The quote was stunning in its candor. Here we had the president of the most recent Bowl Championship Series champion spelling it out for you.
The BCS isn't about national titles. It's about the richest schools hoarding the wealth.
No less an authority than Florida president Bernie Machen says so.
"It's not fair when you take a school like Utah — when I was at Utah, our athletics budget was around $20-22 mil per year. Our budget here is ($84.5 million) ... and the major difference is the bowl revenue and TV revenue they get. I don't think most people begrudge what we got because of being in the championship game, but all the SEC schools got the same amount of money that we got," he told the Orlando Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler. "And Utah could beat a lot of SEC schools. That's the unfairness. I think that's got to be fixed one way or the other. One way to fix it would have been a playoff, more revenue to distribute like you do in basketball."
Remember that quote when we get to Congressional BCS hearings. Those may or may not come, just as all those recent bills promoted by playoff-pushing legislators may never advance beyond the initial headlines they created.
What is certain to come, though, is a lot of private (and not-so-private) in-fighting between the various factions that make up college football's trickle-down economy.
Like everywhere, desperate financial times have come to college
This caste system pre-dates BCS revenue sharing but has been magnified by its excess. To take liberty with Machen's point, Florida and Alabama get their millions and spend like CEOs shopping for jet planes. In doing so, dollars fall onto Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. Whatever is left drips onto Louisiana Tech and Florida International in the form of BCS welfare and game-guarantee paychecks.
The uprising led by Tulane president Scott Cowen in 2004 went after the inequities of the system. His coalition rattled enough cages to improve the access to the big bowl games for those schools who aren't members of conferences with automatic bids.
The result: Schools like Boise State, Hawaii and Utah got to play on the big stage and cash the big paycheck (well, sort of. They have to share it with every other non-BCS school).
The Mountain West has gone rouge in pushing to gain an automatic bid, a move met with quiet resistance from the cartel power base and not-so-quiet scorn from the other crumb-wrestlers who believe a united front is the way to improve their position, as in 2004.
The BCS schools will tell you that the success of the Mountain West proves the system is fair. They'll tell you it's not their fault networks like CBS and ESPN throw billions at the SEC instead of the Sun Belt. They'll tell you it's not their fault bowls prefer partners who can provide the biggest return on investment. They'll tell you it's not their fault they sell more tickets and raise more money. They'll tell you the free market has spoken. And they'll tell you that if you "tax" the rich by redistributing their BCS money, you will only be hurting the poor.
That approach has served college football well for many years.
But college football's middle class is now being hit hard in BCS leagues, too.
On Wednesday, Stanford said it would eliminate 21 staff positions because the athletic department faces a $5.4 million shortfall over the next three years. Football attendance has been down at the Pac-10 school and its endowment — one of the largest in the country — has been ravaged by the recession.
It's a recurring story across Division I-A, where a recent NCAA report showed only about 20 of the 120 athletic departments operate without university subsidy. And that was before Wall Street collapsed.
Deep cuts are coming. As Machen said, bailout could be spelled p-l-a-y-o-f-f, which is why Congress might be a fitting place to forge college football's future.
They don't agree on much, but even free-market Republicans and spread-the-wealth Democrats can agree the BCS stinks.
Nowhere is the separation between the have and have-not in college football more evident than in coaches salaries. We've seen egos drive facilities upgrades and head coaches salaries. Now it is fueling bidding wars for assistant coaches. South Carolina this week approved $2 million for assistant salaries for 2009, including a $250,000-a-year salary for its offensive line coach. That's more than the base salaries for seven Division I-A head coaches. You probably can guess correctly that the head coaches are in the MAC and Sun Belt. When you get to the coordinator level in leagues like the SEC, you start passing head-coach salaries in the Mountain West, WAC and C-USA.