San Diego State begins its 2012 football season against a legitimate Division I opponent, which is a nice change from losing their opening game to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, which they did in 2008. Or, for that matter, beating California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, which they did last year. The Aztecs play Washington Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The contest will be piped into San Diego County by the Pac-12 Network (channel 314 on Cox, channels 419 and 481 on Time Warner). Washington is favored by 14½ points.
Depending on where you look, Washington is ranked as the 40-something best team in the nation, and the Aztecs are ranked 80-something. The betting line is decent, and as far as opening-day match-ups go, it could be sort of a good game to watch.
SDSU joins the Big East Conference in 2013. For football only, and for one reason only, money, with the possibility of a lot more money in the form of an automatic Bowl Championship Series (BCS) invitation.
Six conferences automatically send their champion to the BCS (Big Ten Conference, Pacific-12 Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big 12 Conference, and Big East Conference). The top two teams in the nation, selected “by averaging the final weekly USA Today Coaches’ Poll, Harris Interactive Poll of media, former players and coaches, and the average of six participating computer rankings,” and blah de blah, blah, blah, play in the national championship game. Big, big money there.
We can cut to the chase. The BCS is a house game. The house being the aforementioned six conferences. The SEC has won seven of the past eight BCS championship games, including last year’s Super-Incest Championship in which two SEC teams, coming from the same SEC division, played each other in the BCS championship game (LSU and Alabama). There have been 14 BCS championship games to date, SEC teams have won 8.
If your school is not in an automatic-qualifying conference, the chances of ever playing in a BSC championship game are zero. The odds of getting into a BCS bowl game (Orange, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar bowls) are not that much better. Only four schools from non-automatic-qualifying conferences (Boise State, Hawaii, TCU, Utah) have ever played in a BCS bowl game. Of those four schools, three (Boise State, TCU, and Utah) have, or shortly will, jump to a BCS automatic-qualifying conference.
Which brings us back to why San Diego State joined the Big East. If there is one thing overpaid college presidents can see, it’s money. Big-time college football is big-time money. Follows is taken from Equity in Athletics Data Analysis fathered by the U.S. Department of Education. Under the heading “Top Football Moneymakers, 2010–2011,” I’ll cull out two categories: football revenue and football profit. Texas had a total football revenue of $95.7 million and a football profit of $71.2 million. The Penn State Pedophiles had a football profit of $53.2 million. Georgia, profit of $52.8 million. LSU, $47 million.
And the money is only going to leap with new television contracts coming up. And leap again because, for the first time, a NCAA Division I football playoff has been established. Starts in 2014. No more automatic-qualifying conferences. Sounds sweet, except the same guys who are running the BCS are running the new four-team-playoff series. The biggest factor in determining who will make the national playoffs will be strength of schedule. This means big-time football schools with an eye on the national title have no incentive to play a Boise State or Nevada or maybe, someday, San Diego State. In the meantime, SDSU can expect 7 million to 8 million television dollars per year from the Big East.
It took a string of fortuitous events to get the Aztecs into an automatic-qualifying conference. Happily, the Big East has been in full meltdown. West Virginia moved to the Big 12, as did TCU (hi and goodbye), without playing a single conference football game. Next year, Syracuse and Pittsburgh depart for the ACC. The Big East already lost Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. They get Temple (which was expelled from the conference in 2004), Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Memphis, Boise State, and San Diego State. This is called downward mobility. Indeed, in 2014, five of its football-playing members will either be adjacent to, or west of, the Mississippi River. Go, Big East.
But it’s a nice fit for San Diego State. National exposure (more or less), more money, and the prospect — as distant as the Andromeda Galaxy — of playing for the national championship.
As for long-suffering Aztec football fans, they’ll get what they get and like it.