BY Art Thiel 04:59AM 07/13/2010

As college pie grows, UW wants bigger slice

Time to even up the Pac-10 TV money grab

Pac-10 new logo

New Pac-10 logo

Escaping his day job as a re-shaper of college football worlds, Scott Woodward busted out to his ‘hood over the weekend for a little Q-Pon and bon temps.

At the home of longtime friend and political semi-savant James Carville, the University of Washington athletic director and Louisiana native introduced the Husky hoops summa cum laude, Quincy Pondexter, to the big life in the Big Easy.

Pondexter ended up a first-round draftee of the Hornets of New Orleans, a place he does not know. After the introduction and dinner, Pondexter now has a place to do laundry and snatch some homemade leftover jambalaya out of the fridge.

“Quincy’s a great kid,” said Woodward, “and I thought he would enjoying meeting some people.”

Note to USC and Pete Carroll: The key to college sports success is to introduce star players to the hospitality of rich big shots AFTER they graduate.

Woodward stashed his tour-bus-driver hat and returned Tuesday to Seattle, from where he can’t stray too long for fear that the college-sports tsunami will consume his job.

On the cusp of his second anniversary as The Man of Montlake, he already has AD tenure over Washington’s three largest football rivals: Washington State, Oregon and USC. He’s also been around longer than the Pac-10 commissioner, two university presidents as well as two conference members, Colorado and Utah.

At this churn rate two years from now, Woodward will probably succeed as university president the person who will succeed Mark Emmert, who is leaving the job this fall to run the NCAA.

Nobody is expecting you to follow all these potential movements; merely be alert that in big-time college sports, it’s best not to become too emotionally attached to any person, thing, idea or conference head count.

The sacking of USC AD Mike Garrett continues the urge to purge at Heritage Hall, where some heavyweight sanctions delivered by the NCAA figures, for awhile at least, to damage the Trojans empire.

At Oregon, the fate of the football program rests not with the coaches but with probation officers, a new university president and a new athletic director who — horrors! — has never served as personal valet to Nike demon Phil Knight.

Next week, Woodward and fellow movers in the Pac-10-cum-12 will consider another change that, while not as glamorous as scandal and criminality, is nevertheless a big financial deal.

At a meeting July 30 in Pasadena, the Pac-10 will start considering whether to share TV revenues equally.

Seems like such an obvious bit of business that the surprise is that such a feature wasn’t always done.

But for more than 20 years, the conference has given 55 percent of TV revenues to the schools participating in the telecast, and divided the remaining 45 percent among the rest of the schools.

The net effect over the years has been more money to the schools in the biggest TV market, Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent, Seattle. With the explosion of TV rights fees for college football, the once-insignificant difference has become a big deal.

“There is a gross disparity,” Woodward said. “It’s a real problem; if you share revenues equally, you get closer competitively. For a school like Washington State, you could close the gap by as much as two-thirds.

“Sharing TV revenues is what the Big 10 and Southeastern Conference (as well as the ACC and Big East) do, and they are the most successful conferences financially. (Smaller SEC schools) Mississippi State and Vanderbilt and (smaller Big 10 schools) Northwestern and Indiana are on solid financial ground because of the shared revenues. They don’t have revenues to be at the top of the pyramid, but they have enough to be competitive.”

In other words, even beyond cheating, there are reasons why USC could win seven consecutive Pac-10 championships.

But don’t get the idea from his supportive thoughts about WSU that Woodward had a few too many Hurricanes during his Bourbon Street weekend.

He still doesn’t have much affection for his Palouse brethren. As a part of the financial reform under consideration, Woodward hopes that the Pac-10 will also abandon its rivalry-game rule that has the schools splitting the gate every year. Because Washington has a huge stadium and Washington State the league’s smallest, UW subsidizes WSU about $400,000 a year.

Woodward figures a vote to share TV revenues will more than compensate the Cougs for the loss of Apple Cup revenue.

“Most (Pac-10) people are understanding about (the gate disparity),” he said. “In the end, I expect it to go away. WSU has more to gain than anyone, by an exponential factor, from sharing TV revenues.”

The Big 12 Conference also does not share TV revenues equally. But the imbalance was so weighted in favor of Texas that it drove Nebraska to madness, or the Big 10, whichever you prefer, which lit the fuse for the recent conference realignments.

In the wildest scenario that nearly came to pass, six teams, including Texas, would have joined the Pac-10, a cutthroat piracy that would have destroyed the Big 12.

The biggest potential consequence that no one seemed to care about except the schools involved was that Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas would have been orphaned, at least for a time. Those schools would eventually have to join second-tier conferences, despite having programs that pay first-tier coaching salaries and charge first-tier ticket prices.

Such a sweeping change would have been a fast step toward what some still see as an inevitability: Four superconferences of 16 teams each, with a playoff system. The other teams currently in Division I? Gawdblessya.

That outcome seems more distant, for now. This summer, the Pac-10-cum-12 seems poised to re-cut its pie in a dozen equitable slices, adding a scoop of ice cream — a new conference championship game. Money for everyone.

For fans understandably aghast at the shameless skirt-hiking engaged in by college-sports institutions, remember this: The money they’re after is network money, which means it’s not tax money that would otherwise be begged to support the entertainment unit of the state-subsidized universities.

As with other pursuits of illicit pleasure, I don’t much care what people do with their lives, as long as I don’t have to pay for it.


YourThoughts

  • Bayviewherb

    Well said, Art.

  • Bayviewherb

    Well said, Art.