Three takeaways from the Big Ten’s 7-billion-dollar deal and what it might mean for Kansas
The Big Ten, in conjunction with television partners CBS, NBC and FOX, agreed to a 7-year, $7 billion media rights partnership that will begin in 2023 and run through 2030.
The deal is the largest in the history of college football and it further cements the conference as the king of the castle in all of college athletics when it comes to broadcasting dollars.
It’s also no surprise whatsoever.
According to reports, the powers that be who brokered this deal believed this kind of money could be there even before the conference added USC and UCLA earlier this year. Once it did, therein bringing in the Los Angeles market to the conference’s already vast footprint beginning in 2024, it became a no-brainer that big money was on the way.
This deal, among other things, is the biggest reason why so many universities on the outside looking in have tried to position themselves to become more attractive to the Big Ten should it desire to expand further.
As it stands today, the Big Ten will grow to 16 members when the two L.A. schools join, and it’s entirely possible that the conference could look to add more — be it one, two or four schools — in the not-too-distant future.
This kind of money makes anything possible, and only further enhances the desire for everyone not already in the Big Ten to at least explore whether there’s any way they can join or be invited.
Universities in both the Pac-12 and Big 12 have been linked to potential Big Ten expansion, and there’s still independent power Notre Dame, which has its own television deal with NBC.
As for what this deal changes for Kansas, the answer may be very little.
KU still should do everything in its power to make itself an attractive option for the Big Ten — major improvements across the board with football will be the key here — and, short of getting in, Kansas should be as proactive as possible in positioning the Big 12 to be the third best conference in the Power 2 world.
Those two things were present before Thursday and will remain important well into the future.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the news about the Big Ten’s $7 billion deal:
• At roughly $1 billion per year in Tier I television revenue, there’s more than enough money there for the Big Ten to expand. Whether it wants to or not is akin to the Big 12 deciding it preferred to split the pie just 10 ways for the past several years instead of just expanding to expand. But there’s no doubt that the money is there. Once the Big Ten adds the two Los Angeles schools to get to 16, the math works out to $62.5 million per member. Again, that’s just for Tier 1 television dollars. The overall haul per school likely will be much higher than that with College Football Playoff dollars, NCAA Tournament money and Tier 3 rights also factoring into the big picture. Even when just considering the football TV money, though, that $62.5 million payout is roughly $20 million more than the Big 12 paid out in 2021 when it distributed a conference record $42.6 million to its 10 members. If the Big Ten wants to add more schools, money will not stop them. At 18 teams, that $1 billion pie becomes $55.6 million per school. And expanding to 20 teams — which likely is KU’s only shot of getting into the Big Ten — still leaves the payout at $50 million per school. There’s also the reported escalator clause in the deal, which allows for compensation to grow if the conference expands. Without having seen the contract, the guess here is that clause creates a cushion for expansion that would make room for each member to receive roughly the same amount ($62.5 million annually) that the 16 schools are slated to receive as of today.
• While the money is massive, the more interesting part to me is the television windows Big Ten games will fill in the future. There’s a standing Saturday night game, a Friday night option and countless other Saturday afternoon and evening games. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the Associated Press the structure was modeled after NFL Sundays, with three consecutive games shown on three separate networks, and that’s a reminder that, like the NFL on Sundays, the Big Ten has plans to dominate and saturate the space. ESPN is not involved with the conference, so there will still be plenty of time slots for the rest of the conferences, but the Big Ten will dominate network cable.
• The exact dollar value of the new Big Ten deal may not have any direct significance to the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 — we all knew they weren’t going to be able to keep up with the Big Ten and SEC anyway — but it’s still a scary time for those conferences. Here’s why. I read somewhere the other day that the Big Ten and SEC could be interested in expanding to the point where they relegate those three other Power 5 conferences to Group of 5 status. If both went to 20 schools, therein taking the 10 best from those other three conferences — six to the SEC and four more to the Big Ten — it would leave those other conferences looking a lot like the American or Mountain West. That, so I’ve read, would open up the potential for the Big Ten and SEC to take up to 90-95% of the College Football Playoff money on a yearly basis, bringing to reality those conferences’ dream of creating their own exclusive club that dominates financially and competes for the national title each year, outside of whatever the NCAA may or may not want to see happen. It’s possible that Kansas could crack that list of 10, but here’s a quick list of the schools that are all but certain to be on it, be it for the strength or their football, the size and splash of their media market or a combination of the two: Notre Dame, obviously; Clemson, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia from the ACC; and Colorado, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. That leaves a long list of other schools fighting for the final one or two spots. Again, that’s if both the Big Ten and SEC elect to expand to 20, but that’s still not good odds. Kansas is probably on that list, along with Arizona, Stanford, Louisville, possibly Boston College, TCU, maybe Texas Tech and West Virginia, Houston and Central Florida.