We've gotten used to seeing the Pac-whatever and Big 10 champions squaring off in the Rose Bowl every New Year's Day, but we're going to see a lot more of these conference rivals going forward and it won't be limited to the football field either. That's because the two conferences have signed a landmark deal that will pit Pac-12 and Big 10 teams against each other in basketball and Olympic sports starting next year and in football beginning in 2017.
It's easy to overlook a scheduling contract. So the conferences will play games against each other? Big whoop. There's a lot more to this deal that just a scheduling contract though. This is a deal full of creativity and forward-thinking along the lines of conference expansion, but it comes with many of the benefits and none of the messy complications. We'll let Larry Scott break it down for you in fancy commissioner speak.
"To me, this is a creative and inventive approach through collaboration to achieve some of the same objectives that expansion can help you with," Scott said. "It gives our conference more of a national platform, more play on the Big Ten Network and higher quality programming on our network without having to expand."
The Pac-12's new TV deal has been discussed ad nauseum and for good reason. Just a glance at the key number, $21 per team, per year, is enough to impress, but there's something hidden in that number. It's just what the conference will generate from their deal with ESPN and FOX. There's also that Pac-12 Network, which could be very, very profitable and pour money onto the pile of cash that the conference is already getting from ESPN and FOX. And guess what? This scheduling agreement with the Big 10 is going to go a long way to making sure that the Pac-12 Network is basically printing money for the conference.
What this scheduling agreement with the Big 10 is basically doing is guaranteeing the Pac-12 Network dozens of marquee and in-demand events that will increase the value of the network and allow it to charge cable and satellite companies higher fees while also giving their advertising revenues a nice boost. Sure, football is king and will be the biggest driver of this deal, but you can bet that UCLA vs. Indiana or Arizona vs. Ohio St. basketball will be a draw not just on the west coast, but nationally, where the network needs to become viable. The Olympic sports also help with that and give the network some quality programming outside of the fall.
The point of the conference expansion that has rocked the collegiate athletics world is to generate more TV revenue. That's what driving rumored future expansion of every conference in the country too. It's what keeps the rumors of adding teams to the SEC, Big 12, Big 10 and even the Pac-12 alive. It's an expansion that the Pac-12 and Big 10 have said they have no interest in and with this deal, the conferences have found a way around expansion.
The Pac-12 and Big 10 aren't just stopping at a scheduling agreement either. Nothing has been finalized, but both Scott and Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany hinted at additional aspects of this scheduling deal that could be very exciting for both conferences.
Next up for the conferences is a season opening game or two at a neutral site. That could be at the Rose Bowl as a precursor to the season ending bowl game at the same stadium or in the midwest at Soldier Field. Big city. Big stadiums. Big teams. Big hype. With all that big comes big money and we sure do like money.
Additionally, Delany tossed around the possibility of the conferences starting up bowl games. ESPN and the NFL Network have realized just how valuable bowl games can be with their ownership of games and the Pac-12/Big 10 conferences could get involved too, adding to the value of the networks.
The SEC added two teams so they could get to Texas and the St. Louis TV markets and the ACC wanted the northeast TV markets. They wanted to add TV sets and then go back to their television partners to ask for more money. More markets equals more TV money.
It's all about more TV sets so what did the Pac-12 and Big 10 do? They decided that they were happy having expanded to 12 teams so they couldn't go back to their television partners to ask for money money, but they did have something that the SEC, ACC and Big 12 don't have. They their own TV networks and if they can make those networks ultra valuable, they can get all their extra TV money without expanding so voila, here's this Pac-12/Big 10 deal. Pretty smart, huh?