Published March 16, 2022 - 8:15am
When news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were bolting for the SEC, college football was about to change in a big way. That announcement had a huge ripple effect. It might be the biggest reason we do not have a 12-team playoff in the sport. It also led to the immediate move of the Big XII to expand and add UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU. It was a move that made many wonder about the future of the Big XII. But it turns out that future might be just fine. In fact, the future of the new look Big XII might be as attractive as two other P5 conferences.
There was an assumption by many that the departure of the Longhorns and Sooners would be a significant blow to the yearly payouts each school currently gets. Some projected a drop by as much as 50% from the current figures which are around $35-40M per school. There is no doubt that Texas and Oklahoma are the biggest brands in the current BIg XII and their addition to the SEC will only grow the value of college football's soon-to-be biggest conference. But one industry group is projecting P5 payouts over the next eight years and the Big XII may not be looking at a drop that many had predicted.
Navigate is a company that has been working in college sports in a variety of areas including studying the value of media rights and industry analytics. For several years Navigate has projected P5 projected yearly payouts with much success.
Their latest work looks at an eight year period from 2022-2029 and projects numbers based on all Tier I, II and III media rights(think of the media rights to all your sporting events from games on ESPN/FOX networks and ESPN+ or other streaming services.) The projection also assumes no change to the college football playoff through the end of the current contract and an eight-team playoff starting in 2026. Payouts to all conferences would increase if there were 12 teams.
The projections also take into account the new expansion plans of the SEC and Big XII:
What jumps out is the gap building between the SEC/Big Ten and everyone else in the P5 group. The SEC will pass the Big Ten by 2026 as it becomes a 16-team league and pass the $100M mark per school by 2028. But the number for the Big XII might surprise many. The current Big XII media deal ends after the 2023-24 year. Most believe UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU will join the league for the 2023 football season. Navigate projects no decrease in a new media deal and projects the Big XII's yearly payout to remain competitive with the ACC and Pac 12. The Pac 12 is also in the market for a new deal after the 2024 season. The ACC is stuck in a deal that is back loaded but sees significant increase in 2026. But Navigate sees the Big XII, ACC and Pac 12 all receiving about the same dollars in years to come.
The gap is about to skyrocket for the SEC and Big Ten to almost double what the other three P5 leagues are looking at by 2027.
Some have wondered if other P5 leagues would re-evaluate the Big XII and its place in their fraternity, but the reality is we are seeing the development of a Super 2 group and a P3 group. How that impacts the future of the college football playoff, non-conference scheduling or even a voting bloc on key issues remains to be seen.
Navigate's projection may be off and maybe off by a lot. Maybe the market place for a new Big XII media deal is not as strong and it will be a distant fifth in yearly payouts. But while losing the brands of Texas and Oklahoma are huge, the addition of the four new schools might have greater value than most think. BYU has a national brand and fans all across the country. Houston is the 8th largest television market in the country, Cincinnati is 36th. UCF sits in the 18th biggest market in Orlando and that is expected to grow into a top 15 market in the coming years.
If Navigate's numbers end up being on target, remaining Big XII schools won't see a drop in that yearly number and may not be looking at huge budget adjustments. Incoming schools will see a significant jump in yearly revenue. AAC schools currently make somewhere between $5-7M a year. The idea of UCF seeing that number jump by 500-600% in the coming years allows the school to begin to build and upgrade facilities, increase recruiting budgets and be competitive in coaching compensation. The year new member of the Big XII would receive full shares remains to be seen but an increase compared to their current revenue model is on the horizon.
No one should assume these numbers are guaranteed. If we have learned anything in recent years, what we assume becomes a different reality. Nine months ago we were led to believe we had a 12-team playoff and all we needed was a few final things to make it happen. Then Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC. The Big XII reached out to four new schools quickly. Three P5 leagues created stationary to tell us about an alliance and the expanded college football playoff plans came to a screeching halt.
But live sports remain a very valuable asset to have and as the Big Ten, Big XII and Pac 12 find new media deals, we can assume the market will be healthy and while the Big Ten and SEC may be leaving the other P5 leagues in the dust, when that dust settles the Big XII and its new member makeup just might be stronger than once thought and as strong as the ACC and Pac 12.
Final thought: NBC's first contract with Notre Dame to air football games was in 1991. It was a five-year deal worth $38M. The current deal runs through 2025 and pays the school $15M per season.