<
>

Television envy? SEC schools become richest after new deals

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Big 12 schools learned of the mammoth television deal that the SEC signed with ESPN and had to be more than a little envious after the financial details were broken down.

The SEC and ESPN reached a 15-year, $2.25 billion pact that was announced Monday. When combined with a deal announced with CBS-TV, all SEC schools could pocket about $15 million a year from television revenue -- nearly triple their current $5.3 million haul, according to the Birmingham News.

Those kinds of numbers assuredly got the attention of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. The Big 12 shared in a record $113.5 million distribution to its member institutions early this year.

The SEC is clearly the most viable college football television package -- and yes, I'm talking to you Notre Dame fans when I say that. The passion, great teams, rivalries and fan base makes it a different animal from any available on a conference-wide basis.

The SEC's announcement effectively gives the conference a national recruiting arm. Every game the conference will play will be either on CBS, one of the ESPN platforms or ESPN's Game Plan. No other conference has that kind of exposure or will make that kind of money. It will be interesting to see if this helps SEC teams become more of a factor recruiting in the Big 12's most fertile area of Texas in the future.

And while the Big 12 might be able to match the SEC on the field this season, the conference needs to do it for several years in order to establish a trend to even think about being able accomplish something like this.

The SEC has several things that the Big 12 does not. Most of the South favors SEC football as its biggest sport -- certainly bigger than any professional team sport. Maybe NASCAR could rival college football in some areas, but not consistently on a region-wide basis.

In the Big 12, it's not that way. Texas, Colorado and Missouri are saturated with pro sports. The NBA is coming to Oklahoma City. The only areas where Big 12 football clearly is the No. 1 sport followed every day are in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. And in some areas of Kansas, the Royals and Chiefs might make that claim debatable.

It's also a reason why the SEC's model for revenue sharing works. Each SEC team receives a near-equal chunk of the television pie. In the Big 12, the difference between the biggest and smallest school could be more than $2 million per year. It's prompted a revenue disparity which has made some athletic directors grumble for a change in the distribution model.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe brought the issue to debate at the Big 12's spring meetings in May. But the requirement of a super-majority of nine votes to change the rules failed again and makes it extremely doubtful it will ever change in the Big 12.

Instead, I think a more viable alternative in the Big 12's footprint might be a television network developed specifically for a school. I could see a Texas, Oklahoma or Nebraska sports channel being a very attractive property as satellite dishes and cable television penetration becomes more widespread.

And maybe it's a coincidence, but what are the three Big 12 teams that have arranged to have their home openers carried on a pay-per-view basis this weekend? Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

I also think that Monday's announcement effectively will end the pipe dream whispered by some Big 12 supporters of being able to lure Arkansas back with its old rivals in the Southwest Conference. There's just too much money to be made for Arkansas to consider leaving its new conference.

Now, the Razorbacks, along with schools like Vanderbilt and Mississippi State stand to make about the same amount of television money as powers like Florida, Georgia or Tennessee.

While Big 12 schools like Iowa State, Kansas State and Baylor only can dream of that equality -- and all of the zeroes in the paycheck.