Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 6:53 p.m.
Updated Friday, March 2, 2012 | 10:20 a.m.
Some Nevada higher education leaders are threatening to file suit against the Bowl Championship Series to fix what they see as unfair revenue distribution among the NCAA’s Division I football-playing schools.
UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood, in a presentation Thursday before the Board of Regents, said the total payout in 2010-11 from the BCS was $145.2 million. Of that total, $118 million — or 81 percent — is split among six major conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. (The BCS, now in its 14th year, sets the matchups for the top four college football bowl games — Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar — and the BCS National Championship Game.)
The Mountain West, of which UNLV is a member, received $12.75 million — 8 percent of the payout — from the BCS in 2010-11, Livengood said.
“They're trying to keep the rest of us alive but not healthy,” Livengood said.
However, recent budget cuts have forced Nevada’s cash-strapped universities to find additional funding sources for nonacademic activities like athletics. The overwhelming majority of college athletics programs — 93 percent — operate in the red, Livengood said, including UNLV.
With the six major conferences receiving the lion’s share of the BCS revenue, two regents expressed outrage over what they see as a funding inequity, a longtime concern among less prominent conferences, which refer to themselves as non-BCS schools.
Since the majority of Division I schools — 66 percent — are public institutions, Regents Michael Wixom and Ron Knecht said Nevada taxpayers essentially were subsidizing big-time college football programs at the expense of UNLV and UNR.
“What frustrates me is taxpayers are, in essence, funding the infrastructure of college football,” Wixom said. “In a decade or two, taxpayers are going to fund the entire system to the benefit of a few elite schools. It's unsustainable.
“I'm infuriated by this nonsense,” he continued. “I want this stopped.”
The news comes as colleges across the nation are undergoing conference realignments. Member schools of the Mountain West and Conference USA announced last month they would dissolve their conferences and form a new league that would begin play in the 2013-14 academic year. The new conference is expected to attract between 16 and 24 schools when it starts in July 2013, Livengood said.
UNLV is hopeful the larger conference could attract more BCS revenue and TV revenue. Currently, UNLV receives $1.5 million in TV revenue annually, Livengood said. Schools in the Pac-12, on the other hand, receive between $15 million and $17 million in TV revenue, he said.
However, it would be “naive” to think revenue inequities would be solved under the new conference, Livengood said. Thursday was the first he heard of plans for a lawsuit, and he said he could not comment on what such a suit would look like if regents went forward with it.
CORRECTION: This version clarifies the $15 million to $17 million in annual television revenue is what Pac-12 schools receive. | (March 2, 2012)