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Big XII’s Bowlsby Says 10 Is “The Right Number For Us”

gfx - they said itAs we enter the 2013 season, there’s no rumbling of potential expansion or conference realignment to take force our minds away from the football field.  No one has been able to say that for quite a while.

If Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby has his way, there’s won’t be any more rumors swirling around his conference in the weeks and months to come.  After stating that 10 schools is “the right number for us,” the savior of the Big XII says money-wise his league is A-OK:

 

“There hasn’t been anything that has been empirically able to demonstrate that larger is better.  Our distributable revenue per institution is right there at the top of the country.  I think time will tell whether our size is the optimal size or whether something bigger is optimal.  But we like our dog in the fight.”

 

For now, the Big XII is distributing about the same amount of cash as the other major conferences.  But as the Big Ten expands by two teams and pushes its Big Ten Network toward the East Coast and as the SEC launches its own network, who knows how long the Big XII will be able to continue to distribute funds at an even pace with the big boy leagues?

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Big Ten Makes Record Bank And Trumps The SEC By $42 Million

delany-big-ten-dollarFirst thought: The Big Ten knows how to make money.

Second thought: No wonder the SEC is starting its own network.

According to USA Today, the Big Ten’s latest tax return shows that the league pulled in $315 million during its last fiscal year (which ended in June of 2012).  That’s $50 million more than the league made the previous year and $42 million more than the SEC reported during its last fiscal year (which ended in August of 2012).

Additionally, USA Today writes: “The return also showed the league-owned Big Ten Network has progressed from start-up to overall profitability in less than five years.”

The Big Ten co-owns its television channel with FOX.  ESPN owns the new SEC Network and is expected to pay the SEC a licensing fee for content and 50% of profits.  The SEC should see money sooner from its network than the Big Ten did from its channel.

Now let’s tinker with the data USA Today is reporting.  For the fiscal year ending in Summer 2012, both the Big Ten and SEC were 12-school leagues.  With the SEC office taking an equal share — and we assume the Big Ten office does the same — that carves total revenue into 13 units.  Doing a little ballpark math… if the Big Ten made about $42 million more than the SEC during both leagues’ last fiscal year and that revenue was divided into 13 units, the average Big Ten school would have made about $3.2 million more than the average SEC school in 2011-12.

As the Big Ten Network continues to grow, the Big Ten will continue to bring in more loot.  And with the conference expanding to 14 schools eventually stretching all the way to New York City and Washington, DC, it will most certainly continue to grow.

Down South, the new SEC Network could become a billion-dollar-a-year revenue stream for Mike Slive’s league at some point down the road (as is the case with the Big Ten Network and Jim Delany’s league).

So as we’ve written on a number of occasions, new contracts and deals will continue to be cut by networks and conferences over the coming decades, but you can expect the Big Ten and SEC to always remain one-two in terms of revenue among the major conferences.  Who’s on top will depend greatly on whose network grows the largest.

And if you’re wondering how a league with average football in recent years is out-earning the king of the football world in a marketplace driven by football… click here.

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Big Ten Per-School Payout Tops $25 Million

money_treeAccording to figures obtained from the University of Illinois by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Big Ten teams will see their annual revenue checks from the conference office cross the $25 million barrier this year.  That makes the Big Ten, once again, the biggest of the big money leagues in college athletics.

The Post-Dispatch reports that Illinois will make $25.7 million this year with $7.6 million of that coming from the league’s Big Ten Network (which is co-owned by FOX).  Last year, Illinois received $24.6 million with $8.1 million coming from the channel.

According to the math done by The Post-Dispatch, if the $7.6 million projection is correct, schools in the league “will have collected $42.5 million from the venture” over its six-year lifespan.

As we first wrote last fall — and as USA Today then followed up with January — SEC schools are expected to make between $30-35 million once its new network, the new playoff system, and the league’s new bowl lineup kick off over the next couple of years.  Currently, SEC schools make in the $20-21 million range.

Like the SEC, Big Ten schools will also see a boost from the new playoff and from their own league’s new bowl deals.  The Big Ten Network will also benefit from recent expansion moves stretching the league into Maryland, the District of Columbia, New York and New Jersey.

The bottom line on bottom lines is this — In 10 years, the SEC and Big Ten will still be neck-and-neck with each other and leading the way in revenue… well ahead of any other conferences.

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Which Conference Will Win The Realignment War? It Depends On Your Definition Of “Win”

sec-logo-over-big-ten-logo“What are you hearing about conference expansion?”

“Any news on Florida State?”

“Would the SEC really prefer North Carolina and Duke over Virginia Tech and NC State?”

“They’re saying on Twitter that an announcement from the Big Ten could come today… you hearing that?”

If you ever wanted an idea of what kinds of emails arrive at the MrSEC.com inbox each day (aside from the obligatory hate mail), now you know.  Expansion, expansion, expansion.  What are you hearing?  When will it happen?  Who’ll move where?

Day after day, we get mostly the same questions.  Which is fine, I try to answer them all.  But on Thursday a fresh query arrived:  “Regardless of what some people say about the Big Ten getting ahead of the SEC, don’t you think, too, that Mike Slive knows exactly how to work around Jim Delany?”

That’s a good one.  But unfortunately, I don’t share the emailer’s pro-SEC enthusiasm.  The reason?  When it comes to the next round of conference expansion and realignment, Delany’s sales pitch will have two advantages over Slive’s.  From how I look at it, the Big Ten will likely be the “winner” in all this mess.  But that depends on how you define “winner,” of course.  More on that in a minute.  First, those two face cards that Delany currently holds…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten Throws Down The Gauntlet: No More FCS Opponents

gauntletIf you don’t think the Big Ten is serious about trying to force the SEC to up the level of its non-conference competition, you’re not paying attention.  On Monday, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said his league would be moving to a nine- or 10-game league schedule.  Last night, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez said the following:

 

“The non-conference schedule in our league is ridiculous.  It’s not very appealing… So we’ve made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools.  It will not be FCS schools.”

 

How soon the Big Ten can go to that new standard depends on its members’ existing contracts with FCS opponents.  Still, it’s clear that the Big Ten is trying to create better content for its own Big Ten Network and toughen its teams’ strength of schedule numbers at the same time.

Ah, but will the SEC follow suit?

This past season, the league’s 14 teams played 15 FCS foes.  You can be sure the league’s television partners would prefer more/better choices when it comes to setting their broadcast schedules.

For fans who are against a nine-game SEC schedule and also enjoy playing FCS foes — I took a lot of heat last year from Mississippi State fans who told me they enjoyed attending creampuff games, thank ya very much — the guess here is that you won’t be pleased when the league formally reveals its plans for an SEC Network.

It’s a virtual lock that there would be more money to be made as well as better odds of placing multiple teams in the new football playoff with rougher, tougher schedules.  Mike Slive and the SEC’s presidents certainly recognize that fact.

 

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Big Ten Considering A 9- Or 10-Game Conference Schedule

big-ten-logojpg-ec9abb28100a4921Excuse us while we bury the lead, so to speak…

Readers of this site know that we’re in favor of a nine-game conference football schedule for SEC teams.  (Short of that, we’re for eliminating divisional play altogether).  There are basically four reasons why we believe the SEC should consider adding a conference contest for each football program each season:

 

1.  We’re tired of having to waste time writing about the Presbyterians, Jacksonville States and Furmans of the world.  Those games are meaningless — unless the SEC team loses — and fewer and fewer fans are turning out for them.  Apparently many of you are tired of wasting time (and money) and those cupcake games, too.

2.  The SEC takes a lot of hits nationally for what’s seen as a sub-par non-conference slate.  That might not matter under the current BCS system, but when a selection committee takes over and starts handing out playoff invitations it could.  If there are any biased members on that committee who want to see the national championship get spread around a bit more often, those people could use schedule slights as a way to keep multiple SEC teams out of the four-team playoff.

3.  We understand the business side of conference expansion, but tradition should still count for something.  In growing to 14 schools and keeping an eight-game schedule, the SEC has chosen to put in place a system that will prevent cross-divisional foes from seeing other very often.  How many SEC fans in the East Division will miss out on a chance to see a star like Johnny Manziel play against their favorite teams?  How many times will fans from Auburn get to visit a traditional rival like Florida?  Eight is not enough if you believe every conference team should see all its rivals over the course of a decade.

4.  Finally, there’s more money to be made from playing more conference games.  Hey, we said we understood the business involved.  That’s why we’ve consistently said that a nine-game league schedule will someday be adopted.  Whether it’s ESPN paying for better games or the conference making sure it has more content for its new SEC Network, it makes dollars and sense to expand the in-conference football schedule.

 

Now pleasee don’t give us the “It’ll make it too tough to win a national title” argument.  Nick Saban’s winning titles left and right and he’s the most outspoken proponent for a nine-game schedule.  When the league added an eighth game and a conference title game in 1992, coaches and fans pulled their hair out with fear.  Alabama immediately went undefeated, grabbed the national title, and the SEC has been on a roll ever since.

Why bring this back up today?  Back to the headline — CBSSports.com is reporting that the Big Ten is discussing schedule growth.  Nine games remains the more likely stopping point, but a 10-game plan is in the mix.  There had been talk of the ACC considering a 10-game schedule as well before it decided to stop at nine.

But the Big Ten has more motivation than the ACC to add league games.  That motivation is green and it comes by way of the Big Ten Network.  When a Big Ten team plays a football game in the home stadium of another conference’s team, that game’s television rights are owned the by home team and its conference.  But add another Big Ten versus Big Ten game to the schedule for 14 teams and you have seven more football games for Jim Delany to sell or put on his own network (to drive up subscriptions and subscriber fees)… regardless of where those seven games are played.

Prepping to launch its own league-owned network in 2014, you can be sure Mike Slive and the SEC’s presidents are paying attention.

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Everybody Agrees: An SEC Network Would Make It Rain

Longtime readers of this site know that we first mentioned the possibility that the league could still start its own network — despite its 2008 contracts with CBS and ESPN — a little more than two years ago.  Readers this week also know that the SEC is indeed engaged in talks with the four-letter network regarding some form of co-owned channel.

Revenue estimates for such a network have ranged anywhere from $500,000 million to $1 billion to even more depending on the source you read and the data they use.

David Climer of The Tennessean goes the simple route in explaining why an SEC Network should be worth more than the already highly successful Big Ten Network and the start-up Pac-12 Networks (there will be six channels focusing on two member schools each):

 

“Getting toeholds in Texas and Missouri pushes the total population in the SEC’s 11-state footprint to 91 million, according to the latest census figures. Compare this to the Big Ten (69.5 million) and the Pac-12 (62.8 million).

That means if Slive, who is in his 11th year as commissioner, can strike an agreement that would put the SEC Network into every cable and satellite subscriber’s house, it should eclipse the revenue of the Big Ten and Pac-12 TV deals.”

 

This is nothing new to our readers who’ve seen our “reason for expansion” pieces over the years.  It does, however, further explain why Missouri got an SEC invite over West Virginia, a fine athletic department that just happens to be located in a tiny state.  Many Mountaineer fans took it as an insult when we tried to explain that dynamic a year ago.

As expansion talk continues to roil, maybe it will become more and more clear to those few holdouts who don’t quite get it — television is driving this bus.

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Report: SEC Getting Closer To Starting Its Own Television Network

Way back in the summer of 2008, when the SEC inked twin contracts with ESPN and CBS, it was noted that as part of those deals the conference had agreed not to start its own television network.  At the time, the Big Ten was having issues getting its channel off the ground (but then came a partnership with Fox that turned the network from loser to big, big winner practically overnight).

But while most dismissed an SEC network as an impossibility at that point, we wrote way back on May 19th of 2010 that Mike Slive’s league could still launch a new network if it expanded and added new inventory (meaning games).  Well, that expansion has now come to pass.  The new inventory will come into existence this fall.  And now an SEC Newtork is once again being discussed by the Southeastern Conference.

According to The SportsBusiness Journal, the SEC is not only trying to get more money from ESPN and CBS but it’s also discussing the launch of a cable channel by the fall of 2014.  Naturally, ESPN — which owns the majority of SEC programming and is already a co-owner of the University of Texas’ Longhorn Network — is in negotiations to partner onthe  potential channel.

The Journal reports:

 

“It remains to be seen if the SEC will be an equity partner in the channel, like the Big Ten, or if the conference will simply sell the rights to ESPN for an additional fee.

There are several different paths the SEC could take on a channel. It could follow the Big Ten model, where the conference is a 49 percent owner of Big Ten Network with Fox and shares in its revenue. Or it could go the Pac-12 route, which owns all of its regional networks. Texas, on the other hand, sold its rights to ESPN for a fee and ESPN owns all of the Longhorn Network.

All of those models are believed to be in play for the SEC, but any channel couldn’t be launched until 2014 at the earliest, when ESPN gets back syndication rights it sublicensed to regional sports networks operated by Fox Sports and Comcast. A decision on whether to go forward with a new SEC-focused network would be made by the SEC-member university presidents and ESPN. A final decision on a network will be made by ESPN in conjunction with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and the presidents.”

 

The magazine’s sources believe the SEC’s new rights agreement with CBS will be finished up more quickly than the one with ESPN.  That makes sense… CBS pays less money for fewer games.  Those games are the best of games of the week, in most cases, however.

The Journal claims CBS “has balked at paying any type of significant increase,” saying that the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M does not change their original agreement with the SEC.  The network claims that Mizzou and A&M aren’t the television draws that Alabama, Florida and LSU are.

While that’s true, the same could be said for Ole Miss, Kentucky or any number of other SEC schools in football at the present time.

You can bet that Slive’s counterpoint in negotiations has been that ratings for SEC games in top television markets like St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, and even Austin will go up with the Aggies and Tigers now in the league.  Increased ratings mean increased advertising revenue for CBS and its affiliates.

Also, The Journal believes that the SEC can argue that “the collegiate market has been reset” since it first negotiated its own bar-raising contracts in ’08.

But make no mistake, the big money is in the network.

Someone recently sent me an email claiming that Slive and the SEC had erred in their initial deals with CBS and ESPN.  Instead of selling their own “widgets,” they cut a deal with “Wal-Mart” to distribute their widgets for them.  Jim Delany and the Big Ten had wisely found a way to sell their own widgets.

Well, sort of.

While the Big Ten’s model is now being copied elsewhere because its clearly worth a lot of money, the Big Ten did not get national exposure for darn never every game played by every league member.  Yes, Delany sells his own widgets, but his sales are for the most part limited to the Midwest.

Slive partnering with Wal-Mart — that would be CBS and ESPN, by the way — allowed him to take his product nationwide.  The result: Texas A&M and Missouri will play more nationally-televised games this fall than just about any Big Ten schools not named Ohio State or Michigan.

With the addition of an ESPN-partnered network, Slive and the SEC can have the best of both worlds.  One, most of the league’s games will continue to be broadcast nationally rather than on regional sports networks.  But two, the league would also have a means of printing its own money a la the Big Ten Network.

So even if the SEC’s negotiations with CBS result in a minimal increase in payout, the launch of a network — aided by grabbing major brand name schools in states featuring millions of cable households — should result in a windfall of cash.  Not to mention continued national exposure greater than that received by any other conference.

You might remember our expansion coverage back on May 28th of 2010 in which we looked at numerous factors driving expansion and actually pushed Missouri as a possible SEC candidate because of — wait for it — the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets (as well as proximity).  Television has been at the heart of Slive’s actions since the first shot in this realignment warfare was fired.  This summer, all of those moves should come to fruition in the form of increased funds for the league with continued massive exposure. Exposure that could include a joint venture network with ESPN.

A network we told you was still a possibility more than two years ago.

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NCAA Prez Wants “Efficient And Expedited” Investigation Into Newton Saga

A tip of the hat to CSS’ Matt Stewart.  About a week and a half ago, Stewart said during a broadcast of “SportsNite” that he believed the NCAA — with so much at stake — would put a rush job on its investigation into Cam Newton.

He also repeated that idea off-air as most of us on set rolled our eyes at the very idea of the NCAA ever putting a rush job on anything.

Well CSS’ Stewart was right.  And even the NCAA president is proving him right.

New NCAA top man Mark Emmert said today during the taping of a show for the Big Ten Network that he wants investigations like the current Cam Newton case to be “as efficient and expedited” as possible, adding, “you’ve got to get the facts right.”

Emmert also said, “The burden of proof is higher than for someone writing a blog.” 

(Abso-damn-lutely!  There’s a reason we try to keep an open mind here at MrSEC.com — we don’t have all the facts.  Neither do most other sites, but they don’t let that stop them from acting as judge, jury and executioner.)

Emmert did not refer specifically to Newton, but his reply came after being asked about Auburn’s quarterback. 

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