Posts Tagged ‘Big 12’

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It has been a couple of days since the news broke from Sports Business Daily that Fox is poised to enter into a deal with the Big Ten for 50% of the packages that are currently on ABC/ESPN (football and basketball) and CBS (basketball)… for up to $250 million per year for 6 years. Once again, this is just for half of the Big Ten rights that are up for grabs, which would provide for 25 football games and 50 basketball games on over-the-air broadcast Fox (“Big Fox”) and FS1. As observers such as Matt Sarzyniak have noted (who has a great post on the overall dynamics of the Big Ten deal), that amount is approximately the amount that the Pac-12 receives for its entire non-Pac-12 network package. In effect, we’re about to enter into a world where Rutgers and Northwestern are going to earn significantly more TV money than Florida State, Oklahoma, USC and even Alabama and Notre Dame. The Big Ten schools were already ahead before through its creation of the BTN (which everyone should remember how bold and risky that move was a decade ago compared to taking guaranteed money from ESPN), but the gap is going to be blown through the roof if the conference ends up with around $500 million per year for its TV rights without even taking into account the BTN portion. I have had plenty of critiques of Jim Delany and the Big Ten leadership over the years, but their management of TV and media properties has been pitch perfect for the past ten years and far beyond the capabilities (both quantitative and qualitative) of the other power conferences.

Some further thoughts:

  • I have seen a lot of scuttlebutt online that this indicates that the Big Ten might be leaving ESPN entirely, but personally don’t believe that for a second. For several years, I’ve been predicting that Fox and ESPN will ultimately split the Big Ten’s rights going forward and that is still the most likely outcome. ESPN reportedly “lowballed” the Big Ten in its initial offer, yet that is not necessarily outcome determinative since ESPN did the same thing ten years ago (which eventually spurred the creation of the Big Ten Network) and the parties still eventually got a deal done. It would have been difficult for ESPN to unilaterally come in with a massive offer several weeks ago with the continued cost-cutting throughout its organization and the possibility that this might be the time when the sports rights bubble (to the extent that there actually is a bubble) is going to pop. Essentially, ESPN bet that there wouldn’t be anyone willing to pay the Big Ten’s high asking price (just as it bet that the BTN wouldn’t be successful)… and it looks like they’re going to lose that bet badly.That being said, I’ve written many times before that ESPN’s supposed financial woes are being completely misinterpreted by many sports fans. The reason why so many Disney investors are spooked by any cord cutting and ESPN subscriber losses is because ESPN is, by far, the most profitable media and entertainment entity in the entire world. Note that I said “media and entertainment entity” – this is not just about sports networks. Let’s put it this way: ESPN currently delivers monthly subscriber revenue to Disney that is the equivalent to the domestic gross of Star Wars: The Force Awakens every single month guaranteed… and before they sell a single ad. Disney has relied upon ESPN to deliver monopoly drug dealer profits for years to prop up their entire business. Now, ESPN is “only” making oligopoly drug dealer profits.

    All of this is to say that ESPN still makes a ton of money that is far, far, far beyond what Fox, NBC, CBS, Turner or any other entity with sports interests could ever dream of. Even in cost-cutting mode, ESPN still needs to invest in core properties in the same way that the rest of the cost-cutting Disney organization will authorize massive budgets for Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and Disney Princess movies. ESPN leadership can now go back to their overlords at Disney and say, “Look – we tried to get the Big Ten on the cheap and that clearly isn’t going to happen. We have now already let Fox into the door to becoming a top tier sports network competitor and we can’t let someone else, especially NBC/Comcast, to get even more traction on top of them. We need to the funds to pay up here.” Anyone that thinks that ESPN can just plug in more SEC or ACC games into its lineup is fooling themselves. The Big Ten provides a massive lineup of football games in the best time slots on ABC and ESPN and have consistently garnered the best ratings of any of the conferences next to the SEC. The people at ESPN aren’t dumb – they know the difference between a short-term administrative cost cut and a long-term investment in their core product… and the Big Ten has been a huge part of their core product since almost the beginning of the network.

  • By the same token, let’s not pretend that the Big Ten wants to get away from ESPN. I have seen some Big Ten fans profess a desire to leave ESPN entirely, but that would be as short-sighted for the conference as it would be short-sighted for ESPN to let the Big Ten go completely. The fact of the matter is that if you were to show the exact same game on ESPN versus FS1, the viewership on ESPN would be magnitudes higher. We have already seen a track record of Major League Baseball, Big 12 and Pac-12 games where similar games on ESPN crush the ratings on FS1. There has to be great concern that the notion that “fans will just find the channel if they want to watch a particular game” isn’t necessarily completely true. ESPN is, and will be for the foreseeable future because the stranglehold that they have on sports rights overall, the “default channel” for sports fans. Just walk into any sports bar across the country and, outside of NFL Sundays, the vast majority of TVs are going to be tuned into the ESPN mothership. A game that is shown on ESPN literally gets a ratings bump, whereas that same game on FS1 gets a ratings discount.This greatly matters to the Big Ten, which is trying to position its TV deals in the same way that the NFL has over the past few years. Money certainly matters, but long-term money (the proverbial golden goose) is directly correlated with exposure… and no one can provide exposure like ESPN. Indeed, even with the increase in cord cutting and falling numbers of subscribers, every single other media company in the United States would kill to have ESPN. We have already established that they have the top-rated and most profitable TV network, but it goes beyond just that aspect. Who has the #1 sports news website? ESPN. Who has the #1 sports radio network? ESPN. Who has the #1 sports mobile app? ESPN. Who has the #1 streaming sports network? ESPN. Who has the #1 sports podcast network? ESPN.

    That is what a lot of Big Ten fans that care too much about supposed “SEC bias” on ESPN are missing: there is simply no replication for the multi-platform 27/7 exposure that ESPN provides.* Many other companies have tried to apply the ESPN playbook for years and years (see the CBS and Fox efforts to build their own sports websites and radio networks with only a fraction of the audience of ESPN) and have failed. When a Big Ten game is on ESPN, it gets promoted on (a) Mike and Mike on TV, radio, streaming audio and podcasts simultaneously, (b) SportsCenter on multiple networks several times per day, (c) ads on ESPN’s websites and mobile apps, (d) countless other TV, radio shows and podcasts for an entire week, including the all-important College GameDay for college football fans. Other than Inside the NBA on TNT (which is powered by the on-air brilliance of Charles Barkley, there is not a single cable TV platform in any sport that has anywhere close to the audience that ESPN has for even one of its minor shows, much less SportsCenter, GameDay or Mike and Mike.

    (* Note that it isn’t an accident that ESPN is a master of corporate synergy considering that it is owned by Disney, whose entire existence is based on leveraging its brand across countless platforms. I have never heard of someone that likes Universal Studios, the Jurassic Park movies and NBC call themselves a “Comcast Fan” or a fan of Fox shows and movies call themselves a “Fox Fan” (which is distinct from a Fox News Fan that is an entirely different breed), but you will find millions of Disney fans that travel to Disney parks, watch Disney movies and TV shows and buy Disney merchandise with the Disney branding being a the predominant factor. My sister is a prime example of a Disneyphile. Disney and ESPN simply are masters at synergy via corporate culture that can’t really be replicated even if you followed the exact same playbook elsewhere… and believe me when I say that every one of their competitors have tried.)

    At the end of the day, the Big Ten still needs the exposure that only ESPN can uniquely offer. It’s instructive that out of the 4 major pro sports leagues and 5 power college conferences, the only one that doesn’t have a presence on ESPN is the NHL (which has by far the most limited fan base of that group). Just because the Big Ten could theoretically live without ESPN doesn’t mean that it actually wants to do so at all. That’s why I believe that time will heal wounds due to mutual interests and a deal will get done between the Big Ten and ESPN for the other half of the TV rights that are currently in play. The Big Ten won’t take a lowball amount from ESPN, but I think they know well enough to provide a bit more leeway for ESPN’s bid in acknowledgment of their superior platforms for overall exposure compared to Fox. Both the Big Ten and ESPN need each other here.

  • In looking at the imminent Fox deal with the Big Ten, this seems to be set up to put a weekly football game on both Big Fox and FS1. This will end up being quite a boon for Fox’s college football game inventory quality. From a personal standpoint, I just hope that it improves that actual college football game production quality, which I have found lacking compared to ABC/ESPN and CBS. (I think that NBC’s Notre Dame productions have quality visuals, but the commentary is the college football equivalent of listening to Hawk Harrelson’s calls of White Sox games.) Regardless, if this means that most or all of the games that would have ended up on ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPNEWS are on Big Fox and FS1, then that’s an upgrade in terms of viewership exposure as long as the Big Ten keeps its presence on ABC and the ESPN mothership.Further to what I’ve stated before, I don’t think Fox is as flush with funds as much as ESPN (because absolutely no one is as flush with funds as ESPN), but Fox certainly has a lot more incentive to make a bold move with it being in the upstart position. In particular, FS1 has had a rocky history in its short life. On paper, FS1 has the best sports rights outside of ESPN on paper with MLB, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East, NASCAR, Champions League, FIFA (World Cup), UFC and USGA (U.S. Open) properties, but it doesn’t seem to have a cohesive brand even compared to NBCSN (which seems to have become the yuppie/hipster sports network largely relying upon the NHL, English Premier League and Olympics), much less ESPN. At the very least, the Big Ten may push Fox over-the-top in terms of being a legit college sports destination that it hasn’t quite been up to this point.

    Realistically, Fox can never achieve the synergy that ESPN can provide, but there are strong potential cross-promotional opportunities between Fox’s over-the-air NFL package and the new Big Ten coverage along with the clear connection between BTN (which is 51% owned by Fox) and the rest of the Fox organization. The NFL broadcasts on Fox are by far the strongest on the network (which ought to be the case since they are also by far the largest ratings drivers for Fox), so let’s hope that the Big Ten can receive at least comparable quality in terms of treatment.

  • The reported 6-year timeframe of the Fox deal is unusual compared to the much longer-term deals that the other power conferences have signed. In fact, the Big Ten will end up back at the negotiating table before any of the other power conferences once again. On the one hand, this presents some risk to the Big Ten since they are not locking in today’s high rights fees into the late-2020s or even 2030s. On the other hand, every time that the Big Ten has bet on itself, it has ended up succeeding, whether it was with the formation of the BTN or taking its rights to the open market in a period of uncertainty for sports programming values with decreasing cable subscriptions. By the same token, Fox may be hedging on cable subscriber fee uncertainty itself, as Dennis Dodd had suggested.In any event, the short length of the TV deal means that conference realignment talk might cool down in the immediate term, but will pick up a huge amount of steam in the next 5 years. Whether it’s a coincidence or not (and I tend to think “not”), the end of the 6-year deal term in 2023 is shortly before the expiration of the Big 12’s grant of rights agreement in 2025, which makes any possible damages for a Big 12 defector to be much lower and/or negligible compared to a Big Ten windfall. The same usual suspects of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas as Big Ten candidates. It will also be interesting to see how schools in other conferences (particularly the ACC) are going to adjust to an environment where each Big Ten school could be receiving nearly $60 million per year in media revenue starting in 2017 (as estimated by Awful Announcing), which would lap the SEC’s revenue (much less any of the other power conferences). A few million dollars per year difference in TV revenue may not have been enough to sway the most valuable schools (e.g. Texas, North Carolina, etc.) to switch conferences, but when we’re looking at an eight figure annual gap, it could change the dynamic quite a bit.

The announcement by Jim Delany at the end of 2009 that the Big Ten was exploring expansion was leading to this moment of a new TV contract. Nebraska added a national name brand for football, while Rutgers and Maryland added two massive media markets based on the East Coast. This isn’t the end, though. I still believe that ESPN is going to end up with the other half of the rights. It will be interesting to see what happens with the CBS basketball package (which hasn’t been talked about as much) since that provided great exposure and time slots for the Big Ten (such as the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game leading into the NCAA Tournament Selection Show) even if the contract value itself pales in comparison with football. Digital rights are going to be a much more significant factor in this new contract compared to 10 years ago, while some second tier sports such as hockey, baseball and lacrosse could end up seeing more telecasts beyond the BTN with multiple other networks. The Big Ten’s new Fox deal is a great start and it’s a sign of great things once we get the final overall media rights picture for the conference.

(Image from Detroit Free Press)

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I know that it’s been a loooooong time since my last post. Let’s get right to some random thoughts:

(1) College Football Playoffs – We have seen two iterations of the College Football Playoff rankings and my mind comes back to the same question that I had when the powers that be first announced that the system would use a committee: Why is this any better than just using the AP Poll (or old Harris Poll)? (To be sure, the Coaches’ Poll is a worthless self-serving steaming pile of garbage.) The former BCS rankings were much maligned, but they were at least a little progressive in attempting to incorporate some objective computer rankings. All that I see with the new CFP rankings is a 12-person poll, which isn’t necessarily any better than other polls with much larger sample sizes. The NCAA Tournament Committee serves an important purpose for basketball since they are vetting at-large teams that much of the general public hasn’t seen before. However, a 4-team college football playoff is much more suited to a “Wisdom of Crowds” determination: the public has a fairly good sense of who it believes to be the very top teams in any given season, so a decision from a small committee isn’t necessarily going to be any better.

Having said that, I do enjoy seeing the broader array of games that matter at a national level this season. The expansion from a 2-team championship race to a 4-team playoff has a pushdown effect where there are more impact games involving many more potential postseason participants. Unfortunately, very few of those impact games have involved the Big Ten over the past couple of months. I don’t believe that this is some type of long-term permanent situation, but it’s an early indicator of issues down the road for the playoff system overall. A 4-team playoff structurally means that at least one power conference champion is going to be left out every year, and when a league like the SEC looks as if though it can garner multiple playoff sports, that means that 2 or more power conference champs can be left on the outside. A consolation Rose Bowl or BCS bowl berth was seen as a worthy prize back in the 2-team BCS championship world, but this season has already shown that 100% of the oxygen in the sport is being taken up by the 4-team playoff race.

So, I’ve spent quite a bit of time once again contemplating the next (and probably final) phase of playoff expansion: the 8-team playoff with all 5 power conference champs receiving auto-bids. If it were up to me, we would just use the traditional bowl arrangements to slot the teams:

Rose Bowl: Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ
Sugar Bowl: SEC champ vs. at-large
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 champ vs. at-large
Orange Bowl: ACC champ vs. at-large

I expanded quite a bit more on this proposal last year as a mind meld between the progressive (expanded playoff) and the traditional (old school bowl tie-ins). Believe me – if there’s one proposal that I’ve had on this blog that I’d want to see implemented, it would be that one by far.

(2) Big 12 Expansion – Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked last week about Big 12 expansion and he had some comments that we can over-analyze here (as not much has been happening on the conference realignment front lately). Here was his response to a question about whether further conference realignment was coming (via The Oklahoman):

There are several of us that are numerically challenged. I don’t know that anybody could’ve anticipated that the Big 12 would have 10 and the Big Ten would have 14. … In our case, I don’t know that there are a lot of obvious candidates out there. We’re distributing about $25 million per school through our distributable revenue, so anybody that would be considered for expansion in our league would have to bring at least pro-rata value. … But the opportunity to move from one high-visibility conference to another is pretty slim right now. I don’t see much movement in the near- to mid-term. As we get near the end of some of these TV contracts, which would be 10 or 12 years down the road, there may be some renewed conversations. The only movement that is possible right now is from some of the secondary-level conferences that might move people into one of the five high profiles.

The super-conferences concept … has largely been a media fabrication. I have heard no serious conversation among people who do this for a living that the super-conference concept has got any traction. It’s always dangerous when the media starts to interview the rest of the media, and I think that’s where the super-conference thing came from.

Nothing too new here, although Bowlsby does seem to give some hope to non-power conference schools looking to move up to the power ranks (such as BYU, Cincinnati and UConn) in stating that the only possible movement is from the “secondary-level conferences” to one of the power leagues. Seeing that the Big 12 is the most likely conference to expand in the near future (meaning the next 3 to 5 years), anything that Bowlsby says that suggests some possible movement is something to watch. Nothing has changed from my viewpoint a year ago that the Big 12 is demographically challenged long-term (other than the state of Texas) and would benefit from a 2-team expansion (specifically with Cincinnati and BYU under my Big 12 Expansion Index). I’ve never bought the notion that the Big 12 is truly happy being at 10 schools – their leaders will always publicly state that they’re happy with their TV revenue and round-robin scheduling, but deep down, they’re dying for two obvious non-power schools to rise up (similar to TCU and Utah in the past) that they can add on.

(3) TV Contracts – Bowlsby also had some interesting comments about the impact of the Longhorn Network on the Big 12 (once again via The Oklahoman):

The Longhorn Network is a boulder in the road. It really is. They did something that almost no other institution in the country could do because of the population in the state, and we’re looking at some way to try and morph that around a little bit. … It really begs the question about, how are we going to get our sports in the years ahead? If technology changes in the next five years as much as it’s changed in the last five years, we’re not going to be getting our sports by cable TV. I don’t know what it’ll be. But increasingly, we’re using mobile devices … Google Network and Apple TV and things like that are coming into play. … I’m not sure the world needs another exclusive college cable network. Rather than trying to do what everybody else has done, I would much rather try to figure out what tomorrow’s technology is and get on the front side of that and be a part of what happens going forward and monetize that.

I think Bowlsby is trying to spin a nice tale that the Big 12 can somehow take advantage of new technologies in the way that’s different than the Big Ten Network or SEC Network. However, the Big 12 can’t sell rights to games that it doesn’t have the rights to. If anything, the best properties to leverage for digital platforms in the future are conference networks themselves – see the BTN2Go streaming capabilities and the SEC Network’s integration into WatchESPN. The most powerful conferences in the cable world are going to continue to be the most powerful conferences in the digital world.

Separately, the NBA’s record-breaking new TV deal portends some incredible cash on the horizon for the Big Ten, which is the last major sports property (college or pro) that will be on the open TV rights market for the rest of this decade once its current ESPN deal expires in 2016. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Big Ten ends up extending with its current first tier rights TV partner ESPN sooner rather than later in the same way that the NBA extended its deals with ESPN and Turner. While there is some fan sentiment out there that the Big Ten ought to separate itself from ESPN, that’s (1) unbelievably short-sighted from an exposure perspective and (2) very likely to be a poor decision financially. (Mark Hasty of Midwest Sports Fans had a great critique of Big Ten fans complaining about supposed ESPN bias against the conference. I wholeheartedly agree with his analysis – our media coverage off-the-field is honestly miles ahead of our performance on-the-field.) It is also a common fan misnomer that the Big Ten is somehow more aligned with Fox. While the BTN is a Big Ten/Fox partnership, remember that the Big Ten actually provides the top picks of college football games for ABC and ESPN every week, which is of immense importance to both the B1G and Disney. (If you live in a cave, SEC sends its top game of the week to CBS.) Ultimately, ESPN has the most cash by far and they have shown to be willing to pay up to ensure that competitors like Fox and Comcast/NBC don’t get their hands on prime sports properties. Meanwhile, there is the risk that cable TV money might not last forever with the increase of chord cutting, so waiting a few years for the open market isn’t necessarily the guarantee of greater riches that it appears a couple of years ago. The NBA made the calculation that it was better to take the cash now rather than later and I’d trust the media savvy of Adam Silver over any other commissioner in sports. I would expect the Big Ten to do the same thing.

(Image from God and Sports)

I’ve been trying to write about topics other than conference realignment lately, but our favorite blogging crack habit has been buzzing in my ear like a hit summer song that you can’t avoid (see “Blurred Lines” now and “Call Me Maybe” last year)*.

(* For your perusing pleasure, Billboard put together a list of the top 10 songs for each summer since 1985. I can’t help but smile at some of the memories of these songs, particularly from my junior high years of 1991 and 1992. Sir-Mix-A-Lot!)

First, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com casually drops the following in a column last week about the latest power conference meetings:

Big Ten expansion: It isn’t done. That’s about all I can say. Hint: The conference will begin negotiating on a new TV deal next year. The current contract expires in 2016. Definitely stay tuned.

This of course got the blog and message board world humming again with apocalyptic tales of the Big 12 and/or ACC imploding along with the Big Ten adding anywhere from 2 to 10 schools. To be sure, the chatter actually did produce something of value in the form of a West Virginia(!) an Ohio State fan procuring a copy of the Big 12 Grant of Rights agreement, which we’ll take a look at in a moment.

Joe Schad of ESPN then Tweeted this quote from Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione yesterday:

This is plausibly relevant since OU is one of those schools that could be in the mix if all of this starts swirling again. Of course, the quote ignores the context of the conversation, as it appears that Castiglione also said that such realignment would be over the next “10 to 15 years” as opposed to immediately.

What does this all mean? Like Castiglione, I’m still thinking nothing at least in the short-term. Further consolidation among the power conferences is possible, but it continues to seem more likely to occur in the 2020s at the earliest. If the Big 12 Grant of Rights agreement is substantially similar to what the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC have in place (and there isn’t much reason to believe that there would be much deviation), it makes little sense to believe that more realignment is imminent.

The Big 12 Grant of Rights agreement (the “GOR”) states that each school will grant to the conference its applicable media rights (in this case, first and second tier tights for football and men’s basketball) for the duration of the term of the agreement, regardless of whether such school is a member of the conference or not. As we’ve noted here previously, this means that even if, say, Texas were to leave for the Big Ten or Pac-12, the GOR mandates that the Texas first and second tier rights would still be owned by the Big 12 until the GOR period ends in 2025.

What’s most instructive about the GOR contract is what it doesn’t say. There isn’t a termination provision. There isn’t a liquidated damages clause. There isn’t any mechanism to calculate potential damages for a member leaving early. In fact, there isn’t any procedure at all about what would occur in the event that a member leaves the conference other than a couple of flat statements that the GOR is in effect for such member until 2025 no matter what. The Grant of Rights agreement is intentionally ambiguous.

As someone that served some hard time in the slammer of a large corporate law firm, fighting over ambiguous contracts can rack up mountains of billable hours more than virtually any other type of litigation. When you have a 200-page contract that covers every single scenario possible, that document might have been complex to draft but it’s usually a fairly straight-forward process in terms of applying it. However, when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, as there are in the GOR agreement, and it’s covered by a 4-page contract that is a simple grant without any termination or dispute resolution procedures, that in and of itself is a massive deterrent to anyone challenging the agreement. It’s almost impossible to determine the legal and financial exposure that a school that is contemplating leaving a GOR arrangement would have. There could be no exposure at all or it could be a large enough amount to literally bankrupt a school, and there’s very low confidence in assessing what’s more likely. In contrast, a school dealing with an exit fee understands its exposure immediately and can balance whether the worst case scenario (i.e. Maryland having to pay the full amount of its $50 million exit fee to the ACC) is still worth risking a defection over.

To be sure, there are plenty of theoretical arguments to challenge the GOR. As Jason Hutzler argued at Outkick the Coverage earlier this year, if a TV network decides to keep paying a conference with one or more defections as much or more than what it was paying prior to such defections (as was the case with the Big 12 over the past 3 years), then a school trying to break the GOR could argue that the conference didn’t suffer any damages at all and, as a result, shouldn’t have to pay a dime upon leaving. I don’t quite buy this argument as fully working, as virtually every school that has challenged any exit fee in this latest round of conference realignment has attempted to argue this in some form and has had little-to-no success, but it’s certainly a starting point when there isn’t any type of liquidated damages clause. A school could also attempt to argue that the GOR taken together with the Big 12 Bylaws that states that a withdrawing school will not receive any revenue arising out of the GOR (see Section 3.1 of the Bylaws) constitutes an unconscionable agreement (as the member would not be receiving any media revenue despite it still being subject to the GOR). That’s a tough argument, though, as that defense is typically used by parties that don’t have much bargaining power or were victims of fraud (which wouldn’t be applicable here).

Regardless, most lawyers could probably think of numerous ways to break a GOR arrangement on paper, but the practical problem is that none of them are high confidence lines of attack. As a result, a school that attempts to break a GOR would be heading into a situation where there is unknown and unlimited legal and financial exposure, which is a horrible position to be in. For every argument out there that there aren’t any damages to conference that suffers a defection, there’s a counterargument that such conference is entitled to the fair market value of all of the TV rights for the school that’s leaving. That FMV for a marquee program like Texas could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars (remember that ESPN is paying Texas an average of $15 million per year for its leftover third tier rights for the Longhorn Network, much less its top football and basketball games), which eliminates any financial incentive to leave no matter how much a new conference might be promising in terms of more revenue. You don’t want to jump into a lawsuit in those types of circumstances, especially with the amount of dollars that are involved in connection with power conference media deals. The proof is in the pudding with the amount of weight that the conference commissioners have assigned to these GOR agreements and the fact that similar arrangements are enforced in entertainment industry all of the time. Believe me – when Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009, the Mickey Mouse conglomerate (which also happens to be the primary beneficiary of these GOR contracts via ESPN) employed armies of lawyers to try to figure out how to get out of all the long-term or even perpetual licenses that the comic book company granted to other competing movie studios when it was on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1980s and 1990s and they came up empty. Thus, Sony (via Columbia Pictures) continues to have the movie rights to Spider-Man* and Fox has the full suite of X-Men characters at its disposal despite Disney having paid $4 billion for Marvel.

(* Prior to the string of hit movies over the past decade, the Spider-Man movie rights had been passed around Hollywood like a doobie. James Cameron was actually in line to write and produce a Spider-Man movie in the early-1990s. Later, in the midst of litigation between Columbia Pictures and MGM over who actually could produce Spider-Man movies, the film companies ended up with a novel settlement: Columbia would drop all of its own claims that it could produce James Bond movies (which MGM had lorded over since the 1960s). Essentially, Spider-Man was traded in Hollywood for James Bond, which has ended up working out incredibly well for both of the studios involved. Sports fans have distinct memories of lopsided trades, such as Brock-for-Broglio, but I can’t think of a trade involving two legit superstars (the equivalent of Spider-Man and James Bond) that worked out for all parties.)

So, the GOR’s strength isn’t that it’s an ironclad complex agreement that doesn’t include any loopholes. Instead, it’s an arrangement that is a triple-dog-dare to schools that want to attempt to challenge it since there isn’t any reliable precedent about how to calculate damages. This is proverbial Russian roulette in a practical legal context – the damages could be more than you could imagine… or they could be less than what a normal exit fee would have been. That makes it a great moot court exercise for people like me and other writers in the peanut gallery, but a dangerous contract to challenge in real life. Lawsuits that are brought on principles other than money, such as constitutional challenges filed by the liberal ACLU or conservative American Center for Law and Justice, can afford to tackle these types of ambiguous arrangements. However, conference realignment is almost entirely about money, which means that the great risk of trying to challenge the GOR (even if there are viable legal arguments against it in theory) is likely going to be enough to dissuade any school from leaving a conference that has that type of contract in place. As much as I’d love to sit here and say that the Big Ten ought to add, say, Kansas and Oklahoma to its western division, without a prescribed course to challenge GOR agreements or a university president with the cajones to risk everything (who I’ll grant might be out there), power conference realignment is stopped dead in its tracks.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from NewsOK)

Despite being a Big Ten guy that would personally love to have Jim Delany add Florida State, I’ve repeated the following statement many times on this blog: the ACC is much stronger than what people give it credit for. It’s not that I’m a fan of the ACC at all, but simply a reflection that it has never been as open for poaching as so many conference realignment observers thought or wanted it to be. Despite perceived TV contract problem, it’s a conference with strong brand names and good-to-great academics in arguably the most demographically desirable geographic footprint of any league in the country. So, it wasn’t a surprise to me that the ACC finally solidified its position to the outside world with its members unanimously agreeing to a grant of media rights to the conference through 2026-27. For the uninitiated, the “Grant of Rights” is a key tool in protecting a conference’s membership since each school individually grants its media rights to its league for a set period of time, which applies even if such school ends up defecting. For example, if an ACC school now attempted to leave for the Big Ten, SEC or Big 12, the ACC would still own that school’s media rights until 2026-27. That effectively makes ACC schools worthless from a raiding conference’s standpoint since they either can’t get access to those media rights or would have to pay a large buyout to the ACC to obtain them. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 schools have already agreed to a grant of rights to their respective conferences.

With 4 of the 5 power conferences having a vested legal interest in seeing grant of rights agreements being upheld in court (and the 5th power conference that doesn’t have a grant of rights, the SEC, being so strong financially off-the-field and competitively on-the-field), it’s likely that we have seen an end to power conference realignment for the next decade or so. There’s a chance that the Big 12 may be compelled to expand back up to 12 or more members from its current 10 or that the Pac-12 could eventually find a current Mountain West Conference member attractive, but the shifting between the power conferences themselves is probably over. From the Big Ten’s perspective, it’s probably all well and good. As much as I personally wanted the Big Ten to look at a school like Florida State, it likely only had eyes for the AAU likes of Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, all of whom would have been extremely difficult to poach (particularly UNC). The SEC also was set on looking at UNC and maybe rival Duke as a pair, which also would have been a monumental task to pull off. Much like the Big Ten was better off seeing Texas stay in a weakened Big 12 as opposed to heading off to a stronger Pac-16, if Jim Delany can’t nab his alma mater of UNC for himself, maintaining the status quo is much more preferable than seeing UNC head off to the SEC (as unlikely that would have been). From both the conference financial and fan perspectives, there isn’t any Big Ten expansion scenario that makes any sense without 2 or more schools from one of the ACC or Big 12. I’m sure that Mike Slive and SEC fans would feel the same way about SEC expansion.

The conference realignment game has been particularly cruel to American Athletic Conference* orphans UConn and Cincinnati. Their most realistic paths back to power conference status were all via further raids of the ACC opening up more slots. Neither school fits the profile of what the Big Ten and SEC would be looking for, the Pac-12 is out of geographic reach, and the ACC isn’t likely going up to 16 with either of them and would only be interested in them as backfill candidates in the event they ever do lose other members. The best hope for UConn and Cincinnati at this point (and it’s a bit better for the latter) is that the Big 12 ends up having an urgent need to expand again. Using 20/20 hindsight, the Big 12 might rue the day that they passed over taking Louisville and a 12th school (either BYU or Cincinnati) as the ACC surprised a lot of people in grabbing what has ended up being a fairly valuable football and basketball chip off of the table. A Louisville/BYU combo was likely financially viable to the Big 12 in a way that any BYU/Cincinnati/UConn combo probably can’t be, so the Big 12 seems stalled at 10. That might be perfectly fine for the conference’s university presidents and athletic directors at this time, but having a lack of viable expansion options is a much more acute long-term problem for a 10-school conference than ones at 12 or 14 members. I’ve never been a proponent of any conference expanding simply for the sake of expanding, yet it feels like the Big 12 didn’t take advantage of a momentary position of strength after they signed their new TV deal with ESPN and Fox last year. Now, to be sure, I never bought for one second that the Big 12 had any legitimate chance at Florida State and Clemson (the former was really only interested in shaking the money trees of the Big Ten and SEC). However, adding Louisville and BYU would have been a solid expansion both athletically and geographically for the Big 12 and that’s an opportunity that has slipped away. The ACC’s choice of Louisville over UConn and Cincinnati effectively blocked Big 12 expansion, whether John Swofford intended for that to happen or not (and I tend to agree with Andy Staples that Swofford is a ninja that has been underestimated by a lot of college sports fans).

(* My vote for the new AAC logo is here.)

As for the ACC itself, there’s little point in entertaining expansion for the foreseeable future. Contrary to the belief of a surprisingly large number of sports fans, the fact that the ACC has an odd number of basketball teams as a result of Notre Dame’s non-football membership has absolutely zero bearing on conference realignment. The only time that an odd number of schools matters is for a football alignment, which wouldn’t apply in the case of the ACC. Therefore, the conference certainly wouldn’t add a single all-sports member to create an odd number of football schools, and it’s doubtful that going up to 16 is appealing with the ongoing hope (however misguided that it might be) that Notre Dame might join the league as a football member within the next 40 years.

Speaking of Notre Dame, the Irish have managed to solidify their independence for the foreseeable future with an extension of their contract with NBC through 2025. If one thing has been made clear through conference realignment over the past 3 years (to the extent that it wasn’t already clear), it’s that Notre Dame’s ironclad principle is to maintain independence above making the most TV money (which, to be sure, is still quite good for them), scheduling concerns or any other factor besides being structurally foreclosed from winning a national championship (which will be far from the case in the new 4-team playoff format). The ACC is honestly a perfect setup for Notre Dame – the Irish get access to a power conference for non-football sports and a full slate of bowls with a partial conference scheduling commitment that consists largely of schools that they would generally be willing to play, anyway. They’re not going anywhere for a loooong time.

Now, conference realignment for the world outside of the five power football conferences is far from over. The formation of the “new” Big East is spurring a large scale realignment of non-FBS Division I conferences (starting with the Atlantic 10 adding George Mason and Davidson and the Missouri Valley Conference taking Loyola). Many FCS football programs are finding themselves in financial purgatory where they are looking to move up to FBS homes. There might even be a full scale realignment of the college sports world with a possible breakaway of the top football leagues from the NCAA. Still, it feels like the big conference realignment moves (outside of that possible NCAA break-up) have been completed… except, of course, for Johns Hopkins going to the Big Ten.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from ImageEvent)

For long-time readers of this blog, you know how important that I consider TV rights to be in shaping the world of sports, both college and pro.  It has driven conference realignment the past couple of years, convinced the reactionary leaders of college football to finally institute a playoff, turned the NFL into a financial juggernaut and exacerbated the differences in the fortunes of franchises in the NBA and Major League Baseball.  From the first post that I had in writing about Big Ten expansion, I emphasized how important that the TV revenue from the conference’s deals with ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network would be in luring a football power when most fans only thought about geography and historical rivalries.

However, it feels as though the world has gone in the other direction where even hardcore football fans seem to believe that TV revenue is all that matters in conference realignment.  That’s not quite correct, either, as I also tried to indicate in that original Big Ten Expansion post.  Factors such as academics and cultural fit matter if a conference wants to be strong for the long-term as opposed to just the length of the current TV contract.

So, it was quite amazing to me to witness Andy Haggard, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Florida State spew out inflammatory comments against the new ACC television deal with ESPN and suggest that the school should explore options with the Big 12.  Never mind that Haggard was wrong about the details of that TV deal that he was complaining about, which was subsequently corrected by Florida State president Eric Barron and caused Haggard to somewhat backtrack from his initial comments.  The damage is done – the Florida State blog and message board crowd, to the extent that they didn’t already believe that they weren’t getting screwed by the Tobacco Road crowd, are now wholeheartedly ready to sign over the deed to their athletic department to DeLoss Dodds.

Before I get into my opinion, I’ll give credit to The Dude from Eerinsider.com for writing about his belief that Florida State would be going to be Big 12 for several months.  Frankly, I still don’t know how people from West Virginia could know more about the intentions of schools such as Texas, Florida State, Clemson and Louisville than those schools’ own respective insiders and beat reporters, but The Dude has certainly been unwavering in his beliefs and deserves some kudos for, at the very least, socializing the idea that Florida State going to the Big 12 is viable.  I know that I and many others have been dismissive of that speculation, so I’ll need to eat some crow for that.

As for my opinion: if Florida State is seriously considering leaving the ACC for the Big 12, then that would be incredibly short-sighted.  This is the ultimate “penny wise and pound foolish” move.  Eight months ago, the world was discussing whether the Big 12 would even exist going forward.  Texas or Oklahoma sneezing gives the entire Big 12 pneumonia and that’s something that’s never going to change.  Regardless of how large and long the new Big 12 TV contract might be, the one thing that you know about the ACC is that its core of North Carolina, Duke and Virginia aren’t interested in going anywhere.  Maybe the ACC can be weakened on the football front by defections by the likes of Florida State, but the league is going to live on.  In contrast, the biggest flight risks in the Big 12 are the members of its core itself: Texas and Oklahoma.  A blue blood athletic program like Kansas was talking to the Big East back in 2010 for fear of not having a place to land.  As a result, any complaints from Tallahassee about the supposed power of Duke and UNC over the ACC ring hollow for anyone that can remember only eight months back to the primary example of what happens when a school truly runs a conference.  The Big 12 is a power conference that has cheated death twice in two years.

This isn’t a criticism of Texas: the Longhorns have the most powerful college sports brand outside of Notre Dame, so they’re wisely leveraging the assets that they have.  Any school would have taken ESPN’s offer for the Longhorn Network in a heartbeat.  The skepticism comes in as to whether the “third tier” TV rights that are now the subject of so much consternation really have that much value for schools other than Texas.  As Matt Sarzyniak noted, the definition of “third tier rights” is vastly different depending upon the conference.  (Note that it is difficult to find accurate information about the value of third tier TV rights alone.  Many third tier media rights calculations include radio rights, coaches’ shows and Internet streaming capabilities, which all of the major conferences, including the ACC, allow schools to keep for themselves.)

Is it reasonable to assume that Florida State would automatically garner $5 million extra or more per year from selling its third tier TV rights, or is that number going to be mixed in with radio rights that the Seminoles are already selling, so the additional dollars that would be garnered in theory by going to the Big 12 isn’t as much as it would seem?  I don’t have an answer to that question, but it’s not nearly as simple as, “Texas is getting $15 million for its third tier rights, which means that Florida State has got to be able to make at least half of that amount.”  The Longhorn Network is such an outlier for third tier TV rights that it can’t really be used for comparison purposes.  In fact, the best comparison for Florida State would be what Texas A&M made off of its third tier rights in the Big 12 as school that is #2 in its home state with a large and loyal fan base.  My understanding is that amount really wasn’t that much (which is partially why the Aggies had such an issue with the Longhorn Network in the first place).  The third tier TV rights disparity ended up driving Texas A&M away from the Big 12 and now it’s being argued as a lure to draw Florida State in.  (Note that the SEC still reserves third tier rights for individual schools in a similar fashion as the Big 12, so A&M might be seeing better revenue from those rights in its new home.)  It’s fascinating to see that turn of events.

The bottom line: Florida State would be leaving the ACC for the Big 12 solely for money.  That’s the entire argument.  Now, that certainly can be a persuasive argument that will rule the day.  However, in every other major conference move, there was something more than money at stake.  Nebraska got a better academic home in the Big Ten, Colorado culturally fits better in the Pac-12, Texas A&M and Missouri received stability in the preeminent football conference in the SEC, and Pitt and Syracuse and West Virginia and TCU left even more unstable situations in the Big East for the ACC and Big 12, respectively.  Even if you were to argue that money was the driving factor in all of those moves (and without a doubt, it mattered a ton), there were still other holistic arguments that could be made to respective universities that could convince the ivory tower types that there were positives beyond the value of the current TV contract.  That simply isn’t the case when comparing the situations of the ACC and Big 12.  Academically, the ACC is higher-rated than the Big 12 and is the only power conference besides the Big Ten with a research consortium*.  Stability-wise, the ACC has stayed together since 1953 with only one defection (South Carolina to the SEC became independent in 1971**) compared to the musical chairs in the Big 12 over the past two years.  Geographically, Florida State goes from a contiguous coastal conference to one that starts looking like a big budget version of the Big East.  Market-wise for recruiting and TV, Florida State would get access to Texas but lose all of the other fast-growing states in the ACC’s southeastern footprint.  Culturally, for all of the talk about the ACC being a “basketball league” and the Big 12 being a “football league”, the ACC added Miami and Virginia Tech purely for football purposes (and drawing the ire of the supposedly almighty Duke and UNC) while pure football schools Nebraska and Texas A&M couldn’t leave the Big 12 fast enough.

(* EDIT 1: The SEC also has an academic consortium.)

(** EDIT 2: South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992.)

I know that plenty of fans will continue to believe that factors such as academics don’t matter and that it’s simply about the money.  Heck, even Haggard himself believes that when he said, “No FSU graduate puts on his resume or interviews for a job saying they are in the same conference as Duke and Virginia.  Conference affiliation really has no impact on academics.”  That’s an understandable position and considering how much university presidents are searching for every penny these days, it’s not surprising.  However, the people running universities day-to-day certainly don’t believe that, as Barron stated in a memo that the “faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker.”  My much more connected SEC expansion counterpart, Mr. SEC, also says that academic prestige is a massive issue with actual decision-makers in conference realignment.

Look – I have no skin in this game.  I’ve stated many times before that few things would make me happier than Duke being relegated to the Southern Conference.  There is no personal affection for the ACC from my end at all.  I’m just looking at this from an outsider’s point of view.  If Florida State absolutely needs the short-term revenue boost from the Big 12 (and that could certainly be the case with the school’s athletic department deficit), then I understand the Seminoles jumping.  I’m past the point of being shocked that a school would move for a few extra TV dollars.  However, I would still be surprised if they defect on the basis that every single other factor for Florida State (academics, stability, geography, markets) points to staying in the ACC, which is unlike any of the other power conference moves over the past two years.  Long-term, the TV money difference between the Big 12 and ACC on its face isn’t enough to discount all of those other factors.

The irony is that for all of the complaints that Florida State fans might have about the supposed basketball focus of Tobacco Road, if the Seminoles had performed half as well in football as they have had in basketball recently (four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, a Sweet Sixteen run and an ACC Tournament championship), no one would be talking about a “weak” ACC football league and ESPN probably would have thrown even more money toward the conference.  Regardless, don’t just look at the TV money, as important as that might be.  Nebraska would have gone to the Big Ten even if there wasn’t a clear increase in TV money.  For that matter, West Virginia would have gone to the Big 12 regardless of the TV contract.  However, the answer isn’t clear that Florida State would ever choose the Big 12 over the ACC if the TV money wasn’t a factor.  There’s a difference between taking money for the short-term (and in college sports parlance, a 13-year TV contract can definitely still be “short-term”) and determining the best choice for the long-term.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from KC College Gameday)

With the Big 12 on the verge of signing a large new TV rights extension deal with ESPN and Fox and seemingly heading toward a period of stability, conference realignment is looking more about completing the domino effect of the moves by the power conferences.

The merger of the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA is progressing at tortoise speed with 16 schools for now and periodic rumblings/threats that it may grow as large as 24.  There’s still the specter of the Mount USA Alliance losing Air Force to the Big East, but that would likely be the extent of any further defections.  Honestly, outside of the possibility of having to replace Air Force, I don’t see any real value in the Mount USA expanding further.  As of now, there can be an easily manageable 16-team conference with 2 logical 8-team divisions.  Adding any more schools would be the essence of expansion for the sake of expansion.  The Mount USA is already in a precarious position with how much their TV contracts would be valued today, so further expansion would likely just dilute any rights fees.  So, if the Mount USA is smart, the WAC will receive a reprieve.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic 10 is the new scene for hot conference realignment action.  Temple will be leaving for the Big East while Charlotte has been invited to the Sun Belt in connection with the school’s move-up to Division I-A football in 2015, which means the A-10 is looking for reinforcements.  Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com has reported that VCU, George Mason and Butler have had discussions with the A-10.  If this is consummated, I like the move from the perspective of all parties involved.  The A-10 would establish rivalries in the Washington, DC area (George Mason vs. George Washington) and Richmond (VCU vs. Richmond) while providing Midwestern bridge between its Ohio members (Xavier and Dayton) and St. Louis University by adding Butler.  In turn, the A-10 has consistently garnered multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament, which is something that none of the potential additions could count on in the Colonial Athletic Association or Horizon League, respectively.

If I were running the A10, I’d also be taking a look at current Horizon League members Loyola University Chicago and Detroit.  While they haven’t had recent Final Four runs like VCU, George Mason and Butler, those schools fit well with the large Catholic school contingent in the A-10, are located in large TV and recruiting markets, and provide a critical mass of schools in the Midwest.

Are these moves as titillating as the persistent rumors thrown around about the Big 12 poaching ACC schools such as Florida State and Clemson (which I don’t buy for one second)?  Of course not, but it’s important to note the range of the aftershocks of the realignment of the power conferences.  If the Atlantic 10 expands, then the Horizon League and CAA will likely need to find replacements, which means even more leagues further down the food chain are affected.  The drive for big-time college football revenue is impacting every type of Division I institution, including those that don’t play football at all.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Manga Xanadu)

This blog has been a hub of activity for conference realignment discussion and other issues in the business of sports for the past couple of years, but it has sometimes been difficult to get quantitative data to back up what many of us observe qualitatively (such as the popularity of fan bases and conferences).  So, the following presentation direct from Nielsen (the TV ratings firm) about the 2011 sports year provides a treasure trove of previously unknown (at least to me) and fascinating statistics about pro and college sports TV viewership, social networking buzz and ad spending:
This slide presentation was uploaded by ceobroadband at slideshare.net.  Nielsen analyzed everything from the four major pro sports leagues to the rising viewership of the English Premier League in the US, so there’s something here for every type of sports fan.  It’s key that this analysis is coming directly from Nielsen itself, whereas a lot of other viewership figures that get reported these days come from leagues, conferences and TV networks themselves and are spun to put them in the most favorable light.  As a result, the slide presentation is about as unbiased as you can reasonably get on the subject matters at hand.
One of the more interesting charts is on slide 4, where Nielsen tracked the social media buzz for the major pro sports leagues over the course of 2011 and news events where activity spiked on Twitter and Facebook.  Major League Baseball can’t be happy to see social networking mentions hover around the NHL’s numbers and its 7-game World Series last year didn’t produce a real spike in activity compared to the NBA Finals.  I’m not surprised by the fact that the NBA has more social networking buzz compared to MLB since the basketball league’s fan base skews younger, but I didn’t expect baseball to be on the social media level of hockey.  (Note that there’s no point in comparing any other sport to the NFL in America: pro football blows everything else away on every metric.  The only discussion is about who can take second place.)
For college sports fans, slide 9 presents some extremely pertinent information that few of us have seen before: the average TV viewer numbers per game for each of the 6 power conferences for both football and basketball.  With so many issues in college sports, such as conference realignment and a football playoff, driven by television money, these viewership figures are enlightening (and surprising in some cases).
Here are the average football viewership totals by conference according to Nielsen:1. SEC – 4,447,000
2. Big Ten – 3,267,000
3. ACC – 2,650,000
4. Big 12 – 2,347,000
5. Pac-12 – 2,108,000
6. Big East – 1,884,000
Here are the average basketball viewership totals by conference according to Nielsen:1. Big Ten – 1,496,000
2. ACC – 1,247,000
3. SEC – 1,222,000
4. Big 12 – 1,069,000
5. Big East – 1,049,000
6. Pac-12 – 783,000
Some takeaways from those figures:
A. The Big Ten and SEC deserve every penny that they receive and then some – The readers of this blog probably aren’t surprised by the football viewership numbers, but the proverbial icing on the cake is how strong both of them are in basketball.  ACC alum Scott Van Pelt of ESPN once said, “Watching Big Ten basketball is like watching fat people have sex.”  Well, the Big Ten even tops the vaunted the ACC in basketball viewership and it’s by a fairly healthy margin.
B. The ACC has an undervalued TV contract – The flip side of the Big Ten and SEC analysis above is that while the ACC’s basketball viewership strength isn’t unexpected, the much maligned football side actually has strong TV numbers.  If you take a step back for a moment, it makes sense.  Florida State and Miami continue to be great national TV draws (even when they’re down) and schools such as Virginia Tech bring in large state markets.
C.  Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott can sell ice cubs to Eskimos – The viewership numbers for the Pac-12 in both football and basketball indicate that they shouldn’t be in the vicinity of the ACC and Big 12 TV contracts, much less currently above the Big Ten and SEC.  The football numbers might be a little lower compared to a normal season with USC having the scarlet letter of not being able to go to a bowl this year, but one would think that some of that would have been countered by strong Stanford and Oregon teams.  Meanwhile, the basketball numbers are just awful – the Pac-12 definitely needs UCLA to resuscitate itself to be viable nationally.  The Pac-12 presidents ought to give Larry Scott a lifetime contract with the TV dollars that he’s pulled from ESPN and Fox.
D.  Big East basketball is a weaker draw than expected – No one should be surprised by the weak Big East football numbers.  However, the basketball and large market-centric side of the league actually had fewer hoops viewers than any of the power conferences except for the Pac-12, which doesn’t bode well with the league losing the strong draws of Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia.  The Big East was also widely acknowledged as the top conference in basketball last year, so the league was at its competitive peak in the post-2003 ACC raid era.  This gives credence to the argument that large media markets in and of themselves don’t matter as much as large and rabid fan bases that draw in statewide audiences.
E.  The Big 12 is appropriately valued – For all of the dysfunction of the Big 12, it might be the one conference whose TV contracts are actually in line with their viewership numbers.  The Big 12 is ranked #4 among the power conferences for both football and basketball and the likelihood is that it will end up as the #4 conference in TV dollars after the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC when all is said and done.
There’s lots of other data to chew on here that I may examine in future posts, but for now, the college conference viewership breakdown is something that I haven’t seen before and puts some quantitative backup to what we have speculated was behind conference realignment moves.
(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Slides from slideshare.net)