Yesterday, Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand and Michael Smith broke the story that the Big Ten was set to agree on a 6 year deal with FOX for the half of package of games that had been with ESPN that runs six years and is going to net the Big Ten as much as $250 million per year.
The key here is the 6 year agreement, which is much shorter than the other Power Five conference members. The Big 12’s contract is set to expire after the 2024-25 season. The Pac 12’s deal will expire in 2023-24 and the SEC and ACC have deals that go until the 2030s, via CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodds. This is all relatively genius for the Big Ten, who have positioned themselves to be the front-runners to negotiate before any of the other conferences have the opportunity to negotiate.
Of course, there were folks on the Twitter machine that this essentially all but dooms the Big 12 and that Oklahoma will be joining the Big Ten (this of course presumes that the Big Ten wants Oklahoma, but yeah, I could see it). And it does appear that the Big 12 is in a bit of a pickle in regards to being able to negotiate with some leverage in the near future.
The one thing that I thought of as all of this information was coming in was that the Big 12 really has been the baby brother in how lots of this has played out. The Big 12 has a decent inventory of teams, but nothing substantial like the Big Ten. And even though the Pac-12 has just two more teams, it *feels like* (yes, we’re talking about feelings) that the Pac-12 has stronger inventory as well.
The one conference that we really never talk about is the ACC, which has Clemson and Florida State in football, with occasional good seasons from Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, etc. and a boatload of great basketball schools.
I’m sure that someone, somewhere has thought of this before, but does the fact that the Big 12 sits squarely in the heartland of the United States present a really fantastic opportunity for the Big 12 to choose if they want to become part of a super conference? The Pac-12 can’t join up with the ACC geographically and vice versa. The Big 12 could essentially join up with either conference and, for all intents and purposes, create a bit of a bidding war for their services.
The practical downside to all of this is that this would require the Big 12 to actually work together, which is something that no one from the Big 12 has really been able to do since Nebraska and Missouri bolted for the Big Ten and the SEC. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re in a room with a bunch of guys that can’t figure some stuff out. By actually joining up with one conference or the other, you’ve accomplished what David Boren wants to do, which is expand . . . but the expansion actually includes quality members.
The kicker to all of this would be the timing of the entire thing. But what if, and this is a big “if”, the Big 12 began actively negotiating five years from now? A full year before the Big Ten has the opportunity to negotiate their next deal. I understand that both the Big 12 and the ACC have essentially given their “grant of rights” but if I recall how these things work, these television contracts can be broken if one conference adds members. I would think that ESPN and/or FOX or anyone else would be ecstatic to have renegotiate as part of a deal that includes half of the flipping country, one way or the other.
If the Big 12 brass was smart, and my opinion varies on this, but if they were smart, they would be looking for a plan of attack right now. Everyone is lauding the way that the Big Ten negotiates their contracts, but there’s a real window here for two of three conferences to come out smelling like roses.
This is a hastily thought out plan and I’m waiting for you all to poke holes in the thing. It just makes so much sense for the Big 12 to get in the driver’s seat on this issue and steer the thing where you want it to go.