Wiedmer: Maybe Exxon can save BCS

Wiedmer: Maybe Exxon can save BCS

November 18th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Due to their long history of mutual contempt and loathing, it's probably unreasonable to expect Alabama football fans to celebrate Auburn's miracle victory over Georgia on Saturday evening.

But that doesn't mean that Tigers triumph won't ultimate insure the Crimson Tide a spot in the BCS title game -- assuming it defeats Auburn on the road 12 days from today, then wins the SEC championship game a week later.

That's because of the top four undefeated teams in the new BCS poll -- Bama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor -- the sixth-rated Tigers are the highest ranked remaining opponent of any of the Fab Four.

So even though this weekend's game for Bama against our Chattanooga Mocs figures to further lessen its stranglehold on No. 1, if it can hold off Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30, it should head into the SEC title game on top, which would almost assuredly keep it there for the BCS title game, if it three-peats as SEC champ.

But that doesn't make it any better or more fair for unbeatens Ohio State and Baylor, who would seem to have little chance of bypassing either Bama or FSU, even if they win out.

And while Baylor still has tough tests against Oklahoma State this weekend and Texas on Dec. 7, Ohio State should finish undefeated for a second year in a row under coach Urban Meyer -- a run of 24 straight games -- and have nothing to show for it with the BCS.

Whatever you think of the Big Has Been as a conference, that's just wrong. Especially when the Buckeyes are averaging 59 points a contest over their last three starts and 49.4 ppg on the season. And given that -- coupled with Bama's listless 20-7 win at Mississippi State on Saturday -- can anyone say with certainty that Ohio State is without question no better than third nationally?

There is a way out of this, and it would be a win-win for not just the BCS programs, but college athletics in general.

Yes, slightly tweaking the current bowls to move next year's four-team playoff to this season would make more sense. But current contracts probably wouldn't allow that without an act of Congress, which has proven time and time again that the thing it does best is doing nothing.

But consider this: What if some mega company -- Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Apple, Budweiser, McDonald's -- sponsored a winner-take-all game if two teams emerged from the bowl season undefeated? What if that sponsor guaranteed $30 million to each participating school, with $90 million delivered to the NCAA to be divided among all its Division I schools -- including FCS football programs such as UT-Chattanooga, which would roughly equate to $250,000 per school?

Again, it could only happen if the bowls ended with two undefeated teams, but that possibility clearly exists today, with the newest rankings set to pit Alabama versus Florida State in the championship game with Ohio State versus Baylor for the consolation prize.

Yet big businesses didn't get to be big businesses by making decisions based on emotion. Committing more than $200 million -- remember, you've got to televise it -- has to be good for the company beyond making millions of college football fans happy.

So here's the smart business side: According to Forbes, the most profitable Super Bowl regarding ad revenue was the 2012 game (2011 season) between the New England Patriots and eventual world champion New York Giants.

That game brought in ad revenue of $245 million. However popular college football, a plus-one contest involving two undefeated teams with a two-week promotional window would almost certainly fall short of that.

Still, let's say some super company bit and ESPN agreed to televise it for $50 million. That's a $200 million outlay. Let's say you then sell 30-second spots for $2 million -- those 2012 Super Bowl spots went for $3.5 mil.

At that rate you'd need to sell 50 minutes of ad time to break even.

That's too much. But if you could barter some of that ESPN fee in exchange for their house ads, and increase the 30-second rate to $2.5 mil per spot, you might knock the ad space down to 30 to 35 minutes, which is pretty much where your Super Bowl advertising window falls.

This is just the beginning of your worries, of course. You'd have to find a host city willing to maybe/possibly free up a large stadium on two weeks notice. Hotel availability could also be a nightmare, since no one would know anything until after the BCS title game on Jan. 6, 2014.

But nothing is impossible with enough effort. And at least one major city close to many of our hearts and all of our automobiles -- Atlanta -- will have a Georgia Dome certain to be free of football in January, given its woeful Falcons.

Then again, so could Jerry's World in Dallas, given the current state of the Cowboys and the fact that Exxon Mobil, the country's most successful company be revenue, is headquartered in Irving, just outside Big D.

Sure, it's a Hail Mary. But as Auburn fans can tell you today, those sometimes work. And if the Tigers have run out of those before Bama comes to town, the rest of college football desperately needs one to save it from what could become the most unsatisfactory season-ender ever.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com