Is the Big Ten Network Mike Slive’s canary in the coal mine?

Andy Staples, on the Big Ten’s decision to go to a nine-game conference schedule:

… Consider what Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany — whose league will play a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016 — told USA Today last week. “We want our fans to come to games,” Delany told the paper. “We’ve got to give them good games. We also have a network. We also have season-ticket holders.”

Translated, that means that in the age of 60-inch televisions, conference leaders didn’t think fans of Big Ten schools would continue to make the significant investment in season tickets if three or four home games a year were against MAC or FCS schools. Even with a league that has expanded to 14 schools, this keeps Ohio State or Michigan or Penn State visiting Minnesota consistently, and that should provide an incentive for fans as they decide whether to slap down hard-earned money for Golden Gophers season tickets…

“We also have a network” is not a declaration you’d have heard from a conference commissioner a few short years ago.  Yet there it is now as justification for an expanded conference schedule.

In that regard, the only difference between the Big Ten and the SEC is a head start. So, when Staples goes on to write,

… Ticket sales haven’t been a problem in the SEC, but privately some administrators have worried about the growing number of no-shows for certain games. A person who is currently paying to not come to games will soon realize he can save money by not paying to not come. This is why SEC schools have been trying to ramp up the in-stadium experience. Of course, the best way to improve the in-stadium experience is to bring in a quality opponent, and that fact — not criticism from coaches in other leagues — is more likely to induce change.

… it’s worth noting that the SEC hasn’t even begun to face the pressure that will be created by needing to feed its new baby with enough inventory.  From where I sit, I have to wonder when the financial reality from that hits the presidents hard enough to overcome the qualms shared by ADs and coaches about adding another conference opponent to the football schedule.  And I do mean when, not if.

Which is why I bet Mike Slive watches how much a nine-game regular season conference schedule affects the postseason chances for the Pac-12, the Big 12 and the Big Ten as closely as he watches how much the eight-game regular season conference schedule affects the postseason chances for the SEC.

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41 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

41 responses to “Is the Big Ten Network Mike Slive’s canary in the coal mine?

  1. Yep, I’ve said all along the decision not to expand the conference schedule has nothing to do with the play-off and everything to do with the ability to get paid by ESPN and CBS for the additional inventory of quality games such as UGA/Bama, UF/TAMU, USCe/LSU, etc. on a more regular basis. The coaches will be told to get over it when the presidents need the additional $$$ to fund all of the additional expenses headed toward athletic program budgets.

    • Macallanlover

      Why wait until the crisis is on you? It is obvious that ticket sales and attendance are down for unattractive match-ups in the SEC and nationally. It is disturbing to see this type of reactive management approach, especially when re-igniting the passion will be unlikely. Unlike the days where only 1-2 games were available on TV, when fan interest to attend was building, the alternative option today is very sexy and easy to settle into. HD television, comfort, and saving increasing amounts of money is something more fans will latch onto….then how do you get them back? Letting the coaches’ desire to hit those bonus clauses in their contracts should not be how decisions are made. ADs, conference commissioners, and college Presidents should be proactive on the issue of protecting the equity their brands have built. Leaders squandering the achievements built over several preceding generations has been a popular trend in America in business, politics, and education for some time now.

      • Well said as usual, Mac

      • I think they know that the revenue generated by ticket sales realistically has probably peaked, for all the reasons you accurately outlined above. So the only way they’re gonna get more revenue is from TV. So I understand why Slive and company aren’t interested in giving up that extra inventory without extra pay, it’s the one ace they can hold up their sleeve right now. If they just go ahead and go to 9 games now without getting extra from CBS/ESPN, they really have no cards left to play. I’m not saying I like it, but I do understand it.

  2. 81Dog

    Bah. SEC fans, particularly UGA fans, don’t need better games to ensure their attendance at games, where they can enjoy being treated like POWs as they’re forced to park in Bogart, can’t tailgate on campus, get strip searched on the way into the stadium, can’t get into a bathroom, can’t get to a concession stand window, can’t keep the freaking cap on a 20 dollar bottle of Coke (do they think we’ll swallow it? Hone it into a shiv? throw it and put someone’s eye out?), can’t actually see the game because the rude dumbass in front of you loudly proclaims his right to stand the entire game and screw you lazy bastards who can’t see around him, you can’t hear anything the the rude dumbass behind you who starts filling the air with f-bombs the first time UGA runs a draw or a screen that doesn’t go for a touchdown (BOBO, YOU STUPID F***!!!!! YOU F****** RETARD!!!! EVERYONE IN THE F******* STADIUM KNOWS WHAT PLAY YOU”RE GOING TO CALL, YOU STUPID F*****!), you can fight off the onset of an epileptic seizure from the constant barrage on the “ribbon boards,” you can enjoy the experience of every damn nanosecond the ball isn’t in play being filled with some sponsored stupid ad being blasted from the scoreboard while the PA announcer screams with fake juice like he was calling the Normandy invasion, and then, at the end of the game, they can enjoy the five mile uphill hike back to their overpriced parking spot.

    I mean, who cares who we play? I just go for the atmosphere, which, thanks to the visionary leadership of people like Czar for Life Mike Adams, the numbed detachment of our modern day crop of students (they don’t care who we play. They just worry about being able to text the guy sitting next to them when they arrive in middle of the second quarter, dude.), and the welcoming embrace of the Athens-Clarke County Police, is the best of all possible worlds.

    • LOL. This made me laugh. I rarely find my experience to be nearly that bad, I actually tend to have a pretty good time at games. But definitely a lot of truth to what you say. And I totally agree about the bottle caps – I’ve always been told supposedly it is to discourage people from using the bottles to mix drinks with the alcohol they’ve snuck into the stadium, but I don’t know how that stops you.

      And I’ve been lucky to find a honey spot for parking. I park for free on the edge of campus, and catch a shuttle that takes you right to the stadium. It’s a bit of a hike to get back after the game, but once I’m in my car, I’m literally on the loop traveling at highway speeds in 2 minutes tops. No traffic at all (I’m in Greenville SC, so I go back around the north side to 441N). I hit no traffic coming into the games or leaving them, my travel time is the exact same on gameday as it is any other random day I might visit Athens.

      • 81Dog

        oh, I have a good time going to games, it’s just in spite of all the “Improvements” (sic) that have been visited on us the last 25 years by our benevolent administration, which is only concerned about our safety (parking money), comfort (locking buildings and giving us porta potties on the edge of campus), stadium enhancements (ad money for our captive eyeballs), gameday convenience (by moving kickoff times all up and down from the breakfast slot to late night for tv money).

        they play us like violins because they know we love UGA football, and they’ll just keep finding ways to enhance their revenue streams until people quit paying. It’s like OPEC in the 70s; captive market, limited supply, price skyrockets.

        WIth everything on tv now, and tv technology being so much better, the demand is softening. If UGA ever goes 3-9 (Dawg forbid), expect a crash.

        • Yep, I agree. As long as they are winning, even against crappy schedules, the stadium will remain at least mostly full. But you’re right, if we ever hit a stretch like Tennessee has the the past 5 years or so…….whew boy, it’ll get ugly.

          • Hank

            Do you remember the 90s? We were pretty horrible, but the games were better. I guess we played some type of cupcake every year, but not 3 or 4. You could also park on campus, get there after 6:00am for a free spot, the police didn’t have brand new 4-wheelers so they could spot a car slightly out of perfect parking position to have it towed, etc. Pretty much everything 81 said. The social aspect is what keeps me coming back, plus it is better seeing the game live. You get to see the whole play develop instead of just the ball as seen on TV. I wish they could just zoom out a little so we could see what was happening, other than where the ball is.

        • 3rdandGrantham

          Just curious, and I mean this with all due respect, why exactly do you keep going to games? Particularly given your thoughts on the admin? (which I mostly agree with) After all, you don’t absolutely have to be in the stadium to show support for your team, so I’m curious why you haven’t put your foot down instead of letting the admin treat you and others like the hapless suckers they (perhaps) think that you are?

          Your situation reminds me of my favorite restaurant which we ate at often until recently. The place was out of this world…until popularity and accolades came. Then suddenly the prices skyrocketed, the waiters became more surely, management arrogant, etc. Sure, the food is still good, but I won’t step foot in that place anymore given the overall attitude of that place (not to mention $35+ entrees that were in the low $20’s just a few years ago).

          • I know you didn’t direct the question at me, but for me it’s very much a social thing. I probably go to 4 games a year on average. I tailgate with my friends (as long as it’s not an early kickoff), and sit with my parents at the games. Because my friends and I are somewhat spread out now, we’re lucky if we all get together once a year outside of football season. So having a reason to get together with them another 4 times a year is a big deal to me. And even though I see my parents fairly regularly, I see them more than I would otherwise by being with them at the games. We live 3 hours apart, and Athens is a perfect middle ground – they live down in Griffin, and I’m in Greenville SC, so there’s no more perfect meeting spot than Athens.

            If it ever got to a point where it was just me/my immediate family, then I probably wouldn’t go to the games anymore either, or maybe just pick one game to go to each year. I actually have a lot of fun at the games, but the experience would be significantly diminished if my crew weren’t part of it.

          • 81Dog

            because I’m not willing to junk 40 years of hanging out with my friends and pulling for my team in person.

            Yes, I’m a sucker. And I don’t like it. And, at some point, I may decide the minuses outweigh the pluses, but not quite yet. The minuses certainly seem to be accumulating faster all the time, though.

            I love the games. I love being there in person and having to watch/pay attention/follow what’s going on down on the field, not just have it spoon fed to me while I’m flopped on the couch. I like getting up early and driving to Athens. I like listening to the pregame radio show. I like strolling the campus and seeing people I know, and the places that meant a lot to me as a student.

            There are a lot of things you can’t experience from your couch, or recreate in your living room. The good parts of a UGA are still very good; I don’t mind dealing with drunks, know it alls, and long lines as long I can enjoy the part I came to see. The trend seems to be “Let’s find ways to cater to the indifferent fan, because that ups our take; the die hard partisans will come no matter how many stupid things we force them to endure.” It’s brilliant corporate strategy, but the hypocrisy of them selling the emotional aspect of being there while they try to vacuum out our wallets with no regard for us other than as “marketing opportunities” kind of grates on one’s nerves.

      • Debby Balcer

        We park for free on campus and take a shuttle and tailgate with no issue. I have always been told the issue with bottle lids in people throwing the bottles. I always carry lids in with me. Even with cupcakes there is no place like Athens on a Saturday.

    • Beakerdawg

      The POW experience started in the 90’s with no more parking on the curb and the launch of the ACCPD bicycle gestapo… and it has continued to erode every since… thanks czar mike

    • Slaw Dawg

      Just wanna say that’s some funny ass s–t you’re slingin’ there, 81Dog, and pretty much reflects how I feel when I’m in a particularly dark mood about the whole thing. What bugs me is how fixable some of this is (or should be) but nothing gets done. The experience in a stadium as beautiful as Sanford on a campus as beautiful as UGA’s in a town as great as Athens should not be this much of a PITA.

      I will say I haven’t had that much trouble with parking myself, but that may be because I don’t mind a good walk across campus.

      • 81Dog

        I probably should have noted the good parts, which are still plentiful, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as amusing to me. The bad parts still suck, though. You probably said more precisely it in about 10% of the space I used.

        • stuckinred

          81Dog is killin me!

          I’ve lived here and gone to games for 30 years. I have a few years left where I can get f/s tickets and go for a reasonable price so I’m going to do it as long as I can.

    • ScoutDawg

      Damn, Dude. RIGHT ON THE EFFIN MONEY.

    • C.S.

      To be fair, the students who text their buddies are less likely to stand and block the view, or drop high-decibel f-bombs in front of your six-year-old kids.

  3. 3rdandGrantham

    I (and many others) have been predicting for quite a while that CFB stadiums, particularly the large, 80k+ ones, will increasingly be less and less full on game days. Just look at some of the traditional SEC powers in recent years and their struggles (UT, UF, etc.) to fill their seats; even we have had near empty sections for lower profile games as of late.

    When my die-hard UGA friend recently stopped renewing his season tickets after 14 years, I knew the pendulum was starting to swing the other way. And he lives a mere 30 minutes from Athens, in which his commute to/from is a relative breeze given he comes in from the north on rt.129.

    Being able to sit in the comfort of your own home with a nice HDTV, beer in the fridge, bathroom 5 steps away with no line, and bbq on the smoker/egg is really enticing. Not to mention the ability to flip to other games during the 178 tv timeouts and other stoppage of action that has led to 4 hour games or more.

    • 81Dog

      I bet it was your buddy’s ability to enjoy ample bandwidth at home that closed the deal wasn’t it? :-)

      • 3rdandGrantham

        LOL. Ironically it might—he has a slingbox, roku, and all sorts of other stuff that he uses to stream video. His so-called man cave looks like a production center inside ESPN, complete with kegerator and shuffleboard table (which, IMO, is more fun than billiards).

    • Yep, one of my best friends who’d had tickets since 1998 gave his up last year. And he’s a guy who has an RV and a spot at Bulldog Park. He and his family still come to Athens for every game and party at Bulldog Park, and if he happens to pick up a ticket from somebody there, then he’ll go to the game, if not he’s just as happy with his spread at the RV and watching it with other people who stay behind as well.

      When people are willing to pay over $30K for an RV spot (plus another $1,000 or so annually in fees/taxes), however much for an RV, the gas and time to go to Athens, but aren’t willing to drop $1000-$1500 for season tickets to actually go to the games, that’s a loud statement of the situation.

      • 3rdandGrantham

        I’m frankly surprised he even bothers with the headache of going to/from the games…then again he has an RV so I’m sure he comes in early/leaves late. For me personally, the home convenience factor really shows when the weather is hot/cold/rainy, etc. The camera scans the stadium showing all those miserable people, yet you’re sitting at home with perfect, San Diego like temps with a better view of the game than all of them.

        No lines, no traffic, no idiot who looks like 230 lbs of donut oil squeezed next to you, coupled with alcohol and all the other accouterments; I’m frankly surprised the attendance isn’t down further.

        • You’re right, he comes early and leaves late. Plus, you can leave the RV for up to 90 contiguous days during the football season, so he doesn’t have to pull it back and forth each game.

          I go tailgate with them one or two games a year on gameday, but apparently Friday nights are where the fun is at. There’s always live music there on Friday nights before a gameday, all the families and their kids know each other, it’s basically a big party. If it was as simple as just come tailgate at your RV, he probably wouldn’t bother. But apparently it’s become a pretty good community of folks that go there, and I’ve heard some pretty funny stories from the partying that comes out of their Friday nights there. :)

          You also get to meet a lot of former players there. Several like David Green actually have family with spots there, plus they arrange for former players to come on those Fridays.

          • 3rdandGrantham

            I just checked out the website…that place looks really cool. I don’t own an RV, but I do own a plane and AHN is less than 2 miles from there. I’ll have to connect with someone who has a spot there and check it out sometime.

            • Definitely, it’s nice. Some people have bought additional lots and built outdoor kitchens on their 2nd lot now as well. They are unreal, more like small sports bars than just a kitchen. I wish could upload pics here, I’d post some of the one that belongs to the family next to where my buddy tailgates. Very sweet family and always have us come over and eat with them. It’s tailgating in style, no doubt about it!

  4. Mike

    Back when the SEC was the pioneer of the conference championship game, many people thought this could be an impediment to an SEC team playing for a national title. Including some SEC coaches and administrators. (Yes, Gene Stallings, I am looking at you.)

    Over twenty years of experience have demonstrated that his is not the case. In fact, on could not make just the opposite case. How many times have people said a one loss SEC team gets the nod over a one loss BCS team, and even against a undefeated non SEC team?

    A nine conference game schedule being an impediment to an invitation to a 4 team playoff is a similar chimera, imo.

  5. FCDore

    One thing that I don’t think is truly appreciated by casual fans is that it will take 12 years to cycle through home-and-homes with all the Western opponents. If Slive wants to make a point, he should direct the office to release a 12-year rotation schedule and let that sink in with everyone on talk radio. A hypothetical sample for UGA:
    2015: Auburn, @ Arkansas
    2016: @ Auburn, Texas A&M
    2017: Auburn, @ Alabama
    2018: @ Auburn, Mississippi State
    2019: Auburn, @LSU
    2020: @ Auburn, Ole Miss
    2021: Auburn, @ Texas A&M
    2022: @ Auburn, Arkansas
    2023: Auburn, @ Mississippi State
    2024: @ Auburn, Alabama
    2025: Auburn, @ Ole Miss
    2026: @ Auburn, LSU

  6. DawgPhan

    I always have a great time going to games. Never have any of the hassles that seem to bother everyone on this board.

    If going to football games is such a bad experience for you, chances are it isnt the situation that is making the experience bad.

  7. James

    There’s an important nuance here, and Delany mentions it. This isn’t actually going to help the 3-4 power teams in the Big Ten sell tickets. OSU, UM & PSU all play each other every single year, so the only thing you’re really doing by adding a 9th game is giving non-power teams in the West more marque games.

    I guarantee you PSU fans aren’t making renew decisions based on whether the team is playing Minnesota at home this year instead of UCF. A Minnesota fan might renew in order to get a PSU ticket, though, rather than playing CMU.

  8. Mayor

    I don’t want to sound like a broken record (as I’ve said this before) but I say kick the last 4 teams to join the SEC out of the conference, then go to a 9 game conference schedule like the Big 12. Everybody plays everybody every year. That would leave 3 games: 1 OOC rival game (Tech), 1 OOC game against a good team from a Big 5 conference (like a Clemson, a Texas Tech or an Illinois) and 1 tune-up game against a cupcake for the first game of the season (I prefer a better quality cupcake, though– like a MAC or AAC squad). Will this happen? No damn way.

  9. Always Someone Else's Fault

    It’s one thing to plunk down money to watch your favorite team blow out a MAC or FCS team. It’s something else entirely to plunk down your money to watch them lose to said MAC or FCS team. That’s been an annual problem for the B1G. Their annual MAC weekend usually features one LOL upset and another LOL squeaker. Those games, net effect, are costing the B1G far more money than they make the individual schools. They damage the brand.

    If the SEC goes 9 games, it will be for similar reasoning.