One of the biggest factors in conference realignment has been the chase for television dollars, with the most powerful conferences in collegiate athletics setting themselves up to make hundreds of millions of dollars per year. One such conference is the Big Ten, which will expand to 14 members on July 1 when Maryland (from the ACC) and Rutgers (from the American Athletic Conference) join.
While some have argued that realignment should be more about achievements within the fields of play, it’s those valuable television markets that have the greatest influence and with the location of those two schools Jim Delany’s league stands to make a lot of money on its next deal in 2017.
How much? According to Mike Carmin of the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier, the 12 holdovers could make as much as $44.5 million in the first year of that deal.
In a document obtained by the Journal & Courier through an open records request from Purdue University, 12 of the 14 schools are projected to receive $44.5 million each through the league’s distribution plan. That’s the first year Nebraska becomes fully financially integrated into the conference, according to Big Ten deputy commissioner and treasurer Brad Traviolia.
The Big Ten won’t be the only conference to see more money in the coming years. The SEC’s new network will begin operation in mid-August, and the ACC is looking at the possibility of starting its own network in the near future. The ACC will replace Maryland with Louisville on July 1.
The five conferences generally accepted as the most powerful (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) are raking in more money than the other FBS (football) conferences, and that gap is even wider for the leagues that either sponsor college football at the FCS level or not at all.
The money is one of the concerns for those other leagues, especially when considering new initiatives with regards to how much food is made available to athletes and the argument as to whether or not scholarships should meet the full cost of attendance. And with the escalating costs of television contracts, that’s going to be an issue for the foreseeable future.