Hartman: Big Ten leans toward football playoff plan

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2012 - 6:56 AM

The Gophers' Joel Maturi said most conference ADs support the move, while still maintaining Rose Bowl ties.

Joel Maturi spent most of last week in Chicago at a meeting of Big Ten athletic directors. The main discussion was about a playoff system for college football, similar to what the NCAA has in other sports such as basketball, baseball and hockey.

"There's some real interesting discussion about the future, about what you and I would call the football playoffs, the BCS championships," said Maturi, whose last day as athletic director will be June 18. "Each of the conferences obviously are discussing that and the conference commissioners will get together I think in June to probably, if not finalize, certainly come close to finalize what the future of the BCS championships will be."

Maturi is in favor of selecting a national champion in football through a playoff system, and said the Big Ten is moving in that direction. But according to Maturi, the Big Ten and Pac-12 also want to maintain their Rose Bowl relationship.

"I think the majority of Big Ten athletic directors favor a four-team playoff, two semifinal games followed by a championship game," he said. "I think we'd like to be inclusive of the bowl system, the bowl system has been very good to college football. I think we want to continue to have the regular season be important and no regular season is more important to any sport than college football."

Television rights and the increased revenue that would come from a four-team playoff were discussed, and Maturi talked about how effective Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has been in negotiating television contracts with the various networks.

For instance, the Big Ten's television contracts for the 2012 football season are structured in such a way that the conference's average revenue per team is between $19.7 million and $22 million. The contract has three tiers for game rights.

ESPN has first rights for any Big Ten game it wants to televise, and for that they have a contract with the conference for $1 billion over 10 years. The Big Ten Network has rights for any game not selected by ESPN and has a $2.8 billion contract with the conference over 25 years. The third tier belongs to Fox, which also has rights to the Big Ten Championship Game in football through 2016, with a six-year, $145 million contract.

The conference's annual television revenue totals $236 million, the second-highest revenue for any conference behind the ACC, which will receive annual earnings of $240 million from a 15-year, $3.6 billion contract with ESPN signed earlier this month.

Upgrading arenas at U

Maturi also talked about how the additional money the Gophers athletic department is earning from the preferred seating system, where fans are paying extra to sit in choice seats, is being used to purchase new scoreboards and sound systems for Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena.

"I'll tell you what, and I mean this very honestly, you and everyone else who enter Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena next year will say, 'Wow,'" Maturi said. "Just like we did when we entered TCF Bank Stadium and saw the great scoreboards, we're going to have state-of-the-art scoreboards.

"We're going to put in ribbon boards, as they're called, we're putting in new sound systems, which was extremely needed in Mariucci and in Williams as well, but people will see that we've utilized the monies that they're providing to us to upgrade Williams Arena and Mariucci. It's the only way we're able to do that. So there will be a wow factor when people return next fall to those venues."

Norwood Teague, the incoming Gophers athletic director, flew back home to Virginia on Wednesday after interviewing all the coaches.

Improved grades at U

The Gophers football team might have set an academic record this past semester, when 60 of the 93 players received a 3.0 or better grade-point average.

Two Gophers had 4.0 GPAs, and seven Gophers had a 3.80 or better GPA.

TJ Oakes, who became the first Gophers pitcher to be named to the All-Big Ten baseball first team since Glen Perkins in 2004, will pass up his senior year under the right circumstances, according to his father Todd, the Gophers pitching coach. Todd said that if TJ winds up in a favorable position in the draft next month, he definitely will turn pro.

Jottings

• The Vikings still are negotiating with their No. 1 draft choice, Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil, who is likely to get paid about the same as what the fourth overall pick got last year -- a $13 million signing bonus, plus an addition $7 million guaranteed over a four-year period. Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, the Vikings' second first-round pick at No. 29 overall, probably will be paid around a $3.6 million signing bonus, with $7 million guaranteed over four years.

• Twin pitchers Perkins and Cole DeVries, who was just called up, were teammates on the 2004 Gophers baseball team that won the Big Ten title. Perkins, who was drafted No. 1 by the Twins as a junior, was 9-3 with a 2.83 ERA. DeVries, as a freshman on that team, was 2-1 with a 7.83 ERA, but he did well in 2006 on a team that finished second in the conference with a 2.42 ERA. DeVries signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2006 after doing well in the Cape Cod League.

• Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers forward who missed most of last season after anterior cruciate ligament surgery in December, said he is still six weeks away from doing anything on the basketball court. "I can run and lift some weights," said Mbakwe, who was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. "But patience is the word for me. I am not going to do anything foolish that will keep me from playing this season."

• Not only can Gophers basketball recruit Wally Ellenson jump out of the gym, but he's also one of Wisconsin's best high school high jumpers. On his Twitter account, Ellen-son, of Rice Lake, recently reported that he cleared 7 feet, 1 inch, which is tied for the nation's best mark this year, and will soon attempt to set a state record at 7-2.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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