Big Ten – The Last Big Sports Deal

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The Big Ten’s media rights are all locked up. They will begin in 2017 and according to John Ourand of SBJ it’s a deal that very much falls in favor of the Big Ten and not the networks. One thing is certain about this deal from the networks perspective, it is the last time you’ll probably see a massive price increase.

People have been pointing to the Big Ten’s media deal for a few years now. The Big Ten was the last one of the Power Five conferences to sign a new deal and many people believe that this deal was either not going to be the typical windfall or would only increase slightly. Well it looks like it will mean $20 million a year more to the conference teams so it’s safe to say that the concerns were almost valid.

The real interesting part of this is ESPN’s late entry. They were in, then left the bidding and then returned to win part of the contract. Some thought they wouldn’t bid or would try to leverage some kind of lower end deal. In the end, they ponied up like they always do even after a very low opening bid.

Another interesting thing is that there is no mention of the Big Ten hoarding it’s digital rights. I along with other cord cutters were hoping that the Big Ten would keep it’s digital rights and sell them as a stand alone package on Amazon or through it’s own site. There was no mention of this to this point and it shows that the Big Ten had to use all it’s leverage to squeeze as much as it possibly could from this deal.

This will be the last time the major networks shell out this kind of cash though. The consumer is at a breaking point and are starting to refuse anymore price increases to support these kinds of transactions. ESPN knows this which is probably why they had such a low opening bid.

While this deal is great for the Big Ten and its teams it is the last hurrah for deals such as this. Networks are not going to be ponying up huge amounts of cash in the future and it is time that the sports leagues and conferences look to splitting out their packages and doing what I call the Jeff Bezos, less money out of each user but having a wider user base.

 

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More Steps Forward

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The Big Sky Conference (that’s FBS for those of you playing at home) recently announced that Andrea Williams will become it’s new commissioner. She will be the 10th female commissioner at the Division 1 level and while that may seem like a lot it isn’t but it’s a start.

As “open minded” as college’s like to claim they are, they are some of the oldest institutions in America and some old habits die hard. While Williams has never set foot in Ogden, Greeley, Bozeman or Grand Forks she is incredibly qualified for the role of commissioner. She served as associate commissioner for the Big Ten conference for the last decade so her hiring makes sense on a lot of levels but it does beg the question, why are their not more female commissioners or athletic directors across the country?

MacLeodIt was only last year where a female was given the reins of a non-power five school (Judy MacLeod at Conference USA) and there are zero in charge of a power five conference. MacLeod is the only female commissioner at a conference where football brings in major dollars (although the Big Sky is nothing to shake a stick at). It took until 2015 for this to happen? Really?

The major football conferences (SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, PAC-12) may never have a female commissioner. In fact it would be a major coup for them to have an African-American as a commissioner. We’re not talking associate or assistant commissioners here, we’re talking about the big cheese who is in charge of the whole shebang.

Why?

These are some old school organizations and football is king. It is, let’s face it, a good ole boys club. With all due respect, this may be fine most of the time but it can also be a hinderance and lead to a lack of perspective.

Look at the overall picture of current issues facing athletic conferences. There is the issue of concussions in football which is the sport that brings in most of the revenue and paying of players. Wouldn’t a different perspective on these issues lead to solutions that we could all agree on?

Williams is a great choice for the role of commissioner of the underrated Big Sky Conference. She represents another step in getting more diverse leadership at the top of collegiate conferences.

B1G Body Blow

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It was bad weekend for the Big Ten Conference (B1G). The conference went 8-5 but they lost convincingly in 3 of the biggest games they played and two others came down to the final drive of the game against opponents that should have been beat by a far bigger margin. All in all, things could have go worse for the conference but not by much.

B1G

The 3 high profile games the conference was a part of were Michigan St at Oregon, Michigan at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech at Ohio State. Credit to the conference for scheduling these games in the first place as opposed to the SEC who had 3 teams on their schedule on Saturday from the Southland Conference.

The issue here isn’t that the B1G lost the high profile games but that they ended up losing going away. Michigan State was up on Oregon 27-18 but then Oregon ran off 28 unanswered points. Ohio State was exposed badly by Va Tech and Michigan didn’t score a point against Notre Dame in a 31-0 debacle.

Meanwhile other teams in the B1G like Nebraska and Iowa needed game winning drives with time running out to stay unbeaten. Wisconsin was only up 9-3 at the half against Western Illinois before pulling away in the second half and Purdue was manhandled by Central Michigan.

It hurt the conference because, although it is early, the odds of a B1G team making it to the 4 team playoff at the end of the year now seems highly unlikely. That could hurt recruiting, perception and financial standing in college football.

The B1G has a lot of work to do if it wants to compete with the ACC, PAC 12 and SEC. It may start with beating the teams they are suppose to beat like Northern Illinois and Central Michigan. Until they do, they will be on the outside looking in of the college football playoff.

A Not So Silly Season

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Over the last two years this time of year has been a proverbial revolving door when it comes to head coaches in college football. This year, not so much. The main reason is that nearly all of the major college football programs have hired a new coach within the last three years.

Look at the major college football conferences: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Sec. After the 2012 and 2013 seasons there was a total of 24 coaching changes. Between those five conferences this year there will be three coaching changes (give or take).

This is the first time since 2006 that the SEC isn’t changing out a coach. The man who changed that in 2007, Nick Saban at Alabama.

Most people felt back in September that the two biggest job openings this year would be USC and Texas. USC has already been opened and filled. Lane Kiffin was fired (not surprisingly) by USC back at the end of September. He’s been replaced by Washington Head Coach and former USC assistant Steve Sarkisian.

Steve Sarkisian

The Texas job, as of this post, will open possibly by the end of the week if the reports are correct. This will be the biggest job out there by far with all of the resources, money and pressure one could want.

Next year could bring a back the typical ‘silly season’ but let’s hope, for the coaches and the fans, that it comes around as often as the World Cup because it can drive people, well, silly.

Make money, money, money, money!

The University of Maryland is leaving their current conference, the ACC, to join the Big 10. The Big 10 will also add Rutgers University which will then bring them to a total of 14 teams. The real interesting point in all of this is the $50 million exit fee that Maryland is supposed to pay in order to leave the ACC.

According to some people the exit fee will not add up to $50 million but none the less it begs the questions 1) what will the amount be? and 2) who’s going to pay for it? 3) couldn’t this money be put to better use?

The $50 million dollar exit fee from the ACC was put in place after the ACC pried two teams away from the Big East Conference earlier this year, Pittsburgh and Syracuse respectively. The ACC appeared to be ‘having it’s cake and eating it too’ but in the end that plan didn’t seem to work too well. Even if Maryland doesn’t pay the $50 million they have to pay something. Even if it is only half that money has to come from somewhere and that’s still $25 million.

In a time when schools are raising tuition, student loan debt continues to climb at astronomical rates and a college degree seems to get you less and less shouldn’t this price tag, whatever it amounts to be, raise some red flags?

Yes the Big Ten will bring Maryland’s athletic department (which is financially independent from the university) an exuberant amount of money and allow Maryland to bring back sports programs that were cut in the spring due to a budget crisis but it doesn’t get Maryland any better on the field of play. It doesn’t make them a winner and it sure doesn’t lower the cost of going to school there.

Where is this money coming from? They do have a giant donor in Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank who recently sold 1.3 million shares of the sportswear maker for an estimated $64 million plus but is he really picking up the whole tab? Is taxpayer money at risk?

It’s a pretty certain thing that neither Maryland or Rutgers would make this move without having thought it all the way through but it should still give people pause. This is an awful lot of money for collegiate athletics. While the move made by these universities may be sound financially isn’t their mission to educate?
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