… Kevin Warren?
Jim Delany, he ain’t. And, as Pete Thamel indicates, Warren is going to have some tricky waters to navigate if this Oklahoma/Texas to the SEC deal becomes a reality.
All are new enough to their jobs where they haven’t done a college sports television contract. The Big Ten’s contract runs through 2022-23. The Pac-12’s goes through 2023-24. The ACC is buried by the untenable deal with ESPN that keeps it frozen in what’s already a second-tier deal until 2036.
This impacts all of those leagues in significant ways. ESPN is going all in on the SEC, as it’s expected to pay enough to get Oklahoma and Texas whole with the rest of the SEC, which is north of $60 million annually after 2023. That eats up money, inventory and the best television time slots for the SEC. The SEC wouldn’t be adding this without the extra $120 million a year for OU and Texas, and it’s reasonable to think there’d have to be a bit more sweetener to help the other SEC schools feel good.
“What happens if all of a sudden ESPN isn’t a bidder and Fox has less competition,” said an industry source. “The ripple effects are … PHEW!”
… There has long been a notion in college athletics that the Big Ten and SEC were pulling away from all the other leagues because of the financial success of their networks and the corresponding success on the field. Now, the Big Ten will go to market without the adrenaline jolt that the SEC got in its deal. The only corresponding move the Big Ten could make would be a play for Notre Dame, but that remains unlikely because of how secure Notre Dame’s future is in the new football playoff.
The issue for the Big Ten would be that Ohio State is isolated as the league’s power. Could the Big Ten leverage the potential of its next deal with a move to answer, adding Virginia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, North Carolina and Clemson to cover the league’s Eastern flank and fortify the Interstate 95 corridor? There will be pressure on Warren to be bold. But the ACC is protected by a grant of rights through the length of its TV deal.
What if Warren’s best move is to fight the 12-team playoff expansion proposal and push for something along the lines of the P4 arrangement I posted about yesterday? That would have two benefits for the Big Ten, minimizing the impact of the SEC’s move and forcing Notre Dame to choose a conference. And Warren would likely have an ally in that with the Pac-12.
This shit’s about to get seriously Machiavellian.