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May 14, 2010

It Is Nothing But Speculation Expansion

Filed under: Conference,Money — Chas @ 10:33 am

Most people have come back to admitting that they are purely speculating, guessing, and just plain trying to look at the most logical scenarios. So the hype that was earlier in the week has died down.

Now, for those that missed it the final installment of the Big East Raiding Roundtable was yesterday. A bit of talk about what if your team doesn’t get in and can the Big East be saved.

Now over at In The Bleachers (not to be confused with BleacherReport, please), there are a couple of great articles worth reading.

One of the assumptions about Big Something expansion was that it would set off a frenzy of expansion. Starting with the SEC — whether they grabbed from the Big 12, the ACC or some of each — to match.  That assumption may be incorrect — at least as far as how soon it would happen.

The SEC signed a $3 billion dollar deal with both ESPN ($2.25 billion) and CBS ($875 million) for the next 15 years, starting in 2009. That gives the league approximately $204 million dollars a season to split between the conference’s 12 member institutions. It is a national deal that gives the league the most exposure of any conference and pushes their product out front and center.

That’s right the SEC’s deal, although very sweet appears to be very fixed. Multiple factors, most notably the economy and more prudent fiscal responsibility are working against the theory that with expansion the SEC could still print their own money. While the Big Ten Network has limiteless possibilities through expansion into more television markets the SEC is fixed in the amount of cash that their going to bring in.

This information is important when looking at the likely look that the SEC expands. The odds of the member universities, especially those on the lower end of the financial spectrum (Ole Miss, Mississippi State etc), voting to give up money are slim to none. Schools currently make approximately $17 million each per season over the next 14 years. That is a good base to start out with in their pocket before adding in ticket sales, concessions, apparel, individual ad-deals, donations and the rest of the ingredients that create the college football revenue pie.

Now the SEC with a long-term contract like that is limited as to when it could pursue its own SEC cable channel. So there would be little rush to expand. That is, of course, unless they snagged Texas. That would change the equation, but that just doesn’t seem likely.

Then there is the ACC that is considered the fall back for some Big East programs after the Big Something expansion. They are getting ready for their new TV contract. As usual things revolve around ESPN if the ACC wants national attention.

There have been rumors about Fox Sports and NFL Network deals being bandied about but in the end remaining on ESPN is important. They’re the “masters of the college football universe” right now and we’ve seen how both the Big XII and Pac 10 have seemed to become after thoughts with big games on Fox Sports Net. Keep the product in front of people’s eyes and most importantly in front of recruits.

The bottom line for the ACC is to protect itself; gaining revenue and expanding the national footprint are the two most clear cut methods of shielding themselves from a possible SEC pillaging.

Realistically, the ACC is not getting SEC money. They know that, but figuring out what kind of money they can get is the question.

Every conference knows that ESPN is the key to exposure. They market college sports across the platforms. Everyone knows where to find the channels, and they get advertised on both cable and network.

Even the Big Ten fans recognize that ESPN is still a vital component, so if they want to re-open any of their contracts it still has to be with ESPN.

Obviously, it would be dumb for the Big Ten to imperil their relationship with the WWL. The only other outfit that would have a prayer of bringing nine digits a year would be CBS, and with all due respect to CBS, their capacity to promote the games and get ratings is rather second-rate in comparison to the ESPN family of networks. NBC, of course, is right out.

Technically, Fox is also a candidate, and as a co-owner of the BTN, they’re certainly in a friendlier position with the BXI than any other network. However, the Fox Sports networks have essentially ruined the Big XII.

Fox’s Big XII coverage A) couldn’t get the big names on national television consistently, B) gave most of the member conferences less than $10 million a year, C) got almost zero help from the disjointed mess that is Fox Sports in general. Their pure failure is the real catalyst for the oncoming 16-team paradigm shift in the NCAA landscape; after all, a strong, stable Big XII means the Big Ten can only expand east. There aren’t five good programs to the east.

That’s a good point. There’s all these finger pointing at the Texas control over the Big 12 as dissatisfaction and willingness to bolt the conference.  No. It’s all about the money — and lack thereof. Couple that with a deal that has reduced the BIg 12’s exposure except for seemingly Texas and Oklahoma in football and it’s a no-brainer.

The Big 12 commissioner, Dan Beebe, at least seems to be proactive in trying to fix things. From his efforts to create an alliance and possible channel with the Pac-10 — which could ward off Colorado being poached, and beating both the ACC and Big East to that proactive move of trying to team with the Pac-10 for a cable channel of their own.

He also admits that the expansion talk is something his conference has to address directly.

Beebe told the station that expansion will be addressed directly during the Big 12’s spring meetings to be held in three weeks.

“We need to come to terms with and we need to have a frank conversation in Kansas City,” Beebe told the station. “We need to talk about where we’re going and who’s on the plane when it takes off. I will be very direct and talk about that with our membership. We’ve got a lot of good things in store for us if we stick together. It would be a shame, given that all boats have risen with this tide created by the Big 12, that they think they can have a better future somewhere else. … I truly believe that.”

Maybe nothing changes and Mizzou and Nebraska still bolt. But at least he is being direct and engaging in things. Schools like Texas Tech are stuck on the sidelines watching and rooting for the Big 12 to survive. They see the Big 12/Pac-10 alliance as their best hope.

The Kansas City Sports Commission — which stands to suffer greatly if Mizzou bolts and the Big 12 stops having events there — is making an effort to get a better feel for the future by meeting with Mizzou officials and later other conference member officials.

Finally, with the focus so completely and utterly on the money for Big Something expansion it is a bit depressing.  Even for present Big 11 members.

And this is where the on field product, rivalries, and the fans may end up getting the shaft. For proponents of East Coast expansion there’s little outside of New York City that would interest any major conference. The best two football teams north of the Mason Dixon Line (i.e. Maryland/Virginia) are Connecticut and Boston College. Neither are powerhouses and neither command much attention in the NYC market. The schools located closest to the NYC market, Rutgers and Syracuse, have little on-field to offer but because they are located near New York they have more to offer than the better football schools.

Another perfect example is the case of Pittsburgh. The Panthers are one of the best combined football and basketball programs in the East. The hold some national pull and are located in a decent sports city. Pitt would be competitive in the Big Ten’s middle tier and would certainly compete for the upper tier of the Conference in hoops. But they’ll never get an invite. Pitt doesn’t offer any new ground to the Conference because Penn State already gives the Big Ten all of Pennsylvania. So that kills Pitt as a primary expansion candidate, in spite of what it’d bring to the competitive balance of the conference.

While we’d all like to live in a college football world where everyone’s competitive and the game is the primary focus, but we’re all not naive enough to believe that’s the reality. Why else do schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State schedule tomato cans like Delaware State, Youngstown State, or Eastern Illinois. The bottomline controls. And that is why expansion looks more likely to the West than to the East. Nebraska brought in $75.5 million last year and Missouri brought in $50 million. Compare that to Rutgers ($50 million) and Pitt ($39 Million), and the expansion arrow points away from the Atlantic.

Yeah. I might start drinking early today.





Comment by steve 05.14.10 @ 10:53 am

Ugh.

Comment by Bryan 05.14.10 @ 11:10 am

I agree with what Maize & Brew wrote above – it’s all about money and Pitt doesn’t bring much in so they really won’t get a look, despite being a perfect fit in a lot of ways.

The other thing is that I still don’t see a business case for expanding beyond 12. You’re just cutting the revenue pie into more pieces and I don’t see any of the options (other than TX or ND) adding enough money to justify paying out another share.

Comment by maguro 05.14.10 @ 11:33 am

So ND is seeking to schedule at least two and maybe more games vs Miami (starting in 2012), and they are also considering joining the Big 10….hmmmm….I’d say this is proof positive that ND will not be one the teams joining the Big 10.

Comment by HbgFrank 05.14.10 @ 12:28 pm

As for expansion, in the end I’d much rather see Pitt and WVU go to the ACC. You still get great FB matchups…plus you get to play Duke and NC in BB…I know, I know “but the Big 10 pays the big money”. I don’t care, I’m just a fan, I don’t have to pay the bills!

Comment by HbgFrank 05.14.10 @ 12:39 pm

If the Big East collapses footballwise because Rutgers and Uconn ae invited into he Big 11+ the only hope for Pitt Football is invitation to join the ACC.
Big East Football will not be a BCS conference and Pitt might as well play in The MAC as far as football is concerned. The Big East would not be able to recruit quality players and Pitt would gain ZERO with the likes of Memphis, ECU and UCF.
The thought of bringing Temple back to The Big East makes me want to drown in Alka Seltzer. NO ACC invite if The Big East is picked apart by JoPa and Co. =’s disater for Pitt Football.

Comment by Isnore 05.14.10 @ 8:16 pm

What bothers me most about all this expansion stuff is Pitt’s seemingly powerlessness.

Comment by steve 05.14.10 @ 9:05 pm

I think Pitt might get the Big 11 invite. Remember TV needs content. We bring good football and b-ball to TV. The Big Ten network will not get eyeballs with Rutgers vs Northwestern b-ball or Indiana vs Mizzou in football.

Comment by James 05.15.10 @ 8:28 am

Here is my take in what a smart Swofford and the ACC should do ASAP. Make a play to add Pitt,WVU,Cuse,Uconn and create an 8-team Northern Division with MD, BC & Miami. ACC-S would be UVA, UNC, Duke, Wake, GT, FSU, Clem, & NCST.

The already NCAA best ACC basketball deal would be mind boggling. An ACC Network could cover the entire East Coast and all major media markets get big time eyeballs. (bear the Big 10 to the punch)

The Big 10 is selling network $$$ and academics. With an ACC network so could the ACC, but with less travel costs and with more culturally similar schools all with long standing traditional rivals.

Academically, Pitt,Cuse,Uconn are ACC caliber and would benefit from the ACC academic association as much as with with the Big 10. WVU would improve fast(just like FSU) while giving Swofford a huge, proven TRAVELING fan base critical to bowl alliances.

An ACC network (anchored by basketball and respectable in football until Miami & FSU get off their ass) would be on par with the Big 10 deal.

This is my solution and it covers both tradition and the new “media market” concerns that the author said may have to suffer in today’s landscape.

Comment by BT 06.06.10 @ 6:55 pm

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