Marc Daniels: Big XII Math Plus AAC Math May Or May Not Add Up

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals

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Everything has a value. It's not that complicated. You are and always will be worth what someone is willing to pay you. 

If you have the complete set of 1986 NBA Fleer trading cards someone will pay you thousands of dollars. If you happen to have a mint condition Michael Jordan card from that set, someone may pay you a million dollars for the card. NBA veteran Danny Schayes had a card in that set. As part of the set, his card helps complete that set and therefore has value. If you tried to sell his card alone, you might get $1. Welcome to the world of what you are worth when hanging out with valuable brands versus what you are worth standing alone.

We have moved from the sizzling level of news that Texas and Oklahoma are moving to the SEC to the next phase of this story. While the Longhorns and Sooners still need to figure out legally how to exit the Big XII earlier than 2025 and get into the cash cow that is their new home, the remaining eight schools are dealing with the reality of what is next and what is your new value.

Accusations were made that ESPN played a role in the move of Texas and Oklahoma and that AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco was part of the plan and is trying to poach remaining Big XII schools. Aresco denied such a charge but did not say he would not listen if someone called him about membership.

But back to the Big XII and what their new value is. Earlier this week, commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke before the Texas state legislature and dropped an interesting nugget about the current media deal. He said he thought Texas and Oklahoma were worth about 50% of the $280M the league pays its members from their media deal. That doesn't include other revenue streams- bowl money, NCAA Basketball tournament distributions and other media rights. 

If Bowlsby believes the Sooners and Longhorns are worth 50% of $280M then that would be $70M each. Evenly split, the Big XII get $28M each. Why would Texas and Oklahoma not think that's unfair? It's one thing to believe the strength of a conference is equal partnership, but when the value of two members is so strong, that's a different game.

I happen to think the value of the two brands are worth at least 2/3 of that $280M pot. That would be about $188M which would mean $94M to Oklahoma and $94M to Texas. That would also mean the remaining eight schools would be valued at $11.55M each. But even if you use Bowlsby valuation, the other eight schools would be valued at $17.5M per school. But all of these numbers are based on the remaining eight being in a league with Texas and Oklahoma. Now you have to look at the group without those two brands.

Which brings us to the American. The new media deal with ESPN pays schools about $7M on average. It's less than $17,5M and $11.55M but remember the AAC has a deal with ESPN that lasts for more than a decade. The Big XII has a deal that ends in four years. And if Texas and Oklahoma find a way to leave sooner than later, ESPN and FOX will adjust the payout and that will also give the league an idea of what the market is. That might be the biggest dose of reality those schools have had to face in decades. 

It may not be a coincidence that Bowlsby has stated he has chosen to refrain from further commentating on ESPN and their role in the Texas/Oklahoma divorce. He needs a market for his league's media rights and if ESPN has no interest the market drops even further.

Bowlsby is doing what he should be- finding as many options for his members as he can. Those options range from staying at eight, looking for partnerships with the Pac-12 or other leagues and expanding his current membership.

Would adding any of the Big XII schools increase the AAC's current media deal? Maybe. Only ESPN knows the answer to that and I am guessing Aresco already knows the answer to that because someone has likely told him what the valuation would be. Would UCF stand to make more if they were invited to the Big XII? Maybe. But the challenge is how stable is the Big XII. Right now, you have to think all remaining Big XII members are listening to Bowlsby and his options but at the same time they are worried about themselves and seeing what else is out there. But are they finding any takers? Likely not.

But are you better served jumping to a league where most of the members are constantly looking to leave and look down on you? Or are you better in a league with a long term deal in place with your media partner? 

The Big XII has a problem with no simple solution. You can't survive with eight schools. It's impossible to find five non-conference opponents in football as more leagues will likely move to nine-game conference schedules. Even a scheduling alliance is tough. The Pac-12 already plays a nine-game slate and most have their non-conference schedules done for years ahead.

Bowlsby may believe adding schools may not mean more money in a media deal but he may need to add schools for scheduling reasons, even if the media money remains the same, whatever that figure is.

I do think Mike Aresco has thought about a model with 14 and 16 teams in his league. I even think he knows his top three choices and then a list of five. The AAC has a few teams who have been living off the success of others but that happens in all leagues. Look, UCF and Cincinnati are not Texas and Oklahoma in brand value nationally, but if the Knights and Bearcats left tomorrow for another league, the media value of the AAC drops significantly. I mean, what is the value of Clemson to the ACC today? 70%? All leagues can play this game.

So for now, the Big XII may be focused on options elsewhere. But in the not too distant future attention may turn to the AAC. The question will be which way is the math moving. Is the Big XII adding while the AAC is subtracting or is it the other way? 

A pair of conferences and a number of schools are about to learn their real value and some might be shocked when the final number is learned.

Final thought: The original Big 8 conference was founded in 1907 as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association with members Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Washington State University (based on St. Louis). Iowa was also an original member while also being part of the Western Conference (which would become the BIg Ten).

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