world where the Buffs can once again compete on a level playing field with its competition?

Let’s find out …

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5 Replies to “CUATG Podcast: CU’s Place in the Post-NCAA World”

  1. Stuart and Neil that was a good listen. Change is coming. We are heading to a super-league of sorts.

    Neil’s focus on the interrelated TV companies and certain conferences on point. TV is real evil and driving force. The Fox/ESPN etc… collusion is obvious. Also, if you don’t have the ESPN, ABC, Disney and Time Warner conglomerate; you have 2 distinct big conference contracts that they have to split. Then hopefully, NBC floats ND, probably the ACC but maybe the PAC-12–as they do golf. CBS is home to one conference. If this happens, you would have 4-5 true conferences. IMO, if they (the other conferences, NCAA, various stakeholders, governors, politicians etc…) want to reign things in or help direct this process, an anti-trust examination for TV has to be targeted. Next angle, would be the NCAA, States/Governors and Congress stepping up, if the set up is not good for college athletics in general. Maybe, they require a revenue share or luxury tax to support competition across the country.

    Whenever the contraction/re-alignment occurs, I would see revenue sharing for those power teams. It is the only way to make things competitive. Title IX will complicate that, and I see not way around it, absent a special exemption/legal change. A special exemption, would be something passed permitting the new structure that mandates X be collectively paid for women’s sports, and it could be women’s sports through all college sports (i.e.–for smaller league colleges where football cannot float everything, the revenue share shores up these women’s sports).

    Three points on Football:

    (1) college football for a school is very much a “brand,” of sorts. If you want to play with the big boys, you have to be a brand that attracts–alums, fans, donors, sponsorships, viewers, TV (games at Folsom are special), apparel, etc… That is why Prime is such an anomaly, CU’s football is not even .500 yet, but CU is in the Top-10 in Brand in overall exposure given all the hype, buzz, stories, coverage etc… CU’s national brand is now as strong as it has ever been. This creates the season “storybook lines.” This is not something that TV will pass up on.

    (2) Neil hit on the base requirement of college admins being all-in supporting/promoting athletics in a winning/competitive fashion; rather than accepting mediocre, a check, and then playing for crumbs/a bowl just for the sake of playing. IMO, the Conference identity (i.e. PAC-12 Ivory Tower) argument for academics is gone. It is now football, to pay for the rest of your AD. This is a gut check time for those schools and ADs. If your AD is on rocky financial ground or you may just get by year-to-year; maybe they may need to pass on you; and your school needs to let it pass. Sorry Vandy, Miss. State, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, NV, and then others in the ACC/B-12.

    For the Pac-12, alarm bells should have been ringing about 14-2016, as many schools were starting posting substantial losses, as far back as then. UCLA, CAL, Zona and WSU all float mammoth debts, with NO ST solution to pay them off. OSU ran a skeleton budget. UW (FS rocky as of summer 2023, maybe better with CFP $$) and Stanford floated cutting sports until their Alums kicked down. CU would be there except the Prime infusion. IMO, UU was the only competitive state school in the PAC which sort-of balanced a budget. ORE has Phil Knight, USC is private so does not report–however I’m not sure how solid they were with bad attendance–as they do not seem to have the football powerhouse infrastructure that they once had. UCLA should have never hit the rock bottom it has.

    (3) If contraction realignment happens, I think the P-4 powers that be have to look at 1-2; then defaults to enrollment size; stadium size; championships; tv market size, alum base, and perhaps geography. TV market size is where I see CU and having an advantage over both the Arizona and Utah teams having to float 2 schools.

    Last points:

    (1) Undoubtedly this will reverberate down to non-football sports. Schools at all levels will have to get serious about how many sports they can float and how. I fear for this impact at all levels of college competition. It makes no sense for them to travel across the country to play in the B1G or ACC. If there FB budget dissipates, then their budget is gone;

    (2) I think that we are already somewhat there, but in-state rivalries may be a casualty;

    (3) I have known for years the B1G floats the MAC by paying to play (crush) them as OCC conferences. Ohio State used to only play 2-3 Ohio cupcakes. IMO, this should go away with a Super-League. When you go back to the 60’s-80’s, CU had success but LSUs, Iowas, Miami, Ore, UCLA, Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State etc… all came to play . . . then you played the B-8 schedule. This made the season.

    (4) I do find everything to be somewhat cyclical. IMO, this has been as much of a TV play as a power-conference play. If TV expands getting better with more TV players (maybe Apple gets in w/ a regional), more competition, conceivably some of the PAC teams that bolted may decide to come home in 10 years, if it is not working on the gridiron (a bunch of 5-7, 6-6, 7-5), other sports are a mess, with budget losses. I could see that with FL, TX and other teams trying a super-league; and it does not work. They may like the way it was.

    1. I am thinking, at least the Big 10 and SEC will go full pay for view or subscription service. That will get me cold turkey. The way the rest of cable and satellite TV is going that might be for sports at any level. I’m getting to the point I have seen all the reruns and redundant movies for my 80 bucks a month and am now spending more time on PBS….and no sophomoric and way too many commercials (yes I donate). Not only will you have to make an extra subscription to watch any professional sports but its a sure thing you will still be able to read a paper while you are forcing out a number 2 and wash a sink full of dishes during the “TV time outs”

    2. Not so sure CU will have a geographic and demographic advantage over The UT and AZ schools. I had to drive the 140 miles between Logan and Payson UT in mid morning after the morning rush and it couldn’t have been anymore congested for the entire 140 miles. Colorado, as a state may still hold a population advantage but the Utah population isnt quite as transitory and Colorado, once again, has more things to do besides sit for 3 hours on a glorious afternoon outside. I am a” victim” of the outside too. Add to that the UT population is more focused on college football (no pro team) and the UT BYU rivalry is probably more intense than many across the country which does bring more viewership that ripples to other outside games.
      The Phoenix area is simply the 5th largest population center in the country. Tucson, may suffer but maybe its my experience living at 7000 feet in SW Colorado where we get an huge influx of “sun birds,” as opposed to snow birds to get away from summer frying temps. A big majority of them wear ASU hats.
      Also wondering how the second tier schools are going to avoid the bidding wars. Stuart mentioned the players unionizing. I imagine that union contracts would lead to a counter to a monopoly of compensation restrictions by the schools. That sounds like a can of worms when you consider the range of money between a school like Dartmouth and a much larger viewership like CU provided that CU is relegated to a second tier league. What id the players go as far as to form a nation wide union?

      1. Your last sentence about a nationwide union? I think title IX will basically require it, and it will include non rev sport representation. I don’t see how it cannot.

        Go Buffs

  2. CU does not have enough sports to be at the “big boy table.” All the so called “big boys” have good football programs and many sports CU use to have but no longer does. Deficient.

    Go Buffs

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