We’ve all been hearing a lot about the possible expansion of conferences in major college football. Over this past weekend, presidents of both the Pac 10 and the Big Ten held meetings in San Francisco and Chicago, respectively.
The Pac 10 recognizing that they are incredibly top heavy in the conference with only USC being considered an elite level program, made it known that they are actively pursuing an expansion to 16 teams. UCLA, Cal, and Oregon are respected programs, but not the heavy hitter USC is. The other major problem in the Pac 10 is revenue, specifically, there isn’t much of it. Here’s why…
#1. Time zone. All of their relevant programs play on pacific time. Any evening primetime games start at 10pm or later eastern. The larger collection of the population lives in eastern/central time. It doesn’t work.
#2. TV revenue. $222 million from ABC/ESPN and Fox, both set to expire in 2012. That is fifth best among the major college football conferences. They only beat the Big East, and not by much, their deal is $200 million through 2013 from ABC/ESPN.
That is why the Pac 10 is desperate to lure the Texas Longhorns into the conference. There are some considerations with this. For one, Texas is not going to be the first to go. Other teams will have to leave first, likely Missouri and Nebraska, if any, would be first. And if any teams head for the Big Ten, then some others would have to follow Texas if they decide to leave as well.
To put this in perspective, the Big Ten is filthy rich. ESPN approached the Big Ten about partnering for more coverage on ESPNU. The Big Ten liked the idea and decided to create the Big Ten Network on their own. You know why ESPN pays hundreds of millions of dollars for TV deals with major sports conferences and leagues? They make a ton of revenue with advertising and marketing.
Through the year 2016, the Big Ten will be pulling in $3.8 billion in football television revenue; $2.8 billion from the Big Ten Network agreement that runs through 2032 and $1 billion from ESPN/ABC. That is the most TV revenue of any conference by a long shot. The ABC contract will be extended and for more money, ONLY if the Big Ten wants that. The Big Ten has nothing but bargaining power when that contract is up, especially if the Big Ten Network expands further. The conference may choose to broadcast their games on their network only, and cable/dish providers and advertisers would be paying a fortune to carry and advertise on the station.
The SEC pulls in $3.075 billion through 2024 through deals with ABC/ESPN and CBS. That’s far and away the second best package of any conference, but they don’t own their own network as of yet. The thing about the SEC is that they don’t really need it. They are in the best recruiting hub in the nation, they don’t need the extra money, they don’t need any more teams, they’re good exactly as they are. Good teams, a great conference championship, and an almost guaranteed spot in BCS title games.
The Big Ten teams are earning 22 million per year, SEC teams are earning 17 million per year, they’re not that far off even without their own network. The rest of the college football world is in the dust.
That being said, the Big Ten has pushed up it’s plans to expand to 16 as a reaction to the Pac 10 announcement. The Big Ten has courted Texas as well, but I don’t see it as a real possibility. I think Nebraska and Missouri are far more likely, with other additions coming from the Big East. The gem that the Big Ten wants more than anything is Notre Dame.
Notre Dame has a huge national fan base, a big TV deal with NBC, and would be even more money for the conference. Plus, they have rivalries with about half the Big Ten teams. Honestly Notre Dame makes as much sense to the Big Ten as Texas does to the Pac 10. Notre Dame, although fighting this for a decade now, has changed their tune to a degree because the big deal breaker had always been their exclusive TV contract. Well, now the Big Ten Network would actually make them more money, and competing for a conference championship would make their BCS chances more legitimate.
This thing is really going to happen, it’s just a matter of when, who, and where. I see Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, Oklahoma St., and Colorado all joining the would-be Pac 16. It makes sense, from a cultural perspective, revenue, recruiting, weather, and travel. The conference would be a lot better for it, and would instantly gain more dollars in TV contracts.
In the Big Ten, or Big 16, or whatever they are going to call it, I see Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Notre Dame. There are two major things here for the Big Ten. One, they get the long waited addition of Notre Dame and the money and fans that that brings. Two, they add the New York media market to the Big Ten. By adding Syracuse (New York) and Rutgers (New Jersey), they force the New York Times and New York cable companies to start carrying their network. That means more national media exposure, because let’s face it, if you matter in New York, you matter everywhere else. Not unlike Los Angeles. That translates to more dollars and better chances in the polls, which directly affect BCS ratings.
It all makes sense, folks, just put it together. I am looking forward to see how these “Super-Conferences” shape up.