—Finally, The Wall Street Journal has a insightful take on the big money issues facing college sports in an era of shrinking public funding for universities as well as shrinking advertising revenues for sports networks.

Like dynastic rulers desperate to protect their holdings, the two sides have engineered an alliance. The schools have offered up their most marketable asset, college football. The networks have agreed to marry the sport to the most important segment of their audience: the millions of viewers across the country who can still be counted on to drop whatever they are doing to watch live sports.

As a dowry, TV has agreed to pump about $25.5 billion in rights fees into college conferences and their member schools over the next 15 years. That includes a recent deal for ESPN to televise major-college football’s first playoff—a four-team bracket launching in 2014—that is valued at $5.6 billion over 12 years. The schools, meanwhile, are doing whatever is needed to maximize what they can command from TV: playing more games, jumping to new conferences, abandoning long-standing rivalries, dismantling the old system of postseason bowl games and, last June, approving that first-ever playoff.

The piece provides plenty of more reasons to believe that the current setup is unsustainable.


 

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.