The best thing the remaining Big 12 schools can do is stick together. That’s what we hear people say. Others say they need to not get nervous. They just need to stick it out to get exit fees from Texas and Oklahoma.
I have heard that a lot recently. But who is saying it? Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is saying it. He would like to keep his job, so… Fans of and reporters covering schools that don’t seem to have a lot of options are saying it. People who have no dog in the fight are saying it. But, like so many things, it’s easier said than done.
College sports are all about money right now. Haven’t they always been? No. I like to think that in the very beginning they really played for the love of the game. But now, it’s all about the money.
The SEC could be bringing in over $1.2 billion per year in television revenue within the next five years or so. Meanwhile, the Big 12 without Texas and Oklahoma might be bringing in less than half of that. On a per school basis, SEC schools would be raking in around $75 million while Big 12 schools would be bringing in $50 million. Thats a lot of money. Is it enough of a difference to break up the Big 12? And that’s assuming the Big 12 adds a couple of teams that prevent a complete collapse in the value of the conference’s television rights.
Now that’s just in about five years or so. The difference is expected to continue to increase over time. And there aren’t any teams available for the Big 12 to grab that are going to keep the conference’s media rights close to the level they are at now with Texas and Oklahoma.
ESPN declined to negotiate a new television deal earlier this year. Of course, it’s assumed that ESPN knew what was going on with Texas, Oklahoma, and the SEC.
Television rights for college football are beginning to look like Major League Baseball salaries. The best conferences are going to get their big money, but the “replacement level” conferences are going to get squeezed. The Big 12 is trying to stay out of the Group of 5 level of conferences. Power 5 status is huge for the conference. The College Football Playoffs recently gave each Power 5 conference $67 million. The Group of 5 conferences split $92 million. Now that’s a difference!
Bob Bowlsby’s cease and desist letter to ESPN was an attempt to keep the Big 12 from falling apart. ESPN said that they have nothing to cease and desist. We aren’t stupid. We see the amount of money involved. ESPN most likely had knowledge of what was going on and very well might have been the instigator of it all.
The future of college football will likely see fewer power conferences. Those conferences might be much larger than they are now. There is nothing saying that 16 is the stopping point. If the SEC could add Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, why wouldn’t they? They could become the only show in town. We could someday see the NFL as the dominant professional league and the SEC as the dominant college league. Unfortunately, fans of schools that used to play big time college football might be playing something lesser. That doesn’t mean it won’t be as much fun. It just won’t pay as well.