The ongoing upheaval in college sports that has seen several top schools change their allegiance to the conference is driven almost entirely by a hunger for television dollars.
Why is this important: The chasm between haves and have-nots created by the ocean of money in college sports will only widen.
Driving the news: USC and UCLA will join the Big Ten conference starting in 2024, making it the first conference to span both coasts. In 2025, Texas and Oklahoma will leave the Big 12 for the SEC, joining superpowers such as Alabama and Georgia.
- These measures are taken to increase payments to schools. For example, USC and UCLA are expected to earn an additional $40 million a year by moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, thanks to the Big Ten’s new $7 billion rights deal announced this week.
- The Big Ten will be the first conference to eclipse $1 billion a year in media rights revenue.
- The moves sparked a domino effect of small schools moving up the ladder. Last year saw a five-month period in which 24 schools changed conferences, Axios Sports’ Jeff Tracy reported.
The big picture: Live sports ratings continue to soar as sports, especially football, deliver the final pillar of the legacy cable model.
- But then there are two other factors unique to college sports: each conference acts as its own separate entity, and media giants such as Fox and Disney have financial interests in the long-term health of those conferences.
- Fox owns 61% of the Big Ten Network, while ESPN owns 80% of the SEC Network and has a joint venture with the University of Texas for the Longhorn Network.
- “Because of this fragmented market, individual entities can use it to their advantage to benefit themselves, which may or may not be in the best long-term interests of college sports,” said George Pyne, CEO. from Bruin Capital to Axios.
The plot: The Big 12 has even publicly accused ESPN – one of its biggest rights partners – of interfering to convince Big 12 schools to leave.
Yes and: Pyne argues that no one takes these measures into account the downstream effects of college sports musical chairs.
- “It has huge ramifications on the university ecosystem, which are really not being considered,” Pyne said. “It really becomes a survival of the fittest and every man for himself.”