“So ’23, ’24, that’s what everybody thinks about.”

Death, taxes and conference realignment.

Realignment appears to be in sleep mode. For now. But the potential for realignment — and the strategy for when it surfaces again — never completely leaves the radar of college sports’ power brokers. That’s why they’re thinking about 2023.

Why 2023?

I presume that’s a rhetorical question.  Why does anything that’s crappy for fans happen in college football?  No, you don’t get any guesses.

… It starts with expiring TV contracts. The ACC and SEC both have long-term media grant-of-rights agreements, running through 2035-36 and 2033-34, respectively. But the other three Power 5 conferences have agreements ending roughly around the same time (the SEC’s Tier 1 deal with CBS runs through 2023-24). The Big Ten last summer opted for a shorter agreement with Fox and ESPN, which runs through 2022-23. The Pac-12 deal expires after the 2023-24 sports year, and the Big 12’s ends the following year.

“Conferences have expanded primarily to take really good football schools to enhance their football footprint and strength, and also to help their [television] networks,” Aresco said. “The question down the road will be whether any conferences want to add schools that they feel will strengthen them in football, whether it’s because of an upcoming rights fee deal, or they feel it would strengthen their conference network….

Traditional rights deals aren’t the only reason 2023 matters. By then the traditional rights deal itself might be obsolete. Conferences recognize that fans are consuming content, including live events, in different ways. This shift will continue to impact current distributors like ESPN, Fox and CBS, and could bring different companies into the distribution market, like Amazon, Google, Facebook or Twitter.

Leagues like the Pac-12 are counting on it, especially because its own network has yet to produce significant revenue for members.

“I don’t think anyone knows exactly what the landscape will look like, or what health ESPN or Fox will have in 2023 when we’re negotiating, or how significant a player Twitter or Facebook will be,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said last month at the league’s spring meetings. “My sense is that there will be more competition. There will be more and different types of players.”

Oh, goody.  Another chance for the Jed Clampetts of the P5 conferences to be acclaimed geniuses.

Assuming there’s still a P5 in a decade, that is.

… Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger shocked boosters with a surprise announcement at a happy hour Kansas City gathering.

Zenger boldly presented a $300 million stadium renovation project that will include an indoor practice facility. That rocked the fundraising arm in athletic departments from coast to coast.

In a vacuum, this would be surprising news. Per USA Today, $300 million is more than three times Kansas’ current athletic revenue. Per that same database, $300 million for this one project is also $108 million more than Texas A&M’s total athletic revenue, the largest in the country.

This is Kansas, a basketball school, winner of exactly one FBS game in coach David Beaty’s two seasons. The program as a whole hasn’t won more than three games since 2008.

There’s something else going on here.

“It brings us into the level of playing field that you must be at to be a Power Five university,” Beaty said.

Read that quote carefully: This is as much an all-in financial commitment as it is as a buy-in for KU to have a seat at the table in the next round of conference realignment.

At least you’d better believe that’s how Zenger is selling it to boosters.

A $300 million bet on surviving a conference blowup?  When they say follow the money, this is what they’re talking about.

Oh, yeah, it’s coming.

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28 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, College Football, It's Just Bidness

28 responses to ““So ’23, ’24, that’s what everybody thinks about.”

  1. Huntindawg

    There was an interesting article opening that P5 realignment promoted by expiring tv contracts could be great for fans. The author posits that with cable subscribers diminishing, conferences and schools will get paid based upon sales of specific games that people will then be watching online. The money will encourage better matchups.

    I wish I could find and link the article. It was linked on an article that you linked I think last week.

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    • paul

      Yeah, and they claimed the College Football Playoff would encourage better match ups thanks to an emphasis on strength of schedule. Still waiting for that to happen.

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      • Otto

        I argued then as I do now, it takes away incentive on adding out of conference games, and adds to the emphasis of being a conference champion preferably undefeated.

        The BCS for the faults it had, created debate resulting in viewership, and spurred the growth of Kick Off classics which by default were big non conference games.

        If you want to create an atmosphere for the growth of non conference match ups my argument would be to expand the play off to 6 with the top 2 getting 1st round byes.

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  2. paul

    When you look at the lunacy of public subsidies to the NFL, NBA and MLB in the form of stadiums and tax breaks, it unfortunately surprises me little to hear this. I suspect it will become common all too soon.

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  3. gastr1

    Realignment and blow-up talk have never subsided in the Big 12. It’s a powder-keg of a conference–lacks a good sense of leadership or identity, and no one likes living in Texas’ shadow.

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    • gastr1

      Also, schools like Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State have to figure out some way of making themselves attractive when Oklahoma leaves. Because Oklahoma is going to eventually find a place it likes better than Texas’ yard, and it’s going to blow the whole thing up when that happens. Those four schools do not have the media markets or the football programs to be attractive to one of the other Power 5 conferences, and they could be faced with being relegated to the American or something like it. “Relegated” would not be the wrong term in that case.

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      • gastr1

        (And the other desirable factor they don’t offer that Baylor, Texas Tech, and TCU have is recruiting in the state of Texas.)

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      • dawgfan

        Kansas is a basketball blueblood. They will always be a very valuable conference member and have a home somewhere just like Kentucky will.

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        • gastr1

          dawgfan– I don’t think that’s true, amigo, and I know from living in the state that they don’t think it’s true either. They don’t want to go to the Big East.

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          • gastr1

            To wit, if the Big 12 falls apart, Texas joins the Pac 12. They’ve already talked about that. Where does Kansas go? There’s been no interest from the Big 10 or Pac 12.

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      • Otto

        I am not sure Oklahoma will. The Red River game with Texas feeds the program. OU needs Texas talent like Clemson, S Carolina and Tennessee need Georgia talent.

        Texas has been the sticking point, if the Big12 adopted and more SEC approach to their network and revenue sharing, A&M would likely still be in the Big12.

        If the Big12 had kept a cross division rival preserving Nebraska and OU, Nebraska would still likely be in the Big12.

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        • gastr1

          Do you live in the area? I ask seriously, because the national vibe around these programs is not the same as the regional vibe. Did anyone think Missouri needed the Kansas basketball rivalry (one of the best, seriously, it was GREAT), or Texas A & M needed Texas, or Nebraska needed Oklahoma? Oklahoma doesn’t think it needs Texas. They’ve been rumbling for a couple of years now.

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          • Otto

            Some do some don’t. I visit the area, and regularly talk football with fans in the area. Oklahoma is not happy with the Longhorn network. It does not change how many Texas players are on the roster.

            I am friends with fans of the schools and have discussed in great length this topic with them. They agree on why the Big12 has been put together with duct tape and string practically from the beginning but the SEC has prospered.

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          • Otto

            BTW Clemson didn’t feel they needed the SEC but their rise has been associated with more frequent games with SEC teams.

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          • Otto

            Scanning this, Nebraska does not “need” OU but they had much less reason to stay especially when offered more money. The major historical tie was broken from the beginning.

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            • gastr1

              I guess I think historical ties have become so much hot air to these people when the money gets right enough and the grass on the side just looks that much more green. I mean, wish the rivalries would continue, personally, but I can’t put much stock in historical precedent in light of the way things have been in the 2000s. Per my original point, I think KU also does not want to be just a basketball power if left high and dry by Big 12 implosion.

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              • Otto

                To a point I can see that, In the Big12 you naturally had multiple factors making moves easier for the schools to justify

                Revenue model was generating the money it should and further was on a tiered model vs and more evenly split pie in the SEC. The Big12 for whatever reason did not negotiate as profitable media deals as the SEC or Big10. The gap is really rather amazing. Yes I attribute much of that as Texas looking out for Texas as they a half dozen program which have little option on moving, as well as Houston or Memphis willing to jump in at any moment.

                The Big12 did not keep the 1 of the 3 biggest rivalries from the 2 conferences which merged to form the Big12. OU/Texas, OU/Nebraska, and Texas/A&M being the 3 biggest games.

                How much more profitable could the Big12 be with a OU/Nebraska game to sell the broadcasters, and could the conference be getting SEC/Big10 levels of revenue if the conference had created a Big12 network rather than a Longhorn Network and later Sooner network?

                Nebraska wasn’t getting the revenue OU and Texas were getting from the Big12 pie, the Big12 pie was no where nearly as large as the SEC or Big10 and the most marketable rivalry for Nebraska was lost on day 1. So the money argument gets rather easyr. Nebraska gains revenue and gives up rivalries with schools with relatively little winning history in football. What was Nebraska’s overall record against legacy Big8 teams which were in the Big12 north? Colorado and Mizzou were the biggest football rivals Nebraska faced yearly. They have some respectable history but were dominated by Nebraska over the length of the Big 8. They were also not national marque match ups for a program that is one of the more legendary in the game.

                http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2493105-5-years-later-did-nebraska-make-right-choice-leaving-big-12-for-big-ten
                “In 2017, when Nebraska will finally be on equal financial footing with the core Big Ten schools, the school’s annual revenue from the conference could well swell to between $40 million and $50 million a year.

                Such a figure is astounding compared with four years ago, when the Big 12 paid NU $9 million.”

                $30+ million is easy to justify, but if the Big12 was run like the SEC with the same style media deals and cross division rivalries would the Big12 be together? I believe it could.

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                • Otto

                  2nd pargaraph:

                  The Revenue model was on a tiered model vs and more evenly split pie in the SEC

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                  • gastr1

                    There you are. This is why KU has decided to throw $300 mil at their football program–the risk of going to the AAC instead of the Pac 12 or Big 10 is not a risk they want to take, and the finances bear out their concern. As well as the Big 12’s pathetic history re: not being proactive.

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                    • Otto

                      Big12 revenue last year was at 34.8 million which at the time NU bailed was very unexpected but the Big12 has been improving.

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              • Otto

                To get back to the original point I do not believe OU revenue has fallen far enough behind to justify the risk of giving up the Texas rivalry, and moves will be difficult with the Oklahoma legislature rumored to require Oklahoma St to move as a package deal.

                The Longhorn network is likely a sticking point for a Texas/PAC merger.

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  4. I don’t get why Oklahoma and Texas part ways. The Sooners need Texas a lot more than the Longhorns need Oklahoma. If Texas goes to the PAC 12, I bet OU goes with them. At that point, the Big XII pretty much collapses. Kansas goes to the B1G as a basketball school and brings Kansas State with them as a football school. Oklahoma State tries to get an invite to the SEC with one of the Texas schools (likely TCU for the DFW market). The other 4 (Iowa St, Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia) scramble for a spot but are probably headed for the American.

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  5. Southernlawyer11

    My worry is that media rights / value belt tightening will eventually splinter currently stable conferences. The gist being that technology will really be able to place a specific media/tv value that each specific school brings to the table…..eventually, will Ohio State and Alabama look at each other and ask why they are subsidizing Purdue and Mississippi State. Some media delivery outlet will eventually draft a proposed package that gets all the hot girls into one room. In 50 years, the TV people will have 1 contract for whatever they consider the “top 40” teams.

    Could fan pushback derail all this ? Would Alabama stand on principle and not be willing to throw their cousin 83 miles west to the curb ? You would hope so, but Georgia parted ways with Clemson and agreed to play Kentucky every year.

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    • Otto

      I would swap Kentucky for Tennessee as UGA has played Kentucky annually for a century but UT would come on the schedule and drop off.

      I do agree that changes in the revenue model could create a firestorm for unexpected change. How that change plays out is anybodies guess at this moment.

      I do see a possibility of the P5 programs splitting and creating a model with a mix of traditional rivals and non traditional marketable match ups ditching some less marketable programs.

      However this does not take into account that University Presidents are heavily involved in decisions like this and having ties with Universities which bring research dollars and partnerships between universities can change the bottom lines.

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