Big 12 in a financial crisis? Why I'm not buying it

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
11:17
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The gloom-and-doom financial talk that eminated out of the Big 12 meetings this week seemed a little disingenuous.

It really got to be that way -- at least for me -- when conference officials informed us that conference members would be splitting up a record $130 million pie among the conference members.

That figure represented an increase of nearly 15 percent over last season's record disbursement.

Obviously, the cost of running an athletic department has gotten much more expensive in recent seasons. Just like it has for all of the rest of us, I might add.

While paying for team charters and scholarships have risen, the money that the conference is giving back to its member institutions keeps rising, too. Along with ticket prices, parking costs, concession prices and everything else.

Those numbers should keep going up in the future.

The Big 12's television contract is coming up for negotiation. Commissioner Dan Beebe and the member institutions will have the difficult but potentially lucrative decision of figuring whether starting their own television network will be better for them financially than being paid not to start one. The Big Ten took one road. The Southeastern Conference took the other.

That will come on the heels of new deals with the Big 12's bowl partners after the 2010 season. The financial climate should be better by then. And I would be shocked if the Big 12 can't make more money in their next grouping of bowl deals than in the current one.

The Big 12 is a hot national property. Exciting offenses and big scoring numbers caught the nation's football imagination last season. Look at how many times ESPN made trips to Big 12 games last season -- particularly in the latter stages of the season.

It should be even better this season with many of the key players back for more. The nation will be getting another heavy dose of Big 12 football again this season. It should be the same way for basketball, too.

So while the conference grapples with the idea of doing away with media guides and foreign trips for its athletes, I still keep coming back to that 15 percent growth rate from a previous record season.

Most businesses in today's economic climate would be turning cartwheels if they could achieve those kind of numbers.

I've got to believe that the Big 12 school presidents secretly were the same way when they learned about them, too.

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