Discrepancies in non-AQ revenue distribution might prompt change

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
There's no doubt that one of the biggest disservices of the current BCS system is the
payout structure for the nonautomatic qualifying conferences, and it's something Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson addressed during his address Wednesday during media days.

"We're never going to stop the challenge because of the revenue piece," Thompson said.

Thompson's biggest gripe was the nonautomatic qualifying conferences sharing revenue from a team going to a BCS bowl and sharing the overall chunk of BCS money that's given to every conference for its participation.

Utah's appearance in the Sugar Bowl netted $9.6 million for the five-conference coalition. About $6 million of that went to the Mountain West for having the participant while the rest was split into shares for the other conferences.

The five conferences also split another $9.6 million for their participation in the BCS. That number works out to roughly 9 percent of the BCS' total revenue. That BCS revenue share is split in half and each of the five conferences is given an equal portion of one of the halves. The other half is split into 15 shares and handed out based on performance. I outlined this process in an earlier post in June.

So, overall the Mountain West netted about $9.7 million this year (though it earned about $8.5 million after sharing the agreement). The WAC came in second with about $3.2 million.

That's pocket change compared to the $23.1 million the Big 10, SEC and Big 12 each made last season according to the NCAA. The Pac-10, ACC and Big East each made 18.6 million. Notre Dame made $1.3 million for going 7-6.

Obviously, the biggest reason for the huge deficit is access to BCS bowl games and the sharing. Not to mention that the five non-AQ schools are sharing 9 percent of the BCS' $148 million revenue.

This is what prompted Thompson to say on Wednesday that he'd like to adopt the winner-take-all approach to BCS revenue. In 2004, when Utah became the first BCS buster, the Mountain West earned $14.6 million. That number was just $1.6 million less than the Pac-10, ACC and Big East made that same year. That was also before the five non-AQ conferences had to share the BCS bowl money.

"I can see those other four leagues getting some for participation, but the best for us would be when a conference gets a team in the BCS, the other 9 percent goes totally to that conference," Thompson said.

Since 2004, the Mountain West has earned $32.67 million in BCS revenue, according to a document published by the NCAA. The WAC, which has had two BCS participants in that time, has made $23.5 million. It's also interesting to note that the Mountain West earned about $780,800 more for its BCS appearance than the WAC did in 2006 and about $618,800 more than the WAC earned in 2007 (again, before the money was shared with the other four conferences).

Thompson will have his chance to pitch going back to the old way of revenue distribution when the five conferences revisit the matter for the 2010 season. The current revenue distribution system has been in place for three seasons and is in its final season.

However, it's highly probable that Thompson will meet resistance on going back to the old style because BCS revenue for conferences such as Conference USA, the Mid-American and Sun Belt have nearly doubled since 2004. In 2004, Conference USA and the MAC made just over $1 million and the Sun Belt made $720,000. This year, Conference USA earned $2.6 million, the MAC earned about $2 million and the Sun Belt nabbed $1.5 million in BCS revenue.