Nebraska-Michigan. Texas Christian-Syracuse. Oregon-Colorado. Wait, what? These aren’t your typical college football rivalries- but they will be for the foreseeable future now that last year’s conference realignment has taken effect and schools have moved around more than Nick Saban’s college coaching career. The underlying reason for all this movement is pretty basic, really. Money. It all comes down to money. Oh, and TV rights.
Because of broadcast television rights and the enormous deals that have been signed over the last two years, college football as we know it has been altered. There’s no more Thanksgiving Friday game with Colorado and Nebraska; a tradition of the past. When schools start seeking out the big dollars to fund their programs and bring in money for their universities, they naturally look to “greener pastures”, another conference that can provide that for them. And that’s what happened, many times over. You can trace it all back to the creation of the Big Ten Network, which began during the ’06-07 college season. The Big Ten Network (BTN), a joint venture between Fox and the conference, gave the Big Ten Conference its own revenue stream to bring in money on top of the already-signed football and basketball deals it had in place. This in turn created more revenue for the member schools, making the conference suddenly an attractive place to expand. After a couple of years, the other conferences saw the success the BTN was having and wanted something similar. Instead of creating their own networks and taking the risk on themselves, they started signing big money deals with a broadcaster over several years, showing commitment… and of course a guaranteed revenue stream. Check out some of these deals that have been announced over the last two years:
ACC and ESPN: 12 years, $1.86 billion
SEC and ESPN: 15 years, $2 billion
Pac-12 and ESPN/Fox: 12 years, $3 billion
Texas and ESPN (the Longhorn Network): 20 years, $300 million
There’s an upside to all this mayhem for college sports fans, however. In order to get payback on their investments, Fox, ESPN, and other broadcasters have committed to showing more sports from the member schools. That Clemson-South Carolina baseball game that’s on Sunday afternoon in March? There’s a good chance you’ll be able to see that now. Most of these deals include the broadcast of 300-500 games per year, which means they’re not all about football and basketball. With all these new games on TV and online, Level 3 launched VenueNet Lite to help make sure the broadcasted games are of the highest quality. Coming from a college athletics background, I’m making it my personal goal to help broadcasters show as many college sports as possible. Everyone knows the real passion is in college, right?
College lacrosse, anyone?