Former chair of BCS Presidential Oversight Committee renews playoff debate

9 03 2010

President Frohnmayer stands in the Knight Law School's conference room to discuss recently proposed legislation regarding a college football playoff; discourse he knows too well with his affiliation as former chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.

Dave Frohnmayer has held many titles in his lifetime: Oregon gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General of Oregon, President of the University of Oregon, President Emeritus, and chair of the Bowl Championship Series Presidential Oversight Committee.  The latter probably being the most controversial of his tenure.

Frohnmayer goes beyond taking the controversy head-on, he owns it.

The former chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee is unapologetic when describing a university’s position as to why the BCS bowl system, a lightning rod of controversy, is beneficial to schools like the University of Oregon.

Frohnmayer anecdotally remembers his 1995 Rose Bowl experience and the overall impact it had financially for the university.  “It’s an unparalleled opportunity to raise philanthropic funds, which by the way, go to far more than athletic endeavors…. I can count tens of millions of dollars that came to the academic enterprise of the university.”  He is convinced that the amount of money the academic department received wouldn’t have been raised without the intensity and enthusiasm of a community event like the Rose Bowl.

However unpopular the BCS may be with fans, television commentators, President Obama, Senators Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch; a change from the current system is met with staunch resistance from many college presidents and athletic directors nationwide.

Many proponents of the BCS share Frohnmayer’s view that the current bowl system is a proven, positive and an integral method for the economic and philanthropic vitality of a university.  Frohnmayer forcefully answers BCS critics, “I don’t think they’ve done the math, I don’t think they’ve done the economics and I don’t think they remotely understand the importance of the regular season.”  Many Division-I programs use sell-out crowds during regular season football games to pay for all sports within an athletic department.  “If you care about equity in women’s sports or Olympic sports… then the best way to pay for them is to have a successful football regular season.  Which is again, something the critics of the BCS and the advocates of a national playoff utterly forget,” Frohnmayer said.

Senator Orrin Hatch has a different angle to his criticism of the BCS.  He feels it breaks the Sherman Antitrust Act with the non-automatically qualifying conferences receiving a smaller piece of the monetary pie that the BCS provides.  According to Frohnmayer, “The bigger conferences are the ones that brought the money to the table in the first instance; they are called the equity conferences for a reason.”

It’s a philosophical debate within the academic community, but many institutions in the equity conferences have made judgments and invested in intercollegiate athletics.  The belief is that high profile athletic departments with an emphasis on football is in the overall academic and institutional interests of that particular college or university.  “They’ve made that investment over many years and they’ve joined in conferences of people and institutions that have similar beliefs,” Frohnmayer concluded.  He made the analogy that a more equitable revenue sharing model for lesser-invested athletic programs is as preposterous as the idea that schools that charge more in tuition should have a tuition sharing model for the lesser-invested schools.

The issue that Frohnmayer believes politicians and fans ignore, which trumps even the business side of collegiate athletics, is the strain on the academic calendar.  “They disrespect and ignore our academic calendars.”  According to Frohnmayer, having a playoff start in the first few weeks of December interferes with academics on all levels.  Even if you send a handful of student athletes, many playoff advocates do not take into account the band, cheer squads, along with the student and faculty interest in attending the game.  The amount of fervor and distraction entering dead week and finals is, “an academic disaster.”

Should the U.S. government mandate a college football playoff to determine a true champion?  Frohnmayer leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind. “The notion that the Congress of the United States ought to be designing football playoff systems is a preposterous misuse of the political process.”




18 responses

9 03 2010
David Smid

This is an excellent article. Way to go Bob!

10 03 2010
UO Matters

Interesting interview, you might read this post at

3/10/2010: UO Journalism student Bob Rodgers has posted an interview with our President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer here. He makes some pretty interesting points about the importance of the current system to fundraising. Frohnmayer’s term was marked by the extraordinarily high percentage of that fundraising that went to athletics, of course. Then there’s this great quote at the end:

The issue that Frohnmayer believes politicians and fans ignore, which trumps even the business side of collegiate athletics, is the strain on the academic calendar. “They disrespect and ignore our academic calendars.” According to Frohnmayer, having a playoff start in the first few weeks of December interferes with academics on all levels. Even if you send a handful of student athletes, many playoff advocates do not take into account the band, cheer squads, along with the student and faculty interest in attending the game. The amount of fervor and distraction entering dead week and finals is, “an academic disaster.”

This from the man who moved UO’s graduation to the week before final exams, to accommodate a track meet. One of Richard Lariviere’s first acts as President was to move it back. The ODE reported:

Critics enfiladed the University for the original date change, saying it was an inconvenience to students that would cut into the hours available to take exams. Biology professor Nathan Tublitz went as far as to write a commentary in the Register-Guard saying the move evinced what he called then-University President Dave Frohnmayer’s commitment to athletics at the expense of academics.

“This decision to prioritize athletics over academics, inconveniencing thousands of students and their parents, might have been excusable were it not the latest in a long line of similar decisions,” Tublitz wrote, going on to question Frohnmayer’s salary and, by implication, his integrity in accepting $265,000 in payment from an unnamed donor through the UO Foundation.

Frohnmayer responded with an angry commentary of his own, accusing Tublitz of factual inaccuracies. “This is not just any track meet,” he wrote, “but the NCAA National Championships – an event that will pump millions of dollars into the local economy and is part and parcel of the rich track and field heritage of the UO.”

I know it takes a certain amount of disregard for the truth to be a successful politician …

17 10 2010

Something else has to be better than the BCS. Most of the other sports have playoffs, hockey, basketball (men and womens), baseball, etc… WHY NOT FOOTBALL? What you think all the fans are stupid or something by telling us one big reason is because it would interfer in academics. That’s a bunch of bull!!!

17 10 2010

I do believe that Academics are a part of the situation. I also believe that the Bowl System as we know it today is a sacred cow, or more like a “cash cow”. The Bowls paid out over one quarter of a BILLION DOLLARS last year. To institute a playoff system as is most commonly suggested, a bracketed system, using the Bowls will never be. . .

I have proposed a system that covers 20 points . . .
1. Provides the next progressive step in determining who should play in the BCS Bowls.
2. Justify subjective rankings with more meaningful games.
3. A system where EVERYBODY WINS! Teams, Conferences, Schools, Fan[atic]s, Broadcasting Companies, Congress/Senate, etc.
4. Provides a process of elimination before the Bowl berths are filled.
5. Allows all 11 Conferences and Independents to EARN their just positions in the BCS Bowls.
6. Reduces human subjective factor out of ratings.
7. Lets the Titan battle the Titan on the field of play, by letting the teams play the game!
8. Pits top ranked teams to play opponents of perceived equal strength.
9. Leaves no room on the regular season schedule to play that “cream puff” team.
10. Gives us the games we could have never had the foresightedness to have scheduled.
11. Reduces the opinions of Coaches and Harris Pollsters with reality results.
12. Provides tie-breakers with immediate results.
13. Keeps the Bowl System in tact.
14. Keeps amount of games being played the same.
15. Meets Government passed regulations by providing one round of playoffs.
16. Insures Fair Play for all 120 teams to earn their BCS Bowl berth.
17. Provides additional profit centers for participating Teams, Conferences, and Schools.
18. Provides funds for teams to travel to these previously unscheduled games.
19. Cost effective.
20. Results effective.

My book, December Dream . . . Qualifying for the Final BCS Rankings [] will discuss and analyze some of the growing pains of the BCS, and how the computer and human pollsters make up the ranking system we use today. As there has been increasing demand for a formal playoff system, a workable formula for including the Bowls may never be reachable. This book explains that a playoff is very reachable before the Bowl Games, with the restructuring of the scheduling of the regular season games, and will provide the BCS with the teams that really belong in the National Championship Game.

I welcome you to see this alternative that would effectivly do what those that want a playoff system. . . and not add any additional academic strain, as stated by President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer.

[I have mailed copies of my proposed plan to the Presidents of Michigan State, and Florida, as well as Senator Orin Hatch and Congressman Joe Barton. I have also sent my version of an e-book to appx 39 College Newspapers.]

24 10 2010
Vernon Cole

The article confirms that it is all about money and that’s more important than finding out who is really the best team in College Football.

25 10 2010

Universities and college presidents basically hold the rights to an entertainment industry that funds schools in an era of dwindling resources for higher education. Many educational institutions are trying to find a balance between being true to academics and finding ways to stay in the black financially. As Stewart Mandel has said, “It may seem to the fan like the most important priority of college football is determining a national champion. It’s pretty far down the list if you’re a college administrator… how am I going to fund the cross country team…”

25 10 2010

Bob Rogers,
I would like to e-mail a copy of my book, December Dream . . . Qualifying for the Final BCS Rankings . After reading it, you will see that it meets President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer’s Goals, AND does provide a system that will not interfer with the academics side anymore than the current 12 game season, AND provide a new profit center to make a few more dollars for that cross country team. I do need your e-mail address to send you a pdf of my book, or you can purchase a copy at . You do have my e-mail address.

14 11 2010

Why do we send our kids to an educational system… to get an education. Sports is *extracurricular*. The priority should be on the education, not the sport.

AD’s and college sports recruiters have it all backwards. Students are not there to play sports. They are there to get an education. Yet, the priority has been turned around. This is a bad example the *adults* are setting for those young men and women trying to focus on an education.

We’ve got a lot of injured players continuing to play sports… just because of the “scholarships”. Yet, what happens when they can no longer play the sport… the scholarship gets yanked. So the kids play the sport, forsaking their “education”.

18 11 2010

Mark, while I agree with you and I think most people agree with you; the reality is that high profile athletic departments earn a lot of money for universities. They’ve become necessary evils to the economic vitality of a university. President Frohnmayer said in his interview that he could “count tens of millions of dollars that came into the academic side of the university” because of events like the Rose Bowl. It’s the same debate over having advertising on school lockers and school buses in the K-12 system. You need to ask yourself, how much money would these universities have? How much would tuition be if it weren’t being funded by big-time athletics?

18 11 2010

Bob, while I understand your argument, not every college is invited into the Rose Bowl (or similar bowl events). For example, I went to the University of North Dakota and while their Div III status is solid in football, their hockey team is *the* team on campus.

Yet, what about those individuals that are there for an education and not into sports??? Should they be financially punished because they can not get scholarships??? An education is very important in the world today. Yet, “entertainment” is placed at a higher level. A basketball player (NBA) can make considerably more than a doctor. Yet, a doctor spends up to 15 yrs getting an education, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The pay for a doctor is minuscule compared to an athlete.

Just yesterday, Greg Oden (Portland Trailblazers), found out that he was “out for the season”. I use that as an example of where our priorities lay.

6 12 2010

Actually, the lifetime pay for somebody attempting to break into pro basketball is way lower than that of a doctor if you account for two factors:
1. There is an exceptionally limited number of professional athletic spots available. While a doctor in a crowded market might make less than 100k, if you can’t stay on a team then being an minor-league quality player pays peanuts. So just by expected value, you’re talking an almost sure bet of 100k for a doctor, vs a 10% chance (optimistically) at 100+K to millions with the remaining % being 25k or so. Personally, I’d take my chances being a doctor.
2. Doctors work WAY more years professionally than NBA players. Or players in any sport not named golf, in fact. You can be a doctor by 30, easily. Let’s assume you spend your first 5 years paying off your loans. You now have 30 years of work, where you can make between 100k to 200k. So 3m to 6m dollars. If you can make it to the bigs, your median salary is about 3m annually and your median player makes it about 2 years. So sure, IF you can make it into the league, you can make about as much as a doctor can in 2 years rather than 30 (leaving you time to make additional money, if you have any skills, plus invest wisely). Realistically, most people who don’t know how to deal with large sums of money tend to waste it and end up broke with no skills. Most NBA players are broke within 5 years of leaving the league.

To me, those don’t seem like great odds. I’ll take the doctor, thanks. Especially when most figures put a median doctor’s salary at 120+k, while a median pro athlete makes around 55k.

I also have no idea how you arrive at the number of 15 years of postgraduate education to get an MD. It’s 4 years BS/BA, 4 medical, 2 intern as a base. That’s 10, even considering undergrad. Even if you’re specializing, those additional “5 years” you mentioned would likely be as part of a paid position where they would be paying down their debt, not adding to it. And while interns are horribly overworked, they earn around 45k- which is almost as good as your average pro athlete…

All told, given the salaries of doctors and the cost-certainty that they have, I think doctors are quite well compensated. Meanwhile, anyone attempting to be a pro athlete is attempting to take a real long shot gamble where even the winning outcome gives them only a bit more than the doctor. Sounds fine to me.

18 11 2010

Well I guess there is one person in the state of Oregon that doesn’t think the Ducks got hosed in 2001 after Nebraska got pummelled by Colorado in the Big 12 Title game then in the BCS Title Game, while Oregon annhialated Colorado. The BCS Title game is just that….a title, not a championship, a championship can only come from on the field competition and the culling process of a playoff, not polls and computers, that is exactly why every other sport has a playoff. The experts and polls have not correctly picked the two participants of the super bowl in the final regular season rankings for the past ten years, why does any one think that the BCS results have any accuracy in the real world?

24 11 2010

So it’s all about money?
Wouldn’t a play-off with multiple games, between multiple teams, in many cities, stretching out over a longer period of time end would end up producing a much larger amount of money for many different schools than one big game selected by computers (who never watch a single game) and some VIP’s input (who probable just look at the computer print outs rather than the games)?

I feel there are a lot of teams in the top 25 could crush TCU(3) and Boise(4) if given the chance… And if I were them I’d be pissed these teams who have a weak schedule are getting a comfy seat near the top when it comes to selecting these “bowl” games

6 12 2010

I hate you. Clearly, the MLB heard about this and is now incorporating it into their plans by trying to add more playoff games…

2 12 2010
David Mignery

There is a simple non-playoff solution described at the above website which I think would solve most of the problems with the current system but would preserve the traditional bowl games and the principles which the BCS supports.

4 01 2011

What a complete load. There is no reason that one would need to get rid of the major bowls: Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta. Just add 3 games after you play those. 8 Team playoff starts with the traditional bowls on New Years Weekend. Then a “Final 4” the following week and a TRUE Championship game the next week. This adds a whopping 2 weeks for a 2 teams out of the entire country. Doesn’t mess with the academic calendar at the end of the Decemeber semester. It keeps the importance of the regular season because teams still need to win their Conferences/Conference Championship games.

There is ZERO excuse.

11 01 2011

Keep is as it is now, only have a repeat of the previous years bowl game in week 1. The winner of the bowl game would have the week 1 game at home. For example, week 1 in 2011 would be Oregon at Auburn. All teams must leave week 1 open but would complete their schedule for games 2-12. All teams that did not make a bowl game would schedule another team that didn’t make a bowl game for week 1. SOS solved. Could you imagine the first week of college football? Oregon at Auburn, Wisconsin at TCU, Michigan St. at Alabama, Arkansas at Ohio St., etc etc??

14 01 2011

1. The “academic calendar” issue is sheer nonsense. Playoffs in lower divisions occur during academic breaks, and “bowl games” are increasingly being played during the academic year now – some during exam prep. How does that make sense?

2. Endangering the athletes with too many games is likewise a foolish argument. A glance at the bowl teams shows most played either 13 or 14 games. Two Division 1-AA teams played 15, the rest averaged less than the “FBS” teams. No Division II teams played more than 14, and the average was less than the “FBS.” Same in Division III. This argument is a straw man that means nothing.

3. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the money generated from a Division 1 playoff would clearly eclipse any that comes from the rest. “FBS” teams play in
the “FBS” precisely because there is more money on the line. Who is more marketable in general, Auburn, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, and Florida State, or Delaware, Minnesota-Duluth, and Mount Union? Ergo the money generated by the Division 1 playoffs would be correspondingly higher.

4. Any system predicated on an arbitrary inequality (i.e., some conferences more access to the “title game” based on who they are, not what they do on the field), is unfair from the very outset, and, given the monetary payout differences rewarding some more than others, quite possibly illegal.

5. The notion that a playoff somehow diminishes the regular season is patently ridiculous. On the contrary, the regular season becomes more important, as home field advantage and matchup depends on the outcomes. A regular season where a team’s season can be rendered meaningless by one loss (depending of course, when the loss occurs more than to whom or by how much), as we have now, hardly makes it meaningful. This is code talk for making sure non-AQ teams must be perfect to even get a BCS nod, much less a championship shot.

There are, in short, no viable arguments against a Division 1 playoff, and certainly not as long as the NCAA has one for 3 other football divisions. Those who continue to support the BCS system are either profiting at the expense of the vast majority, nostalgic to the point of blindness, or just plain ignorant.

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