“Group of Five” Jockeys for Bigger Piece of the CFP Pie
When college football decided to scrap the BCS in favor of the College Football Playoff, all of the talk was about expanding the field to four teams vying for the national championship.
But, for the five non-power conferences known as the Group of Five, it meant more money.
While the Power Five (SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC) reaped a financial windfall, the AAC, Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and the Sun Belt got more revenue as well. That money is distributed according to the annual performance of those leagues. How did the league fare against peer leagues? What was their record against the Power Five? What was their overall non-conference record? How did they fare against the FCS?
All of those things are fed into computers using the old BCS formula. The top rated league gets $21 million. The money then goes down in two million dollar increments, with the fifth rated league getting 13 million dollars. In addition, the one school which gets into one of the “Big Six” bowl games at the end of the season gets another six million dollars for its conference.
When you factor in minuscule television rights money (comparatively speaking), and crowds not approaching what some of the bigger schools have, that’s a lot of money. It’s that kind of money that helped the Sun Belt make a decision about the future of New Mexico State and Idaho. The Aggies defeated New Mexico this year. It was their first non conference FBS win in three seasons. That’s one more than Idaho, who has yet to win against an FBS opponent outside of the league.
“In 2012, the Sun Belt actually finished ahead of all the non-BCS leagues,” Commissioner Karl Benson said. “Conference realignment certainly has had something to do with the shift, but only having eight teams in the league that year worked to the Sun Belt’s advantage. We believe reducing to ten football members will have a positive effect.”
After the first three weekends, the American has done the best, record-wise, with a 9-8 record against other FBS schools. Included is an impressive record of 6-7 against schools from the Power Five. The MAC is 10-14 against the FBS, and they are 4-7 against the Power Five. It should be noted, however, the MAC has three losses to FCS schools, the only league in the G5 that has lost to the lower division. The Mountain West is 9-15 against the FBS and 2-10 against the Power Five.
Right now, it’s very close between the Sun Belt and CUSA for that fourth spot. The Sun Belt is 2-1 against CUSA this year, and no more games are scheduled between the two leagues. The Sun Belt is 5-16 against FBS opponents this year, while Conference USA is 4-23. Against other G5 schools, the Sun Belt is 4-6, while CUSA is 3-6.
"We've made great strides as a league," Benson said. We have a league with a solid geographic footprint, we now have five guaranteed bowl tie-ins and four of them are easy for our fans to get to. But we now need to get it done on the field of play as well."
This is a very big weekend for the Sun Belt, as they play five games against G5 leagues: (UL at Tulane, Houston at Texas State, Appalachian State at Akron, Georgia Southern at Western Michigan, Idaho at UNLV.) Meanwhile, CUSA has four games against other G5 leagues. (Ball State at FAU, UCF at FIU, Charlotte at Temple, Louisville at Marshall)
Sometimes, fans of schools in the league root for other league schools to lose. While rivalries dictate that sometimes, in reality, schools in the Sun Belt and CUSA should be rooting for their conference brethren. While that may be difficult for some, the reality is there’s a least a couple of million bucks riding on the outcomes.
And, when you’re a school in the Group of Five, that’s a lot of money.