By Teddy Hayduk
on twitter: @TMHayduk
If you’re an FSU fan who has been recoiling for the past thirteen or so hours in response to the release of the CFB committee’s Top 4 this week, I am here to quell your fears. If you are worried and mad and fearing being left out of the Playoff, I am here to console you. If you honestly think that ESPN has some kind of unhealthy, inferiority-complex-fueled, SEC-spawned desire to cause FSU pain and anguish, I am here to tell you you’re wrong.
Here’s the deal. Sports make money because fans—the people who watch on tv and in the stands—don’t know how each matchup will end. Movies and tv shows are different because to an extent, there is a formula for success. There is a script. The end, no matter how shocking or convoluted (HOLY SHIT HE WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME) is pre-determined, and we know that. In sports, however, the results are solely a function of fate and, sometimes, luck. It is completely unwritten and impromptu. The less confident we feel about the probability of either team winning a game, the more inclined we will be to watch it—this is called having a high degree of product appeal. In a sport marketer’s perfect world, every matchup would create an exactly even, 50/50 chance for each team to win. This is why the NFL operates with a centralized authority. Having the ability to keep all 32 of its franchises as resource-homogeneous as possible (revenue), while employing strict salary caps and floors (expenditures), creates a league of 32 nearly identical teams. This, boys and girls, is called having a high degree of parity. A high degree of parity means that the NFL will probably exceed Roger Goodell’s goal of generating $25 billion in annual revenue by 2017.
Now—onward to CFB. CFB’s governing body, the NCAA, obviously cannot use monetary incentives to keep teams and conferences competitive with one another (wink wink). Furthermore, the ideals of amateurism, alumni network donations, and the individual educational goals and talent levels of recruits tend to create a naturally disparate hierarchy. In other words, MIT will probably never compete for a national title, and it is also equally unlikely that Alabama, Texas, Michigan, and UF will ever fall from the elite echelon of CFB programs. What this means is that CFB places itself into the opposite end of the parity spectrum than does the NFL. As we learned, a high degree of parity equals a high viewership rate, which equals higher TV and radio ratings, which equals a multitude of revenue-generating leverage points. The converse of this holds true, as well. CFB knows that having low parity hinders their chances to keep viewership rates high and therefore be able to negotiate even larger contracts in the future.