Could an unequal revenue sharing model calm the conference realignment waters or is it too late for that line of thinking?

photo by: AP File Photo

In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, a Big 12 pylon marks the end zone at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas State in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

As conversations continued about the Big 12 Conference and Pac-12 seeking to survive and thrive, a thought popped into my head while watching the final hole of the British Open, of all things.

Why not pay schools what they earn instead of having the television rights revenue equally distributed among all of the members of the conference?

It might be a bit of a challenging and even controversial approach. And perhaps there’s an obvious reason to avoid it that I’m overlooking.

But as Rory McIlroy stood over his second-to-last putt of the tournament last Sunday in St. Andrews, Scotland, there was money on the line, just like there could be for every school in potentially every sport in major college athletics.

Had he made the putt McIlroy would’ve tied for second, which would have netted him a couple hundred thousand dollars more in prize money.

Instead, McIlroy missed and settled for par, which left him all alone in third place and with a prize of $933,000. Cameron Young, who finished in second place, brought home $1.46 million.

As you all know, football is what drives conference realignment. So, if such a proposal came down to a vote today, you can bet that KU would vote against it — at least for the time being.

Still, it feels like there’s a formula here that might keep everyone happy. The reason first is simple. You get what you earn. In many ways, that’s at the core of what sports is all about and it only makes sense to tie that philosophy to the financial side of things.

After all, that’s how it works at the professional level. And while I know there are still quite a few of you out there who want to scream and shout about how college athletics is not pro sports, the goings on of the past year have cut into that argument quite a bit, eh?

No one is buying that college sports are amateur athletics any longer. So if you’re going to pay players and have endorsement deals and have television revenue drive the whole thing, you might as well adopt some other professional principles, as well.

It seems like it’s all headed that way anyway.

For fun, here’s a look at what this model could have meant for the Big 12 Conference had it been in place during the past year.

As you may know, the Big 12 paid out a record $426 million to its 10 member schools for last year, resulting in a haul of $42.6 million per institution.

Basing the model around the idea that last place gets no less than half of what first place gets, here’s how the payouts would have been handled for the last school year.

1st place – $64M (15%)

2nd place – $53M (12.25%)

3rd place – $49M (11.25%)

4th place – $43M (10%)

5th place – $43M (10%)

6th place – $38M (9%)

7th place – $37M (8.75%)

8th place – $35M (8.25%)

9th place – $34M (8%)

10th place – $32M (7.5%)

As you can see, the top five schools all received at least what equal distribution would have produced, with first place netting more than $20 million more than that $42.6 million figure and second and third place picking up some extra cash, as well.

The schools that finished 6th through 10th all would have made less than the $42.6 million but not by a crippling amount.

What’s more, while losing $10 million from the equal distribution would not have been fun for the 10th-place school — in this case Kansas — it’s not as if wholesale changes would have to take place within an athletic department to account for it.

Tightening of the belt here and cost-saving measures there would make it manageable, and the beauty of the format is that it can also be made up in future years by improving your standing in the rankings.

Again, there’s probably some really obvious reason for this not to be the favored approach. And it may be as simple as not enough schools like it.

But in an era where all things are being and have to be considered, this doesn’t seem quite as crazy as it might have in years past.

After all, if the Pac-12 had adopted something similar to this model years ago, maybe USC and UCLA would not have left and the remaining schools would not currently be fighting for their power conference lives. Who knows? Texas and OU might not be leaving the Big 12 either.

It seems like we’ve gone too far for this to be a viable solution, but perhaps this line of thinking could help stem the tide.


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