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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

Welcome to The Score, your place for hard-hitting sports business news, fast-breaking updates and fuel-injected debate.  Buckle up.  I'm your host, Anthony Schoettle, IBJ sports reporter.

Sports Business

Big Ten isn't done growing

June 16, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

If Big 12 Conference officials think their problems are behind them, they’re kidding themselves.

And the sweetheart deal Big 12 officials gave the University of Texas (and Oklahoma) may be the conference’s biggest undoing.

How long are the likes of Missouri, Kansas, Texas Tech and others supposed to play the patsies for the big two? No aspiring big-time college athletic program can live like that.

Can’t recruit like that, can’t build for the future like that, can’t survive like that.

The Big 12 has made things so inequitable (financially and otherwise) for the other schools left in the conference, those schools have become easy pickings for the likes of the Big Ten, which clearly thinks this is just a lull in the battle for big conference supremacy, as well as the Pac 10. Even inclusion in a smaller conference will begin to look better to the likes of Kansas and Missouri than staying in the uneven Big 12 structure.

The Big 12 has promised Texas and Oklahoma an oversized share of conference TV revenue, an annual sum sports business experts say could reach $20 million. Plus, Texas maintains the rights to start its own cable TV network. Texas asked the Pac 10 for a similar deal, and Pac 10 officials smartly said no.

Imagine for a moment, the Big Ten announcing it was going to give Michigan and Ohio State (already financial behemoths) a larger share of the conference's TV and other shared money, plus give them the rights to have their own media deals. That would cause more than a little angst on the IU and Purdue campuses.

That sort of inequity makes it impossible to compete. And athletes join teams in conferences where they can truly compete.

A Big Ten official in Chicago reminded me that the conference’s time line for expansion was 12 to 18 months. That means one year from now. The message was loud and clear. The Big Ten isn’t standing pat after plucking Nebraska out of the Big 12 to grow to 12 teams.

The Pac 10, under aggressive commissioner Larry Scott, isn’t done either.

You can bet the remaining Big 12 schools heard Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany address equality within the league last week.

"We wouldn't want anyone who didn't want equality," Delany said. "There will be a point where everything is made equal and everyone is made whole."

Delany added that revenue sharing, from television rights fee deals all the way to ticket sales, is an important component of the Big Ten. Competition, Delany said, is good for everyone involved.

Do you think Delany's words' resonated with many of the Big 12 schools, and probably institutions far beyond that conference? You bet.

So when the likes of Missouri or one or two of the other Big 12 schools jump, it won’t be a matter of if Texas and Oklahoma will go, but where. And then, Texas may not be in a position to play the loan shark, twisting the arms of weaker schools and extorting money out of them at will.

Big 12 officials think by securing Texas and Oklahoma, they have averted a certain doomsday. All they've managed to do is light a longer fuse.

In three years time, the college sports landscape will look very different than it does now.

Remember this; During the most recent fiscal year, only 12 of 120 NCAA Division I-A school's athletic departments broke even or made money, according to The Knight Commission, a Washington, D.C., group formed by university presidents in 1989 to push for reform in college athletics.

So I'm guessing Delany's call for equity is ringing especially loud right about now.

And it will ring louder yet as the flawed structure of the Big 12 unfolds.


 

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