A cynic’s paradise

I’m having an email discussion with a reader about (what else?) where things go from here in the new super league version of college football we’re watching emerge.  He still thinks there’s a place for academic reputation in the realm of expansion, particularly in the case of the Big Ten.

I’m not seeing it, mainly because ESPN and Fox could give a rat’s ass about academics.  They’re steering the expansion train and the only thing that matters to them is attracting eyeballs.  As Jon Wilner puts it,

Geography no longer matters.

Academic reputation no longer matters.

Now, the main driver is brand value: Fox and ESPN will pay for the football programs that generate ratings and are most likely to land in prime TV windows.

That’s it.  That’s all there is now.

The math is simple.

Thompson said the Big Ten’s decision to add two Los Angeles-based universities was rooted in a simple math equation. The 14 existing conference members know they’ll receive approximately $71.4 million per university under the new Fox deal. Adding two more partners only made sense if they could generate a minimum of $143 million in additional distributable revenue.

“To get there you could assume that the bulk of the 5.2 million pay TV homes in LA, San Diego, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara become inner-market Big Ten Network subscribers,” he said. “That will add significant affiliate revenue for the network.”

Adding Southern California to the portfolio increases the Big Ten’s core TV households by 25 percent. The result is additional advertising revenue for the Big Ten Network, Fox Broadcast Network and FS1 as well.

Said Thompson: “That should all be enough to convince Fox that the additional rights fees are worthwhile.”

If you can make it worth the broadcasters’ while, you get a ticket to the big boys’ club.  And if you can’t…

… Oregon and Washington may be of interest to the Big Ten. However, Thompson estimated that those two Pac-12 universities, along with the Oregon and Washington television markets, would only generate an additional $60 million in combined additional revenues.

It’s good money, but well shy of the $143 million breakeven for the Big Ten.

It doesn’t kill the possibility of Oregon and Washington following USC and UCLA into the conference. It just means that the Big Ten members have two options if they’re going to do it: A) Be OK with about $6 million less annually to have UO and UW in the house; or B) Welcome Oregon and Washington, but inform the newcomers that they won’t get full distributions for a while.

Yeah, like Option A) is a real consideration.

Back to Wilner for the final word:

How much value do Arizona and Arizona State carry on the open market? Specifically, how attractive are they to the Big 12?

The schools certainly fit geographically, and Arizona’s basketball program would be ideal for the Big 12.

But valuation is based on the strength of your football brand, and the Wildcats are a tick above zero on that scale.

The Sun Devils would need to pack enough media value to account for Arizona, as well, if we presume they’re a package deal. (I’m not sure that’s the case, but it’s a subject for another column.)

ASU’s situation is comparable to the dilemma facing Cal and Stanford: The size of your media market matters far less than it did a decade ago.

Value is based on the ability of your football program to drive ratings and claim prime broadcast windows.

When they say it’s about the money, believe ’em.  Welcome to the new world, folks.

86 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

86 responses to “A cynic’s paradise

  1. Faltering Memory

    Those with the gold make the rules.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    If academics mattered gameday would be a perm fixture in the Ivy League.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Down Island Way

    Ponying up to get nd and klempzen to the $ec is what matter$ NOW…!

    Like

  4. dawgoholic

    The big question is how much money it takes to compete at the highest level in football. With anything, there is a point of diminishing returns.

    Will it be difficult for the SEC to compete if B1G schools (or vice versa) get an extra $30 MM /year or is anyone getting say $60 MM or so good? Can ACC schools still compete getting $50MM less than SEC and B1G schools?

    Like

    • The SEC hasn’t had problems competing with the Big 10 even though the Big 10 has had larger TV payouts. Demographics are on the SEC’s side. Weather is on the SEC’s side. The quality of high school football is on the SEC’s side. The results of the NFL draft are on the SEC’s side. Certainly, there are exceptions, but families from the south don’t want to go to Ann Arbor, Columbus or some Big 10 destination every week to see their son play football when they can be in Athens, Tuscaloosa, etc. pay for play may change that, but I still don’t think we’ll see a seismic shift as a result.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Down Island Way

    From a stats analysis done in 2021, this would give the $ec 7 of the top 10 most watched institutions in college football…in 2025

    Like

    • KingMackeral

      Very interesting article on modeling it through the tiering of soccer/football in Europe.

      I actually like the concept and think it would bring interest across all tiers and movement of teams up /down.

      Like

      • otto1980

        The problem with the tiers has been you have class of team with the program with the funds, support, infrastructure that stay in the top leagues and the other teams bounce in and out never getting the support to stay in the top. It really hasn’t solved anything. How long does it take to get a FCS school up to a level that can compete in the SEC, or Big10 for a full season?

        Like

    • I don’t get the hard on for importing relegation to college football, especially if branding is driving the train going forward.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Gaskilldawg

        Correct. Fox and ESPN don’t want to pay bigger bucks to the Big 10 for a set-up in which 2 years from now Southern Cal gets relegated and New Mexico is promoted to take its place.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Tony BarnFart

          The hard on comes from fans. Promotion and relegation is (arguably) the essence of what those leagues call “sporting merit.” That at the end of the day, there will never be anything “on paper” that holds you back because of your lack of capital.

          Nevertheless, i don’t think pro/rel would do anything other than CEMENT FURTHER who is at the top of the food chain. It’s pretty well known that in soccer leagues talent is naturally drawn together because nobody wants to be on a team in risk of relegation…. that only becomes even more imperative in a league with 4 years of eligibility. I think all you would have here is a group of about 6 “yo-yo” teams that go in and out of the league. Vanderbilt and Memphis would be a revolving door for example.

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      • “hard-on” is a great way to put it. I never understood people’s push for it. I’d be willing to place a hefty wager that pro/rel will NEVER be a part of any big time American sports league. It just isn’t ingrained over here the way it has been from the start over there. Fans will lose interest when a team is relegated, owners (of pro teams) wouldn’t invest money if there’s a chance of relegation, and like said below in college it’d be a cluster regarding conference alignment in non-football sports.

        Just ain’t ever happening, so everyone can go back to watching Ted Lasso when they want to get a pro/rel fix.

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    • Relegation and promotion are great to talk about until you realize the conference relationships are about all sports not just football. Will Duke be relegated to the Southern Conference for football while App State gets promoted to the ACC? If you do that for football, don’t you have to do it in all sports? Georgia to the Sun Belt in men’s basketball so Georgia State can be promoted to the SEC isn’t so enticing.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Derek

        My assumption is that for football the conferences will eventually go away and be replaced with two 14-18 team super conferences, like the nfl.

        The conference associations will probably remain for the other sports.

        I just don’t expect Vandy to keep cashing those checks and not producing….

        If that construction comes along then regulation and promotion would make sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        • When those left behind decide not to play those in the 2 super-conferences, who in that 36-team super league is going to agree to take the Ls? That’s the fundamental problem I have with the super league concept.

          I’ve been wrong about a lot of things before, but I just don’t see how this model works.

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  6. I have no idea how this is going to end … 2 leagues (they aren’t going to be conferences any longer) or 4 16-20 super-conferences.

    I don’t get how any ACC school is going to get out of its media deal short of voting to dissolve the conference (no way do the 4 NC schools and UVA allow that to happen). The suits in Greensboro, Mickey Mouse, and the non-football schools are going to lock arms to fight any move by a member (or partial member Notre Dame) to challenge the agreement.

    The Big 12 shored up its flank somewhat by bringing in Cincinnati, UCF, Houston and BYU. It sounds like they are in serious discussions with the Arizona schools, Colorado (welcome back) and Utah (the Holy War could find some extra punch). While it may not command the money that the SEC and Big 10 will get, that’s a pretty strong conference.

    That leaves the Pac 12. Their crappy decisions especially to keep Larry Scott in place have officially come home to roost. The remaining 6 schools (if the Big 12 rumors are true) are in a bind and way behind and they are willing to make a deal. Oregon and Washington are the best remaining with Stanford as a 3rd prize. Does the Big 10 offer Oregon and Washington? It would seem doubtful. Would the Big 12 have a desire to bring them in with the other 4? What do Stanford and Cal as 2 of the top schools in the country do (or maybe better put, what will be available)? Are Oregon State and Washington State destined for the WAC or MWC and the Group of 5?

    To me, the steps the Big 12 took (and appear to be taking) and the media rights agreement of the ACC make them the other power leagues.

    Eventually, these 4 conferences have to decide whether it’s worth it to break away from the NCAA fully and conduct their own championships across the board. Yes, that means a scaled down version of March Madness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gaskilldawg

      The Pac 12 leftovers can revive the Pacific Coast Conference invite former members Idaho and Montana to join.

      Liked by 1 person

    • owensborodawg

      Nice “Devil Went Down to Georgia” allusion. Just wanted you to know I caught that….

      Liked by 5 people

    • otto1980

      I still believe the ACC lands ND. It maybe an awkward arranged royal marriage of duty but I think they work it out. The question is who else the ACC lands? West Virginia is an easy target but as I mentioned in another post, they don’t have the academic standing. Does UConn bring enough to the able? FSU and Miami could rebuild with new NIL laws. They have the history, and access to talent.

      I don’t see Vandy being kicked out of the SEC unless the FBS is completely dissolved in an agreement between power programs nationally. A break away division which includes the major programs that regularly make the top 25 has been discussed in the past.

      I was a bit surprised to see UCLA as the other PAC school moving as they haven’t been very good. I would have more expected Stanford.

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      • I agree on ND. They’ve been together long enough now that if the Irish are forced to join a league, the ACC is the fit.

        The Bay Area doesn’t embrace college sports, so I wasn’t surprised about Stanford or Cal. UConn? If this is about football, the ACC doesn’t need a worse version of Boston College. West Virginia? No way the North Carolina schools and UVA allow WVU in. I think the ACC stands pat if they can get ND.

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      • Gaskilldawg

        My guess is that both Los Angeles schools wanted to go somewhere together, so they can keep a rival in the same metropolitan area instead of being at least 360 miles from the closest rival.

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      • stoopnagle

        WVU isn’t academic enough for the ACC but they took Louisville last go round?

        Like

  7. Schools on the margins of inclusion would do well to invest proceeds in “brand” marketing to generate more enthusiasm for the team than in facilities right now. In other words, try what Tech did, only much smarter than “The 404 Waffle House team”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hogbody Spradlin

    You know who else is loving this shit is Big Gambling. How many more ways will there be to get a bet down.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. uga97

    Oregon & its Nike Phil Knight backing seems like the strongest brand value on the west coast. If u want to add brand value adding them would be a layup.

    Like

    • If that were the case, the Big 10 would have announced them (and Washington) at the same time. Knight and Nike is likely staying out of this because they have too many other school relationships (Stanford for one) to risk putting their neck out for the local one.

      Like

  10. kingcmo2000

    I think that is all accurate and why I see the changes to the big 10/SEC stopping for a while. There is no one left. ND is on the school that would be a sure fire addition to the money pool; every other school will take more of the pie than they are bringing in.
    I suspect there will be tons of movement below those two conferences, but the idea that we are suddenly going to see the SEC and big 10 balloon to 20 or 24 teams each seems at odds with the economics.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. rigger92

    I think Sankey should jettison poor performing brands if he goes after higher value brands, that’s the cold hard truth to this whole “realignment”. This is where the real money would be generated, creating an undiluted conference. Take away Scarolina and Mizzou, add UNC and UVA (just for example) could be MIA or VT, FSU could be a giant overnight again if they could get their act together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sankey can’t make this decision on his own. There is no way the presidents of his member institutions are going to kick out one of their members. Additionally, there would be some level of payments necessary in that case. Missouri should have never been admitted, period. South Carolina has some pretty darn good programs outside of football (and it’s not like they are only filling up half of the Dead Cockroach for football).

      Liked by 3 people

      • Tony BarnFart

        It won’t take the form of a kick-out. Sankey, Alabama, Georgia etal. will simply depart and abandon the name to them, which is admittedly hard to stomach and think about. But then you’re not kicking anybody out.

        Like

  12. sundiatagaines

    Is there a scenario where a conference could distribute their TV money unevenly based on game viewership? It would widen the competitive divide within a conference, but do we really care about that?

    If I’m Vandy and I’m afraid of the SEC and Disney lawyers learning how to kick me out and replace me with Clemson, I might first agree to a smaller payout and try to anchor down as the Tampa Bay Rays of the SEC.

    Liked by 2 people

    • kingcmo2000

      If it’s all about money (and it is) the Big 10 and SEC changing distributions or expelling low value members is the next logical step. I don’t think we’ll see it this round, the money tide is still rolling in. But in a future where there are no marquee football brands outside of those two conferences left to add, the only way to maintain revenue growth for the rainmakers may be to skew the distribution or just boot the schools that don’t add any revenue.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t see Jere Morehead as the president of the SEC agreeing to kick out the most prestigious academic institution, Vanderbilt.

      Like

    • Gaskilldawg

      The Big 12 did that and it was a big factor in Texas A & M, Colorado, Nebraska and Missouri leaving.

      Liked by 1 person

      • sundiatagaines

        Then I could definitely see the SEC trying it. If Missouri and Vandy get offended and leave on their own accord, that’s a big win and two open spots. Self-relegation for the win!

        Like

        • Without knowing how the contracts are structured, this is likely impossible. I don’t see Arkansas, the Mississippi schools, Kentucky, South Carolina, and even Auburn and Tennessee agreeing to some level of unequal revenue sharing through a contract amendment. Throw in Missouri and Vandy not agreeing to this. You have at least 7 votes against it.

          Like

          • Tony BarnFart

            The way it happens is that the 6 or so best schools in the B1G start asking the exact same thing with Indiana and Purdue.

            Purdue and Miss State will get to keep the conference names when Alabama, Ohio State et. al elope.

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        • Gaskilldawg

          Those conferences that left the Big 12 left for better conferences. Vandy and Mizzou aren’t leaving the SEC for better conferences.
          Your “oh, goodie ” reply assumes that 9 of the other 14 schools, at least, voted to give Alabama, Texas and Georgia more money than the others. On what planet would MSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Vandy vote to give Alabama and Georgia more money than they would get?

          Liked by 2 people

          • I’m guessing something radical like this would require a supermajority or even a unanimous vote to change the distribution agreement.

            Liked by 1 person

          • sundiatagaines

            See the second paragraph of my original post.

            Vandy and Mizzou will be the smallest, crappiest houses in a brand new neighborhood. They’re bringing down the property values for everyone, and at some point enough pressure gets applied behind the scenes. This isn’t imminent or anything, but long-term I think re-distribution or expulsion could get on the table. Maybe football expulsion only is the compromise. Nothing has been sacred so far. UCLA and Cal are in the same university system, and that meant nothing.

            Like

            • Vandy and Mizzou will be the smallest, crappiest houses in a brand new neighborhood. They’re bringing down the property values for everyone…

              That’s not what ESPN thought when it handed out the new broadcast deal.

              Like

              • kingcmo2000

                Hard to argue those two schools are the driver of the money coming in. For now, the money is going up, there’s no need to do anything as rash as pushing conference members out. But it’s the inevitable life-cycle of maturing brands; high revenue/high cost is fine at one point when the revenue is always going up, but somewhere down the line if the revenues level off, you have to look to cut costs. Vanderbilt is a cost to the football deal.

                Liked by 1 person

              • sundiatagaines

                I’m not saying I like all this, I’m just pointing out what seems inevitable.

                If Sankey’s job is to maximize revenue per school, he’ll eventually be motivated to upgrade Vandy/Mizzou to Oregon/Clemson. Norms and tradition are the only things that stopped that from happening previously, and now those are eroding one by one.

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                • Gaskilldawg

                  Sankey wants to maximize the money to divide and getting as many SEC teams into the CFP is part of his way to do it.
                  Shit, Vandy and Mizzou have value in that regard. If the SEC added Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Oregon and kicked out Vandy, MSU, South Carolina and Arkansas he increases the chances of having 16 teams with 4 conference losses and fewer at large cfb teams.
                  I bet 14 coaches (including Texas and Oklahoma) are happy to keep Vandy and Mizzou.

                  Like

              • Faltering Memory

                Vandy only has to look at what has happened to Tulane and GT football to understand they need to be in the SEC. They have announced a $300 million facilities improvement plan. It might cost them a chemistry lab but they see the value in keeping the 8-13 ranked conference members in sight.

                Like

            • Gaskilldawg

              Your 11:15 post was not about kicking Vandy and Mizzou out. You wondered about the SEC structuring a distribution of revenue formula in which some schools get more and some less. When I replied that when the Big 12 did that with Texas some teams left. You then relied that if would be great because Mizzou and Vandy may “get offended and leave of their own accord.” The discussion was not about kicking them out, it began with your post about giving Alabama and Georgia more money and the lesser schools less, then about the crazy idea that Vandy and Mizzou would let feelings (as if an inanimate artificial person had feelings) make them walk away from SEC money.
              The UCLA/Cal comparison is poor because UCLA is leaving for about $49 million more, not leaving for $49 million less.

              Like

    • 81Dog

      This is what Texas demanded from the Big 12, right? 😬

      Like

  13. SOWEGA_DAWG

    I remember when Nascar decided to break up their regional appeal for national branding. I think you can find it on USA or peacock now.

    Liked by 4 people

    • owensborodawg

      I keep having the same thoughts. My father and grandfather were huge NASCAR fans. In the ’60s they went to Daytona every July 4 for the Firecracker 400. The Daytona 500 was a high, holy day for my father, and the only Sunday he would finish preaching early to head straight home to watch the race. No greeting people at the door that day. But NASCAR decided to increase their brand appeal, go national, forgot Darlington and Bristol and other small tracks in order to chase the mighty dollar and cater to the masses. Now, as SOWEGA says, you can barely find a race. College football has severed its roots and its connection to the regions that tended them. Now, all we do is wait for the tree to die. Glad we won our title when we did. Like me and NASCAR, my grandkids won’t recognize what we love so much.

      Liked by 4 people

    • TripleB

      I was thinking the same thing. Got to big and built too many race palaces. I worry that college football powers aren’t thinking long term. If they keep trying to be.like the NFL, some of us will just get our football fix on Sundays, or they might fuck around and see the real NFL start competing with the junior leaguers head to head on Saturdays.

      I bet if NASCAR could go back to the 80s they would slow their roll. College football ought to think about their base. Once you lose ‘em, it’s hard to get ‘em back.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. MGW

    God what an obnoxious comment thread to red. There’s no “in 5-10 years.” CFB as we knew it is dead. It’s nothing more than a weekend at Bernie’s corpse now; we still get to have some fun with it for a while, but the party ain’t going to last.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Bulldawg Bill

    Damn, this shit is depressing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. 69Dawg

    College football to the mouse is about eyeballs. The SEC is good for ratings because of the football played and the fanatical fan bases. However, the SEC is about to run out of it’s territory for expansion. For that matter the B1G is also running out. The B1G has the largest population centers with the acquisition of LA. The big difference is that with a few exceptions, not many people in their footprint really give a sh*t about college football. Ratings drive the cost of network deals, not name brands. Audience share is king. Like it or not the weaker teams in a conference are just a drain on the other teams. Vandy getting it’s butt beat by USCeast is not going to get ratings. Likewise, today’s Nebraska and Rutgers are not must see TV. My point is you don’t need a “Super League” with weak teams, you need one with as much of a national draw as possible. Like it or not good old ND is after all the only national team and as such they wag the dog so to speak. Relegations is a nice dream but market share is the by all and end all.

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    • Thishere.

      May be lots of eyeballs in the LA TV market, but I wonder what percentage of them actually watch college football.

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      • Gaskilldawg

        There are about 40 million people in California. There are 4 million people in Alabama. If only 10% of Californians are fans of college football and will watch it (I would bet my mortgage the percentage is higher than 10%) while 90% of Alabamians are fans of college football and will watch it then there are more viewers watching the college football telecasts in California than in Alabama.

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        • Tony BarnFart

          Right. Same idea as there actually being more republican [human beings] in California than in any other state (or close to it).

          Like

      • 81Dog

        This is what Texas demanded from the Big 12, right? 😬In the 70s, Jack Kent Cooke owned the LA Kings of the NHL, but had terrible attendance. He said something to the effect of “There are 500,000 Canadians living in LA, and apparently they moved here because they hate hockey.” Los Angeles sports fans are notorious front runners who care so little about football even the NFL didn’t bother going there at all for 20 plus years.

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        • Gaskilldawg

          I have read that quote before, too. They didn’t hate hockey. They moved to LA but still loved their Habs or Leafs and never want to switch to the Kings.
          I will bet they still watched the NHL on TV, though, even if they didn’t spend money to watch the Kings play the Sharks.

          The contrast is that there are a lot more So Cal natives who grew up following Southern Cal or UCLA.

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        • Tony BarnFart

          According to Mandel, USC has a pretty big and passionate local following. SEC-like he stated. Sure it seemed that way to me too during the Carrol era but i chalked it up as the “cool thing.”

          But he made it seem like the USC/UCLA move was big effing news all over LA and i would’ve never guessed it. But then again, those brands may very well be as iconic as the Hollywood sign or the Rose parade itself.

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  17. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    Sankey is on record as being a big fan of the european soccer super league and premier league structures. this is 100% where we are headed. unlike european soccer fans, we are too lazy to raise hell about it to stop it or we just don’t have the fan organization structure like they do over here to make our « voices heard ».
    meanwhile disney smiles while cfb fans sink into the abyss

    Like

    • We do have a way to make our voices heard. Write emails to the UGA president email address and to Josh Brooks. Make it a point to comment on social media whenever this topic comes up. If someone wanted to organize an event in Birmingham, I’m sure people would show up. If/when it comes to pass, be ready to show the powers that be that you’re rejecting what they are selling. The question is whether that will be enough.

      Like

  18. otto1980

    You can’t say academics don’t matter, Texas, Texas A&M, Mizzou, UCLA, Maryland and Rutgers are AAU members. Presidents vote on conference expansion and they care about alliances for research dollars.

    Academics isn’t everything as evidenced by Oklahoma moving. However it does show you better have a big following and a history of playing well if the school doesn’t have the academic standing. West Virginia was rejected by the ACC and SEC due to their academics. If their academics were ranked higher I am sure they would have an easier time finding a home. The Big10 wouldn’t take West Virginia but does take Maryland and Rutgers? I know West Virginia’s biggest TV market is Pittsburgh where they are likely the 3rd most followed program in the city. But how many diehard Maryland and Rutgers fans are there?

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    • If you’re right, conferences should be lining up to grab Stanford. We’ll see.

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      • Tony BarnFart

        And Stanford will be tough to gauge either way. Football has been steady’ish for a while and they check a ton of boxes in addition to academics (olympic sports) that won’t lose you the press conference.

        Stanford is possibly the only school that could get admitted in a realignment move while not adding to the pie. So long as they aren’t a massive drain.

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  19. Morris Day

    I know the Senator has a soft spot in his heart for the folks at Outkick… 😜
    They’re banging the drum for ND to SEC… Outkick is now owned by FOX, right?
    https://www.outkick.com/notre-dame-in-sec/

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  20. timberridgedawg

    The B1G has to expand nationally but California is the only destination that has the critical mass of high school talent to tap into and the demographics and politics of California don’t make anyone think they’re going to care that much about college football to hit the streaming numbers they want. Californians won’t care as much about the B1G as the B1G cares about California.

    The SEC could tap the UVA, UNC, Clemson, FSU, Miami, and a couple of others and that locks up the talent pool from Texas to the Atlantic. Fox will pay to watch the B1G footprint get thrashed annually and as the demographic migration away from B1G footprint to Texas, Florida, and the south will only make it get worse.

    Doesn’t matter what they do, short of instituting a high school draft, this is going to end up just like NCAA baseball as a southern invitational.

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  21. Tony BarnFart

    What makes arkansas, ole miss, miss state, kentucky, vandy and south carolina safe in the long term world ?

    What happens when Mickey, the Crimson Elephant and Bucky buckeye are all having beers and it’s all laughs and backslaps and then Mickey says, “but seriously, we need to talk about Purdue and Mississippi State.”

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