Like I said, a shit ton of money. But, man, at what cost?
The Fox-CBS-NBC triumvirate will provide the Big Ten with an NFL-like lineup of games on over-the-air TV.
“The goal was to own each of these windows,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, the former Vikings COO who used the NFL as a model for the Big Ten’s own rights negotiations. “To capture the hearts and minds and the fan avidity, I think you’ve got to make it very simple for your fans. So, I always had this visual, especially coming out of the NFL, that we’d have partners in each one of those windows. And then we’d have some special events, like two games on Black Friday.”
Is it just me, or does “make it very simple for your fans” simply translate into making it easier to capture casual viewers? Because, let’s face it, that’s where college football has been headed in a commercial sense for a while now. And the proof would seem to be in the pudding with this deal here.
That being said, I can’t help but think of an argument the NCAA and schools raised during the O’Bannon litigation.
At their core, Dennis’ findings indicate fans would be greatly disappointed if college athletes were paid and many fans would shift their time, energy and dollars to other endeavors. For instance, 69 percent of Dennis’ respondents expressed they’d probably stop going to games. He also determined that if “star” college players were paid more than other college players, 73 percent of the public would identify “less fairness in balance of competition” in college sports. Dennis also found that if college athletes were paid $20,000 a year, 38 percent of the U.S. public would be less likely to view or attend college games. The percent rises to 47 percent and 53 percent when the proposed pay increases to $50,000 and $200,000, respectively. Collectively, these numbers cast a dark light on how fans would regard compensating Division I men’s basketball and football players.
Now there’s a take that didn’t age well, unless you assume that the business model in play here expects larger amounts of money to be paid for smaller audiences.
“I think what it does, it affords us the opportunity to make sure that we can continually do the things we need to do to take care of our student-athletes, to fortify our institutions, to build our programs,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told the AP.
Now, you can dismiss this as simply another disingenuous “doing it for the kids” plug. Given the track record of folks like Warren, that’s entirely understandable. But what if this is the rare case where it’s not?
The bigger move on the horizon — one that will change college football and bring distinct division and strife within the 130 FBS teams — is the expanded Playoff.
A Playoff that will, by the time a 16-team structure and format is complete, be worth well over $1.2 billion annually. Playoff revenue that will lead to direct pay-for-play for players.
“(University) Presidents are desperate for revenue because they can’t hold (pay-for-play much) off much longer,” an industry source told SDS. “After they’ve all worked their own conference (media rights) deals, there’s only one revenue stream left to supplement players.”
“We have to get ahead of (pay-for-play),” a Power 5 athletic director told SDS. “We didn’t with NIL, and now we’re all kind of scrambling to make it fit universally. There has to be a clear path this time (with pay-for-play).”
That is something I, too, wonder about. In a sense, it’s the final frontier for where all those additional broadcast dollars are going to be put to work. Sure, Jimmy Sexton won’t be missing any meals, and, yes, there are facilities to be built, but that sort of spending grows more and more marginal. What wouldn’t be marginal would be schools paying players to play. And if you’re in a conference at the top of the college football revenue food chain, it’s the most efficient way to provide separation between you and the schools that aren’t. Which is the vast majority of the P5 (using that term ever more loosely these days).
I’m not saying it’s guaranteed we’re headed there. But it’s not illogical to suggest we are.