Universe #4: Because we have to – ACC or PAC pull teams from the B10.
I am only doing this because the fundamental principal of the multiverse says it is possible. In the Marvel Universe, Dr. Strange looked at over a million different outcomes, and found one single outcome in which the Avengers defeated Thanos. If that one can exist, I guess this one can exist. Let’s look at some reality though. Financials first: the take home pay for each team in 2019. The 2020 payout is a bit of an aberration, and not readily available. Post COVID, things stand to be more like 2019.
2019 payout per team:
The reality is that when it comes down to payout per team, the Big 12 was better off than the ACC or the PAC in 2019. Let that sink in – the conference getting punched by the SEC is sending more $ to each member than either the ACC or PAC. Yet there are fans that think that the ACC can convince Penn State or Ohio State to leave the Big Ten. Here are the reasons I have been presented with so far:
Nebraska and Ohio State have already flirted with leaving the Big Ten
Scott Frost was upset when the Big Ten cancelled the 2020 season. There were a lot of people that didn’t like that Big Ten made a rash decision. The Nebraska AD supported his coach publicly. Ryan Day said plainly that OSU wanted to play. Tempers were high, people were stressed. COVID brought the most strenuous, angst-ridden situation to all involved. Then Nebraska calmed down. OSU reaffirmed their support for conference leadership. The Big Ten decided to play. That is pretty much it. In the end, the most lucrative conference affiliation in the history of conference affiliations won out. Scott Frost quieted down. The Big Ten moved on. Drama averted. It wasn’t something that was going to result in long-term problems.
Ohio State and Penn State take their value with them
No doubt. They are players. Every school has a value, but there are a cherished few schools that have so much value that they can change the fortunes for an entire conference. Let’s do a little math. Jimmy Buffett says “Math sucks!” and he is right, but it is a reality. For a team to change the fortunes for a conference, they must add value to the bottom line. A school must add enough value to a conference that when each school gets their share, they profit from the addition of the school. For example, the schools of the SEC will ultimately make more with OU and UT as added members.
That means each school makes more money when you split the pot with OU and UT by 16 teams, than when the SEC split the old pot by 14 teams. OU and UT have that kind of pull, even with teams from the SEC, but the final selling point is that both schools will make more money in the SEC than they made in the Big 12. It has to work both ways – everyone in the new alignment must see increased profits. We know Ohio State and/or Penn State would increase the value of the ACC’s and PAC’s television deals. That’s not a debate. Could they increase the television deals that they see an increase in the profits they see currently in the Big Ten? Do they have the kind of pull that they could alone, or together, make the overall take for the ACC or the PAC increase so much that each school would pull $55.6+? Let’s look at what it would take to make it work in the ACC: if the ACC pays $34M to each team….and Ohio State or Penn State need north of $55.6M to leave the Big Ten… and each team in the ACC needs equal loot:
$34M x 14 teams (current size of the league) = $476 million
But OSU & PSU makes $55.6M now….
$55.6M x 15 teams (current ACC + 1 team) = $834 million
$55.6M x 16 teams (current ACC + 2 teams) = $889.6 million
That means if the ACC has a realistic chance of pulling either Penn State or Ohio State from their current league, and every team demands equal payout, they will need to increase the overall payout for the league by a total of $358M for one team. Even if they got both teams, they would need to increase the payout for the league by $413.6M, $206M per additional team. It just isn’t realistic.
Let’s entertain a novel idea: what if the fourteen current members of the ACC – including Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, NC State and Miami – all collectively agreed to give Penn State and/or Ohio State a $55.6M+ share of conference revenues while everyone else agrees to $34M? That might be feasible, but if you are Dan Radakovich, would you settle for that? I wouldn’t, but maybe there is an unknown element that could completely change the situation. Maybe the likelihood of being left out of the “Power” level of college football will convince either ACC or PAC to make large concessions that they wouldn’t normally make, but it’s a real long shot in my opinion.
Universe #5: The Super League
The NCAA has been on its last legs for a while now. The public doesn’t have a lot of faith in their abilities. This may the opportunity for someone to make a grab for power. If the SEC has reached out to big time programs from the other conferences, and those programs decide to join, the SEC will basically become something like the Super League that the world’s most powerful soccer clubs tried to create earlier this year. 20 teams, 24, 28? They could essentially lock up all the power programs in college football. There would be some fans, even for the teams involved, that will say they are destroying college football, but they won’t have the same impact as the soccer fans in Europe. European soccer fans cherish their system. College football fans don’t cherish the NCAA.
The schools that are left out will be very disappointed, but college football’s super league, whether we still will call it the SEC or a different name, will carry on and blaze a new trail, and this is likely where the NCAA gets left behind, at least for football. That is an interesting point that hasn’t been mentioned yet – what about all the other sports? Non-football sports would likely continue as usual with a Power Four or Power Two structure. Would the super league teams pull all their sports from the NCAA, or just football? Reality is that most of the best basketball teams would be in the super conference. There would be a few exceptions, such as Duke in men’s basketball and UConn in women’s basketball. The Super League would be a great baseball conference. They might just leave the NCAA altogether.
Universe #6: All the above
I really don’t know what to expect, but if we are using past tendencies to predict the future, then I think this is the way things are headed. It may take years. We may go through each of these universes in phases – first the Power Four for a few years, then the Power Two, then the Super League concept. Maybe instead of the SEC raiding the Big Ten, the Super League happens via merger, the way the AFL merged with the NFL. There is a theory out there that Greg Sankey and the SEC smell blood in the water. The Big Ten, ACC and PAC all have relatively new commissioners. The Big 12, as we discussed, has always lacked stability. Maybe Sankey sees this as the right time to strike, but giant changes aren’t the norm in college athletics. They usually move a little at a time, to allow everyone to adjust, including the fans. Take a little risk here and there, but not massive risk. The people tasked with guarding the profitability of college athletics in the member institutions would have to have a lot of faith in Sankey to take big risks.
This is all a lot easier to handle if the team you love is already in the SEC, or likely to be courted by a power conference. For other schools, the writing is on the wall: the good old days may be over. One thing I feel strongly is that regardless of what happens in our college football universe, it won’t be boring, and there is probably a universe out there that we haven’t even conceived of yet.