Sorry, President-elect Obama, but it's hard to imagine a college football playoff system even coming up for serious negotiations for several more years now that ESPN has won the rights to televise the Bowl Championship Series from 2011-14.
Fox, which paid $320 million for the rights to televise BCS games from 2007-10, chose not to match ESPN's unspecified offer for those games — and didn't sound exactly pleased with the outcome.
"Even with today’s vast economic uncertainties, Fox Sports made a very competitive bid to keep broadcasting BCS games free to every home in America, one that included a substantial rights fee increase, and certainly as much as any over-the-air network could responsibly risk," the television network said in a statement released this afternoon. "Unfortunately, the University presidents and BCS commissioners were not satisfied, and they’ve decided to take their jewel events to pay television."
In an interview later with The News & Observer, Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio made clear that it came down to a difference between "how much they were looking for and how much we could bring in with a single revenue stream." He explained that Fox, as an over-the-air network, relies strictly on advertising revenue, while ESPN is paid both by advertisers and cable and satellite TV providers, "so they can tap both resources to bid on a property like this."
ESPN would not comment on any BCS agreement, but e-mailed a retort for Fox to The Associated Press: “We remind everyone that ESPN is distributed on expanded basic, a product enjoyed by 98 million homes that offers the best entertainment buy in America and that already carries many championship caliber sports events,” spokesman Mike Soltys wrote.
The switch isn't exactly bad news to many viewers who felt as if Fox's coverage of the games showed its ignorance of college football. TV critic Molly Willow of The Columbus Dispatch called Fox's coverage of last season's BCS title game, in which LSU defeated Ohio State, "the TV equivalent of giving Buckeye Nation a paper cut — a big one — and pouring a Gatorade bucket of lemon juice on it."
Getting back to a playoff system, President-elect Obama, in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," said he's use his influence to push for one. If it were up to him, eight teams would play over three rounds to settle the national champion.
“You could trim back on the regular season," Obama was quoted as saying. "I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.”
That was enough to prompt a response from ACC Commissioner John Swofford, the BCS coordinator.
“First of all, I want to congratulate newly elected President Obama, and I am glad he has a passion for college football like so many other Americans,” Swofford said in a statement. “For now, our constituencies — and I know he understands constituencies — have settled on the current BCS system, which the majority believe is the best system yet to determine a national champion while also maintaining the college football regular season as the best and most meaningful in sports.”
By "majority," is Swofford referring to most college football fans in general or most college presidents and bowl game executives?