Big Ten Network programming director Jim Delany isn’t totally enamored with the current infestation of neutral site games, at least the ones that aren’t being broadcast on his network.
Delany’s letter, which was obtained by The Gazette, highlighted the league’s support for neutral sites provided at least half of the series occur within the Big Ten footprint and under the league’s television agreements. Delany wrote an arrangement would be “disapproved” if a Big Ten game was not designated as the home squad in at least half the games or if it was a one-game event that took place outside the league’s television umbrella.
While Delany cautioned schools to work with the conference before finalizing games, he also champions the idea of high-profile football games. Strength-of-schedule is a major component for the four-team College Football Playoff, which debuts this season.
“We know you are trying to create strong non-conference game schedules as we move into the College Football Playoff environment and as we prepare for our next big television negotiation,” Delany wrote. “We applaud and very much appreciate your efforts in doing so, as this should create value for your teams and fans as well as for our television partners and, therefore, for all Conference members. But please keep in mind the above policies that are important to all of us as we share collectively in the revenue generated by our televised games.”
As Brian Cook points out, Big Jim is concerned about some of his kids not sharing with the others.
In any case the memo indirectly indicates why neutral site games are popular: the two teams participating can split the TV money between themselves instead of between themselves and Indiana and Purdue and a bunch of other teams that are not in fact playing. When there’s a Jerryworld game, ESPN and Jerryworld get the rights and then give home-team-sized slices to both participants. The Big Ten doesn’t like that.
I doubt the schools care that Delany is miffed while they pocket those oversized checks. But notice what Delany isn’t concerned about, per Cook.
It is of course completely nuts for Michigan to play Florida in Dallas. The stadium is smaller, the fanbases are far away, and the pageantry of college football is largely replaced with sterile NFL lawyer spaceship accoutrements.
But, hey, Jerry Jones’ bank account sure is nice.