The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 28, 2017

Is It Time For The Professional University Football League?

Many times in the last quarter century, multiple sports professionals have bantered about having one super conference in college sports. Media members, former athletic administrators and others have discussed what might happen if the largest financially successful athletic programs drop all pretenses and secede from the NCAA, forming their own professional college league.

The PiRates have always believed in amateur athletics, but at this point, it is hard to keep the amateur in high school athletics, where you have football and basketball factory high schools all over the country.

Maybe the time has come for the big boys to leave the supposedly amateur NCAA and form a new entity. The time may be the most ideal since the thought first became public.

With the NFL potentially crippled for the near term and maybe never again to experience the heights it enjoyed since it surpassed baseball circa 1969, when the Major Leagues divided into divisions, meaning the two best teams did not always play in the World Series, and when Joe Namath made that Super Bowl III guarantee.

Add to this the current FBI probe that has already brought down Rick Pitino and many assistant coaches and may eventually lead to some top schools landing in serious trouble. Recruiting the 5-star athletes leads to all sorts of dirty underhanded dealing.

The fix would be for the 32 biggest football factories to leave the NCAA and form their own professional league of universities.

What we call the PUFL (Professional University Football League) could take these 32 great teams with the gragantuan football stadiums and divide into eight divisions of four teams each. The league could play a 16-game schedule with a couple of pre-season games, and then 12 teams would make the playoffs, leading up to the College Super Bowl, or whatever they might call it.

Instead of recruiting and signing players who would enroll in college as students, the players would be reclassified as employees and would not go to school as students. There would be a draft similar to the early days of the American Football League. Certain players living near a campus could be reserved and signed by the school in their area, but only a small amount. The remainder of the top talent could be drafted and signed to a 3-year contract. The draft would run for 16 rounds, and each drafted player would be guaranteed a 3-year contract.  After the third year, players could move on to the NFL or sign a new 1-year contract and remain employed with the college.  An option could be that the player could become a free agent after three years and sign with another college.

After 16 rounds, the schools could then sign free agent high school talents in order to fill out a 60-man roster. With 60 players under contract for 3-year contracts, each school would then have a salary cap of $6 million. That would mean the average player would make $100,000 per year. There would be no need to have boosters paying recruits to receive under the table payments, because the top 512 players would belong to the team that drafted them (16 draft rounds of 32 teams).

The $6 million in salaries would more than be made up by added revenue from a television contract that would dwarf today’s current NCAA contract. All the major networks might want to participate. With 16 games a week, all 16 games could be televised nationally. The ratings would go through the roof, and the schools could make much more money than they currently do.

The Big Ten and SEC schools currently receive around $30-40 million from their networks.  According to the Green Bay Packers’ financial records, each NFL team received $244 million in TV revenue in 2016. We believe the PUFL teams could top that and maybe receive $300-500 million a year! The college game has the potential to do to the NFL what the NFL did to all other sports. This might be the time to strike, while the NFL has a serious wound that worsens daily, and while some current basketball personnel may be soon wearing a uniform with stripes for 2 to 5 years.

This is our offering for the 32 teams

Eastern Division
Penn St.
Virginia Tech
West Virginia

Mideast Division
Michigan St.
Notre Dame
Ohio St.

Midwest Division

Lower South Division
Florida St.

Upper South Division

Southwest Division
Texas A&M

Upper West Division

Lower West Division
Arizona St.
San Diego St.

Imagine it is Thanksgiving Day. In the early morning, Ohio State and Michigan can play. A little later, Alabama and Auburn would square off. After this game kicks off, Nebraska and Oklahoma would begin, followed by Texas and Texas A&M. Then in the late afternoon, Washington and Oregon would play, followed by UCLA and USC in the late game. Because teams in the same division would play twice a year, you could easily stage the second game on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Or, you could add other potential bonanza games like USC-Notre Dame, Texas-Arkansas, Penn State-West Virginia, LSU-Alabama, Florida-Florida State, or Clemson-Georgia.

If fans will pay $50+ to see Alabama and Fresno State or Ohio State and UNLV in non-conference games, how much might an Alabama-Oklahoma or a Ohio State-USC game command?

Think about TV ratings. Rather than have to stick with a 59-0 massacre, CBS would not have to worry about a terrible mismatch like Alabama pasting Vanderbilt. With an annual draft of the top players, Alabama or anybody else would not be 59 points better than another opponent. In fact, Alabama fans would have to deal with seasons where 12-4 records might be the best they can expect. Some current power might be hung with a string of losing seasons rather than suffer through a 7-win rebuilding season with three or four wins over the little sisters of the poor.

What would happen to all the other schools? Do you really think these big behemoths would care all that much? The other schools would have to make do with what was left over. Maybe, they could return to educating first with athletics becoming more of a real amateur competition. Would a leftover school really try to go after the 700th best athlete by throwing money at him? Would the shoe companies or some Nationwide Ned try to broker players to schools, when all the 4 and 5-star athletes would be off limits to them?

It could lead to new Ivy League type conferences. Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Army, Navy, Air Force, Vanderbilt, Tulane, and Rice could form a league and bring back some of the former football greats of the past that once played major college football, like Fordham. These schools could team up with the current Ivy League and Patriot League and form their own alliance of teams that put academics first ahead of athletics.

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